Tax cuts and increased public transport investment will be crucial if the Government charges motorists for using the region's roads, Midland business leaders warned yesterday.

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of companies canvassed for a major survey backed proposals for a pilot congestion charging scheme.

The study revealed just over a third thought charging would cut congestion (38 per cent) and slightly less (35 per cent) said road pricing was a fair exchange for more investment in transport.

The research was carried out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) with the West Midlands Business Council (WMBC).

It follows reports the Midlands could be the test bed for a Government plan to force local authorities to impose tolls on motorways and main roads.

If a charge were imposed, businesses would expect tax cuts to offset costs, research said.

More than half of businesses (57 per cent) believe congestion could be reduced if public transport were cheaper.

Only eight per cent believe economic activity would be increased with congestion charging, compared with a third claiming it would be reversed, while two-thirds said it would increase delivery costs.

Nigel Hastilow, regional manager of the ICAEW, said: "The survey suggests Ministers have a long way to go if they want to convince businesses they will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage.

"At the very least, the Government has a long way to go to win the support of businesses on which the region's prosperity depends. At worst, congestion charging could lead to rapid disinvestment."

The top three transport priorities for businesses were to improve the M6 motorway, other major roads and increase railway passenger capacity.

West Midlands Business Council executive director, James Watkins, added: "We need investment in transport - every person who travels to work knows that.

"But if the Government is determined to provide these funds through road charging, the rationale must be firm, clear and make sense for business growth and jobs at the heart of the UK."

Meanwhile, motorists faced length delays after part of the M5 had to be resurfaced when melted chocolate oozed onto carriageway after a collision between two lorries yesterday.

All three lanes of the southbound carriageway near Strensham services, at junction 8, were resurfaced after the accident before 1.40am.

The accident was between junction 7 (Worcester South) and 8, but traffic queues stretched beyond junction 6 (Worcester North) with lanes closed until 1.06pm.