Highways Agency director says lane tolls 'viable'

Studies have demonstrated the viability of single-lane tolls on English motorways, according to a senior manager at the Highways Agency, but politicians "have shelved" the idea.

Derek Turner, the Agency's director of network operations, said the toll idea had been considered as one way to 'lock in' the benefits of so-called active traffic management (ATM) to enhance capacity on motorways, which might otherwise be lost over time by increased traffic flow. Drivers could choose to pay for a faster journey in a less-congested lane.

Feasibility studies had shown that the idea was viable, but "it was a political decision" not to proceed.

Turner previously worked for many years at Transport for London, where he was responsible for the design, introduction and operation of central London's congestion charging scheme.

Last year the Hyder Halcrow Joint Venture confirmed that it had been asked to assess single-lane tolling among a number of other options as cheaper alternatives to road widening on stretches of the M25 motorway around London.

The Department for Transport, in its January 2009 report 'Motorways and major trunk roads', says that analysis "has indicated that toll lanes could be beneficial in reducing congestion, but significant costs would be associated with their introduction and operation. The government currently has no plans to seek the powers that would be necessary to implement single lane tolling."

Turner was delivering the IET's Sir Henry Royce Lecture, 'Fifty years of motorways'.

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