For the demonstration Mr Key was shown three cars fitted with in- vehicle units which accept smartcards holding credit bought by the user. Roadside beacons switch the unit on and off by microwave communications, automatically debiting the amount due.Mr Key used a smartcard re-charge station to buy his own credit for a smartcard.
The system also includes a video recording system used for targeting vehicles which do not pay.
Mr Key said. 'We have not yet taken a decision on whether city congestion charging - in any form - should be introduced in London or elsewhere. But we are supporting research to set out the possible advantages and disadvantages.'
The Department is also discussing with Hampshire CC the scope for undertaking some work with them.
Progress on city congestion charging studies around the country are as follows:
1. Bristol - Mr Key has now received the report of a study commissioned by Avon County Council in December 1992 looking at ways of tackling the effects of growing car use in Bristol.
The report reviews practical examples of congestion charging and parking restraint methods and available research on their effects and impacts. A programme of further work has been identified which Avon County Council and the Department are currently considering.
2. Edinburgh - Together with the Scottish Office, the Department is anxious to discuss further work with Lothian RC in Edinburgh into congestion charging. An inception report has already been undertaken for the council, who will shortly be considering its conclusions.
3. Cambridge - Cambridgeshire CC has a study underway which will help investigate drivers' responses to congestion charging. The Department is supporting the study which complements its London research programme, by gauging responses to congestion charging in smaller cities than London.
This stage of the County Council's research into travel management involves surveys of drivers in Cambridge, to explore likely changes in their behaviour in response to congestion charges. The results, due in November, will be used in Cambridgeshire CC's computer simulation of traffic in Cambridge.
4. Hampshire - Hampshire CC is developing a transport strategy for South East Hampshire to look at ways of reducing reliance on the private car and to improve travel and the environment in the area. The Department is considering collaborating with the County Council to develop a multi-modal computer simulation of traffic in South East Hampshire which will be capable of investigating the potential impact of city congestion charging.
5. London - The Department's research programme for London, which began in November 1991 is on course to finish towards the end of 1994. This is a comprehensive study designed to establish the feasibility of introducing congestion charging and the pros and cons of doing so.
The research is investigating the technology options, assessing the effect on travel patterns, analysing the potential long-term impact on London's economy and examining public attitudes towards charging.