Move to introduce levy would be likely to anger core Conservative vote, but could be softened by cuts in fuel duty
Motorists would be forced to pay to use motorways and major A-roads under plans reportedly being considered by George Osborne, as a way of generating extra revenue.
The move would have the potential to trigger a major political backlash against some of the Conservative party’s “middle England” core vote, but the blow could be softened by a cut in fuel duty and excise duty for car owners who use their vehicles only around towns, according to reports.
The plans may be contained in a “mid-term review” that will be published next month and will set out the coalition’s priorities for the second half of the parliament.
Aides to the chancellor confirmed that a levy for driving on motorways and A-roads is “under consideration” and that it was “narrow-minded and UK-centric” to believe that a model widely used on the continent could not apply in Britain, according to the Financial Times.
Funds raised by private investors with the right to levy tolls on new motorway capacity they create would be a way of maintaining and developing the country’s strategic network independent of government.
In March, David Cameron cleared the way for a multibillion-pound semi-privatisation of trunk roads and motorways as he announced plans to allow sovereign wealth funds from countries such as China to lease roads in England.
The prime minister said tolls for new roads were one option and that “innovative approaches” were needed to finance road improvements at a time of scarce government finances. He asked: “Why is it that other infrastructure – for example water – is funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated utilities … but roads in Britain call on the public finances?”