No congestion charge for five years

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Motorists heading into Norwich are unlikely to be hit by a congestion charge for at least five years - and only if a controversial northern bypass is built.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Motorists heading into Norwich are unlikely to be hit by a congestion charge for at least five years - and only if a controversial northern bypass is built.

Norfolk County Council has been given £500,000 of government cash to make a detailed case for road pricing in the city.

But a report to the Norwich highways agency committee on Thursday says any congestion charge would have to wait until the completion of the controversial Norwich northern bypass (NDR) "which means 2012 at the earliest".

The report says that detailed work on how a scheme would work was still being drawn up, but 'initial packages' are being devised showing 'logical cordons' based on the inner and outer ring roads.

"Any scheme could only be implemented alongside major improvements in public transport and completion of the NDR," the report said. "Charging will only work if it is part of a strategy that improves access overall and makes Norwich a more attractive place to live, work and visit."

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Adrian Gunson, the county council's cabinet member for planning and transport, said it was unlikely that funds levied from a charge will be used to pay directly for a northern bypass, as had been previously suggested, but the authority hopes the introduction of a scheme could help unlock other pots of government funding for the road.

"It can only be justified if it enables us to have money to increase the road capacity in Norwich and reduce present and future congestion," he said. "Whatever we do about charging, the NDR will be needed."

"The link between the two has been made by government which says that money for major road schemes could only be available if there are other measures of restraint - that's why we are looking at congestion charging."

"There has not been sufficient work done yet to form any conclusions, but my view is that it might prove hard to justify anything more than a fairly limited form of charging in a fairly narrow area of the city."

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