Roads 'should be funded via tolls'

Proposals for road charging and tolls for motorists on some major English routes have been put forward by the CBI.

Advocating "bold measures" to ease the burden of "clogged-up roads", the CBI suggested the English road network should be taken out of the Government's budget.

Users would have a proportion of their motoring taxes converted to a user charge - which would be controlled by an independent "roads regulator" - to access the strategic road network comprising England's motorways and major A roads.

This charge would provide a funding stream for private operators - licensed by the regulator - who would operate regional sections of the network. But the CBI said that in the long-term the charge alone might not be sufficient to leverage the levels of future investment needed to finance bigger capacity projects.

Private operators would have to finance such projects through long-term borrowing, which could require additional revenue streams, such as tolling, above a standard charge. The regulator would continue to cap charges and manage the overall cost burden on drivers.

The CBI said private investment was necessary as there was a £10 billion shortfall in funding for Highways Agency projects and there was also the likelihood of a decline in motoring tax revenue due to increasingly efficient new vehicles.

The CBI added that the UK economy was already losing up to £8 billion a year from congestion on the roads, with this figure possibly rising to £22 billion by 2025.

Launching the report, CBI director-general John Cridland said: "Every day, people up and down the UK lose time and money because of our clogged-up roads. Gridlock is an all-too-familiar tale of life in the UK, and one that is already costing us £8 billion a year."

He went on: "With public spending checked, the case for new funding solutions is even more compelling, and the Government recognises this. Infrastructure matters to business, and delivering upgrades to our networks is one of the highest priorities for the CBI to get the economy moving again.

"It's clear we need a gear change in how we manage and pay for our road network in the 21st century. A lack of investment means we are really struggling to increase road capacity, let alone adequately maintain what we already have."