The West Midlands is emerging as the most likely pilot area for the Government's satellite-based pay-as-you-drive congestion charging scheme.
Reports suggest Government sources are keen on the West Midlands and The Birmingham Post has learned the area is seen as ideal to achieve a cross-party consensus on the scheme, thanks to a majority of currently Conservative-run councils.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced a "national debate" on the new system last month and added there would be millions of pounds of investment in transport schemes available as a sweetener to the area that offered to trial the system prior to a national roll-out.
Meanwhile, the seven West Midlands district local authorities have committed themselves for the first time to adopting some form of road demand management scheme - although they have ruled out a London-style congestion cordon.
Last week, Rob Donald, director general of public transport promoter Centro, said the seven district leaders were "interested" in talking to the Government about the scheme.
It is thought the area chosen to pilot the road pricing system - which would replace road tax and fuel duty - would receive the new Department for Transport Innovation fund, which could total £200 million a year for transport improvements.
The West Midlands' aspirations for a light-rail network could hinge on that investment, while Greater Manchester, which is keen to resurrect plans for an extension to its metro system, might also compete for the cash.
Last week, specialist 2011. magazine Local Transport Today claimed a Government source had told it the West Midlands was the front-runner for the congestion charging pilot.
However, a spokesman for the seven district leaders said the story was "speculation".
Congestion is currently estimated to be costing the West Midlands economy £2.5 billion every year and the conurbation is predicting 165 million extra car journeys by
A feasibility study which reported to Mr Darling last year set out charges from 2p a mile up to £1.34 a mile on the busiest roads - with the maximum charge being paid by only 0.5 per cent of traffic.
The Transport Secretary stressed that his proposals were not designed to force people out of their cars, but rather to make better use of the road network.