The government has shelved a national road pricing policy in favour of introducing car sharing and pay-as-you-drive lanes on motorways.

Motorists' groups welcomed the U-turn by the transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, who announced a significant change in roads policy by declaring that all new motorway lanes will be considered for high occupancy vehicle schemes, toll charging and other congestion relief programmes.

Asked if she no longer considered road pricing to be inevitable, Kelly said: "I would describe this as a nifty overtaking manoeuvre to get past stationary traffic ahead. We have been trapped in this sterile debate about road pricing. There are real, practical things we can do today to tackle congestion." She added that national road pricing raised concerns over privacy and fairness that had not been answered: "We're still some way from having all the answers to these questions."

Under the road pricing policy, motorists faced a blanket charge of around £1.30 per mile to use the busiest roads. Today's announcement allows drivers to pay to use a single motorway lane in order to ensure a quicker journey, or they can opt out and sit in normal traffic in the three other lanes.


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