DORSET’S busy A338 Spur Road should be made into a toll road to pay for the £26m repairs it desperately needs.
Christchurch MP Chris Chope has mooted the idea and called on Dorset County Council to come up with more “imaginative” ways to fund the repair of the 6.5-mile stretch of worn out road from Bournemouth to Ringwood.
The A338 Bournemouth Spur Road, which carries 59,000 vehicles a day, urgently needs resurfacing but funding from the Department of Transport was pulled last year.
Dorset Country Council says improving the dual carriageway remains a high priority and there is “no lack of will” to push ahead with plans.
They say it costs £1million a year to patch up what is an already worn-out road.
The importance of a smooth running A338 Spur Road was highlighted again earlier this week when a single vehicle accident saw the northbound lanes closed, bringing Bournemouth to a five-hour standstill. Mr Chope said: “The cost of maintaining this road is disproportionately high. It would be much better value to carry out the full repairs.”
He added: “I have thought in the past one way to deal with this would be to introduce a temporary toll from which all Hampshire and Dorset residents would be exempt.
“We have got to find some more imaginative ways of keeping our roads in a fit state.”
Mr Chope said he has raised the issue in Parliament but was told the coalition agreement excludes introducing tolls on existing roads.
“My point is that this is worth revisiting. We would not toll local people because they are already paying for the upkeep of the local roads through their council tax. Using modern technology I am sure we could find a way to toll all the other people who use our roads but don’t help pay for them.
“Obviously this would be radical and new territory but in order to get this sort of thing going we need to have someone who is going to take it forward.” Mr Chope added that such a toll scheme would need local and political backing to take it forward.
“If there was enough political support for that we could take it forward as a new way of funding road repair improvements. The toll would only be in operation until the necessary repairs have been funded.”
Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “I am sure that Chris’ idea is very viable and would obviously work. We would have to agree that with Bournemouth Borough Coun-cil because it is partly one of their roads.”
He said such a scheme would undoubtedly cause “concern” with the logistics, how much it would cost to operate and the impact on businesses and visitors to Bournemouth.
But Mark Smith, head of tourism at Bournemouth Borough Council, said: “It would be seriously damaging for businesses here, it would cost people their jobs and would impact on people who live and work here.
“If you are going to charge for vehicles to use major routes then it should be a national scheme and not specific to one particular area.
“It would impact on local residents because their family and friends would have to pay.”
He added that all toll-roads offer motorists a different option but that would not be possible for the A338 Spur Road.
“The businesses here would be strangled by having a prohibitive charge.”