Road charging should be used to pay for better bus and rail services according to a Treasury backed report.
Motoring groups have broadly welcomed the report whilst environmental groups said any money raised from charging motorists to use roads should not be used to fund more road schemes.
The report was compiled by former British Airways chief executive Sir Rod Eddington, and commissioned by Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Sir Rod said charging motorists by the mile would raise £28 billion a year and help to cut congestion and harmful carbon emissions.
He also recommended the expansion of international gateway airports favoured by business travellers, such as Heathrow.
But Sir Rod argues that a new high-speed railway line between London and Scotland was not a priority, stressing that lots of small schemes such as cycle lanes were better than grand, futuristic plans.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said the report was in danger of overlooking the simple reality that road congestion is often caused by accidents – 90 per cent of which are avoidable.
An IAM spokesman went on: ‘We broadly welcome this report as congestion is costly, not only in environmental terms but it has a major negative effect on road safety. Extended, unpredictable journey times do nothing to encourage responsible road use.
‘Longer journeys cause driver fatigue, and tired drivers are more likely to crash – so it’s a horrible, vicious circle. Around one in five motorway crashes is a result of driver fatigue.’
The spokesman added: ‘However, any long-term solution to the congestion problem must embrace measures to reduce crashes because they are caused by driver error.’
Environmental group Transport 2000 said: ‘We will support Eddington on road pricing, but only if revenues go back into public transport and other measures to give people real choice, and if pricing helps cut overall pollution levels as well as congestion. We will oppose funding going towards big new roads programmes.’
Transport 2000 added: “We support improving existing rail lines and creating more trams and are running a ‘Growing the Railways’ campaign which is gathering widespread support nationally and across the country for upgrading and expanding the railways for passengers and freight.
‘The government says it agrees, but in practice is putting up rail fares and in some areas cutting or downgrading train services.’