Beith confirms Conservative A1 charging claim

Sir Alan Beith has backed claims that Conservative ministers planned to introduce road charging on the A1 through Northumberland, and that Liberal Democrats used their influence in government to insist the plans were scrapped.

Reports of the controversial Conservative plan met with denials from the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
However, Sir Alan has now intervened, stating:
"It is beyond question that a proposal was brought forward in the Department of Transport in March 2013 for road charges on the A1 north of Newcastle. It was strongly opposed by the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition, notably by Liberal Democrat Transport minister Norman Baker. It must have been commissioned by Conservative ministers. 
“The proposal was for certain A roads, including the A1 through Northumberland, to be designated as "Expressways", and motorists would have to pay a charge of up to £120 a year to use these roads. Gantries over the road would be used to check on whether motorists had paid the charge. The money would have gone to a government-owned company which would be responsible for investing in the road.  
“I fully support my party's view that road tolls are not appropriate on roads which serve local communities like the villages connected by the A1 in Northumberland. They are only justifiable as a means of investing in motorways which provide an alternative fast route to the A roads, because roads like the A1 north of Newcastle link local communities as well as serving as long distance routes. It was therefore vital that Liberal Democrats blocked the idea, and insisted that investment in the A1 must go ahead and be funded from the taxes that motorists and the rest of the community already pay."

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