One in four British drivers would welcome tolls on the country’s motorways if it improved road conditions, according to new research.
The study into attitudes towards road charging comes ahead of increases to costs on Britain’s only privately funded motorway – the M6 Toll.
From July, rates for cars, vans and lorries will go up by between 30p and 50p per trip and motoring groups have questioned the value of the toll system.
However, a poll of drivers by Select Car Leasing found that up to 10 million would be in favour of copying the model on other routes.
Twenty-six per cent of those questioned said they say they would be willing to pay a levy if it meant higher standards and less congestion on the roads, with just over a third (38 per cent) saying they would “somewhat disagree” with such a plan and 36 per cent unsure.
The M6 Toll was built in a bid to ease congestion on the M6 through Birmingham and its operator Midland Expressway Limited says that around 50,000 vehicles use it each day paying from £3 for a motorbike to £6.40 for a car and £11.50 for an HGV.
Mark Tongue, director of Select Car Leasing said: “British roads are getting busier and perhaps imaginative thinking is needed to keep us moving.
“While the majority are still against the introduction of tolls, the 26 per cent who would welcome M-levies represents a significant proportion of drivers.
“And our research shows over a third of motorists are still sitting on the fence.”
Most European countries charge tolls to use at least some of their motorways, but in the UK, only two stretches of motorway currently have tolls – the M6 Toll and the M25 Dartford Crossing. Charges on the M4 and M48 bridges between south-west England and Wales were recently scrapped but still exist on other bridges and tunnels on the A-road network.
The cheapest of these is the A57 Dunham Bridge crossing, which costs just 40p, but horses crossing the Cleddau Bridge Toll in Pembrokeshire are charged 35p.
According to the AA, more widespread toll charges would not work on British roads.
“There’s tremendous suspicion about the way politicians would attempt to implement this,” said spokesman Luke Bosdet.
“There’s a feeling among many drivers that they already pay enough – fuel duty raises £27 billion of tax – and that, once the genie was out of the bottle on road tolls, the government would keep incrementally increasing charges.”
Mark Tongue added: “Although not suitable for all roads, in the right places they do work, like on the M6 or the M25.
“What our research shows is that, under the right circumstances, at least some British drivers would be willing to consider changes to some stretches of motorways.
“Of course the key to making this work would be to ensure any money levied would be limited, affordable and spent efficiently and transparently on improving roads – specifically on measures to reduce congestion and improve journey times.”