The West Midlands businessman who shook the Government when his anti-congestion charge petition on the Downing Street website attracted more than 1.8 million signatures is launching a national pressure group aimed at securing a “fairer deal” for motorists.
Peter Roberts is behind the Drivers’ Alliance, a subscription organisation that members will pay £10 a year to join and which he believes will eventually supersede the AA and RAC as the authentic voice of UK drivers.
Mr Roberts said the not-for-profit internet-based organisation would be up and running by the end of July and he expected at least 500,000 people to join by the end of the first year. The aim would be to set up a forum for debate giving members an opportunity to discuss ways of putting pressure on the Government to secure better use of the £50 billion a year raised from motoring-related taxes.
Members will also be able to take advantage of discounts on a range of transport-related goods.
He denied that the Drivers’ Alliance was being formed to “pick a fight” with the Government.
Mr Roberts, who lives in Telford, said: “We are not just a bunch of petrol-heads and lunatics. We realise we need to build some bridges with the Government.”
He said the Alliance was likely to campaign against the “draconian measure” of road pricing, and expects to have a strong presence in Manchester where the Government announced earlier this week its intention to approve a £5 congestion charge to drive into the city centre at peak times.
He wants a higher proportion of the tax-take to be spent by councils on “quick wins” to alleviate congestion.
These include improving road junctions, re-phasing traffic light sequences and getting rid of some bus lanes.
“The aim is to have an organisation where we can listen to the views of members and react,” he said. “This will be a forum to discuss transportation issues.”
He admitted the Government was likely to be suspicious about the Alliance, but added: “We have a huge amount of public support and it’s fair to say road users are absolutely fed up with the way they are being treated and with the huge amount of tax they pay.
“Why should anyone have to pay a congestion charge to use highways infrastructure that our parents and grand parents paid for?”
Mr Roberts said organisations like the AA and RAC were commercial concerns and did not represent the views of their members. A long-established motorists’ alliance network in Germany has 15 million members and is taken seriously by the Government, he added.
“We are wholly committed to maximising safety on our roads and promoting realistic and constructive policies that reduce the environmental impact of road use whilst seeking to ease congestion.
“We will empower road users to make their views known,” Mr Roberts said.
He was speaking at a lunch to mark the 25th anniversary of West Bromwich haulage firm Keltruck.
Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers told guests the Government was “presiding over the death of the haulage industry”.
Mrs Villiers said the rocketing cost of fuel along with “gold-plated” EU regulations and a lower standard of health and safety checks for foreign drivers and their vehicles was threatening to put British firms out of business.
However, she could give no assurances that a Conservative Government would be able to relieve the tax burden.
Mrs Villiers added: “I am not in a position to offer fuel duty cuts. We don’t know how much money will be in the coffers until we open the books.
“If we win the next election we may be left with a dire situation as far as public finances are concerned.
“However, we are determined that foreign transport companies will pay their fair share of tax to the UK exchequer.”