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Sky spy could make drivers pay

Britain’s motorists could be charged for using busy roads with satellites monitoring their every move under plans to be announced by the government’s “transport czar” on Monday.

The proposals by Professor David Begg, chairman of the government-sponsored Commission for Integrated Transport, will include plans to fit cars with a black box which would be tracked by global positioning satellites (GPS).

“It’s good for Britain, there’s significant reductions in congestion, there will be less pollution because a lot of pollution is caused by queuing traffic,” Begg told BBC Television. Under Begg’s plan, cars could be linked to a GPS navigation system covering the country. Drivers would be charged either through smart cards or billed in the way mobile phones are now.

But he said most road travel would remain free, with charges tailored to hit car use in crowded or urban areas, not occasional and rural drivers.

The government’s transport department quickly squashed any prospect of near-term action. “There is no prospect of introducing road user charging for vehicles other than lorries in the present decade,” a spokesman said.

But protesters who brought Britain grinding to a halt in September 2000 by blockading fuel depots, and car owners’ anger at high fuel taxes, dampened government enthusiasm.

But in London, probably the most congested part of Britain, plans are already afoot. The scheme estimates that congestion would be reduced by a third in inner London as a result.