SURREY motorists could be hammered financially if congestion charging comes to the county, as two new Government reports suggest, the county council has warned.

The studies, which look at solutions to traffic jams, propose that in the future congestion charging might extend as far as Guildford. This would affect not only motorways and major roads like the M25 and A3, but also the most minor roads in the county.

The council also criticised the Orbit and Thames Valley reports for concentrating on reducing car use and virtually ignoring improving public transport. And it called for more research nationwide into alternative and possibly fairer ways of taxing motorists before further decisions were taken on area-wide congestion charging or motorway tolls which might affect Surrey.

Surrey County Council's Executive Member for Transport, Jim Smith, said: "What worries us is the spectre of far wider congestion charging without adequate research first being carried out into the knock-on effects, not only on ordinary residents, but also the impact it might have on businesses in the area and on those less able to pay.

"It is absolutely vital to look at the social, economic and environmental implications before any decisions are taken.

"Surrey has almost double the national traffic flow on its roads - the M25 and A3 are vital cross-county transport links, so any future charging schemes could have a serious effect on businesses as well as recreational car users."

Mr Smith added: "It is extremely disappointing that the Orbit study has concentrated on ways of reducing private car use without seriously addressing how to promote high quality transport.

"It is essential that major improvements are made to both bus and rail networks before the motorist is further hit in their pocket. More research should be done including looking at lessening the amount of fuel duty and vehicle excise duty, which could ultimately reduce the financial burden and be fairer to some motorists - even if they had to pay a congestion charge."