Ministers could face political disaster unless the introduction of additional charges was fair and consensual, said the Royal Automobile Club. The key danger facing transport planners was the risk of alienating millions of car users without offering any apparent reward, said the RAC's head of campaigns, Edmund King.
A larger proportion of the£30bn currently paid in road user taxes should be invested in public transport alternatives as a down-payment on the future charges motorists will be expected to pay, he told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference.
'Road pricing, in the capital or elsewhere, should not be considered until other transport alternatives have been put in place to give car-dependent motorists a choice,' said Mr King.
Charging drivers for entering cities without offering alternatives would be seen as crude money raising.
'The aim of congestion charging must be to improve quality of life in our cities, not to squeeze the last pound out of drivers.'
Jeffrey Archer, who also spoke at the meeting, described road charging as a 'poll tax on wheels'. He added: 'The only thing the government can think to offer Londoners is a new tax.'