A New Deal for Transport - published in July - placed authorities at the heart of measures to tackle congestion in town centres by giving them the possibility of charging for vehicle access and for business parking spaces.
The charging demonstration will aim to iron out issues such as: the performance of all aspects of the electronic equipment in typical British conditions; how to set up a charging regime; what would be fair and appropriate costs; concerns over personal privacy; and the impact on different road users and communities.
Mr Prescott said: 'I want people to have real choice in transport. I am not out to clobber drivers but there is a growing realisation that we cannot cope with the rising level of car usage, pollution and
'Congestion and parking charges are at the heart of dedicated funding to improve local transport services. But before we can think of bringing in charges we have to address the performance of the electronic equipment and issues such as how to set up charging systems, costs, concerns about privacy and how charging will affect road users and communities. I want local authorities to volunteer to take part in the demonstration scheme, and in follow-up pilot projects. We must work closely in partnership to develop the best ways forward.
'Local authorities are the key to delivering improved transport. I am determined they will have the powers and resources to tackle transport problems and to develop local transport plans.'
He stressed that A New Deal also introduces new ideas for buses - Quality Partnerships and Quality Contracts - and that he wanted bus operators to design new buses that met the demands of all passengers.
Mr Prescott also called on local authorities to develop local transport plans. The new plans will cover all modes of transport and will cover a five year period. The plans will mean local authorities have greater certainty about future funding and more discretion about the allocation of resources.
The New Deal for Transport - Better for Everyone was published 20 July 1998. Copies are available from the Stationery Office priced£16.50; ISBN 0 10 139502 7.