The West Midlands will only agree to introduce road pricing if it receives massive investment for public transport, MPs have told Ministers.
Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) and Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) said Birmingham and neighbouring West Midlands authorities were ready to negotiate. But speaking in a House of Commons debate attended by Ministers from the Department for Transport, they said the region could only be persuaded to back road pricing if it received money for buses and improvements such as New Street station.
The comments by Birmingham MPs were in stark contrast to the stance taken by Manchester MPs who rejected road pricing plans. Speaking in the same debate, Graham Stringer (Lab Manchester Blackley) said there should be no charges unless the idea was supported by the public in a referendum.
Instead, the Government should simply provide funding for a light rail scheme in the city, he said. The West Midlands and Greater Manchester have both drawn up plans to introduce road pricing.
The Government will examine the proposals and decide where to run a pilot scheme, which may eventually lead to a national pricing system.
Whichever region is chosen to run the pilot will also receive hundreds of millions of pounds to improve public transport. The support of local MPs could influence the Government's decision because the plans are highly controversial, with some opponents claiming motorists already pay too much.
Mr Burden said: "I do think we need to look seriously at the issue of road user charging."
But he added: "Local authorities in the West Midlands have said they need #2 billion up-front and #2 billion further if they are to improve public transport and tackle these problems."
Ms Stuart said: "The West Midlands and Birmingham in particular is ready to start a debate."
But some West Midland MPs, including Khalid Mahmood (Lab Birmingham Perry Barr) and John Spellar (Lab Warley), were more sceptical. Mr Spellar said road pricing would be another tax on top of vehicle tax and fuel duty, which is already the highest in Europe.
Other MPs taking part included Lynda Waltho (Lab Stourbridge), who stressed the importance of completing the extension to the Midland Metro, and Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak), who said road pricing should be considered but also called for measures to encourage bicycle use.
Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said a national scheme was certain to be introduced.
He said: "Road pricing is inevitable. I see no alternative to it."
But he repeated warnings that even if the West Midlands was chosen to run the pilot project, it would not receive the #4 billion it had asked for.
"If we were to give that sort of money to the West Midlands in that timescale, there would be very little left for anyone else."
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