The failure of the M6 Toll to win public favour should encourage ministers to think again about road pricing, a leading Tory said yesterday.
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: "The M6 Toll has provided real food for thought. Private sector funding for infrastructure is a good idea and we should look clearly at doing it in a different place in the future.
"We know in reality most people are not using the M6 Toll so it is equally food for thought about how far we can seriously go to push people down the charging route," he added. He was speaking in Solihull yesterday a week after the publication of Sir Rod Eddington's Government-commissioned report endorsing road charging across the UK.
He said he was against the principle of road pricing and accused the Government of blackmailing the region's authorities by threatening to withhold cash if they did not sign up to pilot the scheme in their cities.
"I would condemn the Government for what it is doing in Birmingham," said Mr Grayling.
"The West Midlands is being told that if it has no road charging it will have no money for transport.
"Whether or not Birmingham has road pricing schemes should be a decision made by people, local politicians and businesses in the West Midlands."
Mr Grayling was speaking during a visit to residents campaigning against a second runway at Birmingham International Airport. He was also visiting NEC chiefs to talk about transport issues in the region.
He said central Birmingham was one of six priority areas identified in Conservative transport policy where road and rail infrastructure had to be addressed as a matter of urgency if they came to power.
The most pressing issue flagged up to him while visiting the area was the proposal for a second runway at BIA, he said.
"We are still working out the detail of our aviation policy but I'm a long way from being persuaded that a second runway at Birmingham Airport is a good idea. "
"No-one is suggesting it will be built in the near future but what is happening as a result of the Government's White Paper is that airports are being more pro-active in terms of expansion.
"It is not fair to people in the surrounding area to have long term property blight when this project may or may not happen."