LONDON - The UK government plans to discourage driving by raising the cost for car owners. SMMT, the UK automotive industry association, says the charges would be more acceptable if the money raised was used to improve roads and public transport.
However, just £6 billion of the £30 billion a year levied on UK car owners through gasoline taxes and road charges is spent on transport, and there is little likelihood that the industry view will prevail.
'We need money for health, education, social services and so on,' said a transportation department spokesman. 'However, it has been absolutely clear from day one that this White Paper is not about reducing car purchases, but reducing the usage of our cars, particularly in congested areas.'
The White Paper focuses on giving local governments the power to levy charges on workplace parking, on drivers entering busy town and city centers and new tolls on motorways and trunk roads.
The government says it will use some of the funds to improve bus services, create safer cycle and pedestrian routes to schools, and to encourage freight off the roads and onto rail and water.
This is the direction the industry supports.
'People have always liked the independence of the car,' said an SMMT spokesman, 'but the government initiative must ensure that money raised from it will be spent on keeping roads in good order and making bus and train timetables more flexible.'
The charges are expected to eventually generate about £1 billion a year.
No timescale has been set for their introduction and none of the proposals are likely to become law until the next century. The government must hold further consultations with local authorities on how to implement its plans.