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Birmingham C-charge moves a step closer

Date: 27 September 2006

Congestion charging in the West Midlands moved closer last week with the publication of a report into road user charging.

The West Midlands Green Paper looks at three possible methods of introducing charging: distance-based charging, which would rely on satellite tracking and not be implemented for at least 15 years; a zonal-based system that sets charges based on travel between specific areas, which could be operating "before 2014"; and a nine-centre system, set on a number of congestion hot-spot boundaries using the same technology as the zonal system.

Predictions put West Midlands traffic growth at 11% over the next 10 years, leading to a 20-25% increase in congestion. The report suggests a £2 billion package of highway and public transport improvements would be needed up front to set up the congestion charge system, to be paid for by the Transport Innovation Fund, with another £2bn to be raised from congestion charging over the first eight years of operation.

The scheme now enters a consultation period.

Meanwhile, Birmingham's motorway test of hard-shoulder driving to cut congestion has delivered a small but early success.

The Highways Agency told BusinessCar that there is now a faster flow of traffic travelling on the M42 around Birmingham as a result of the hard-shoulder trial. The news comes just two weeks after the system was switched on.

"It's early days but traffic flow is up 3% and less traffic is travelling below 40mph," said a Highways Agency spokesman. "Between 10 and 13% of drivers are using the lane when it's in operation, and there's been 98% compliance with the variable speed limits that go with the lane changes."

Importantly, the Highways Agency reports 100% compliance with drivers only using the lane when they are supposed to.