THE Government has considered imposing a £2 toll on the M4, the main motorway link between South Wales and London, it was revealed yesterday.
The latest idea is to penalise any motorist travelling eastbound between Reading and London.
It means anyone travelling from South Wales to London and back could be charged at each end, plus face the capital's congestion charges.
According to the Highways Agency this is "just one suggestion among many".
But even floating the idea of slapping yet another toll on one of the UK's busiest roads has provoked anger and outrage.
Former Neath Mayor John Warman, who is waging a campaign against tolls on both Severn Bridges, wants the Highways Agency to "come clean" on the whole question of tolls.
"There is no smoke without fire and I will be writing to the agency asking them about their future proposals, regardless of whether they claim an M4 toll is true or not," he said yesterday.
"I do not accept their denial because I think the Government has a hidden agenda for introducing toll charges all over the country - and the M4 will be one of the victims.
"I believe the introduction of a toll on a new stretch of the M6 in the Midlands has set a dangerous precedent and it strikes me that the Government is determined to increase revenue by imposing tolls," he said.
"There have got to be motorway improvements near Cardiff and Newport and the question must be asked, how are these going to be paid for? If they are going to resort to bringing in tolls it really will be the thin edge of the wedge - but they are a non-starter as far as I am concerned."
Mr Warman, founder and organiser of Cast (Campaign Against Severn Tolls), said if a toll was charged on motorists heading into London along the M4 this would prove a triple whammy for car drivers from Wales who would also have to pay the £5 congestion charge plus £4.60 to return home over the Severn.
His plan for a national day of action against tolls later this year is already gaining ground. And a planned boycott - he calls it an "avoidance day" - is designed to make all 19 of the UK's toll roads and bridges as deserted as possible for 24 hours.
Road hauliers are known to be increasingly concerned over escalating tolls for the privilege of doing business between Wales and England.
Caldicot-based firm Hicks Logistics spends around £3,000 a month.
Terry Hicks, managing director, said that well over 50% of the company's business had to go across the Severn, with some vehicles crossing three or four times a day - at the current cost of £13.90 a time.
The motoring organisations are equally united in the fight against further tolls and the RAC said the M4 needed widening rather than more tolls.
The AA shares Mr Warman's view that M4 tolls, albeit for the brief ride into London, was a non starter and a spokesman described some of the suggestions considered by the Highways Agency as "mind boggling".
But tolling the M4 has been dismissed as "nonsense" by the Department of Transport.
A spokesman said, "There are no plans to introduce tolling on the M4. This is a Highways Agency consultation paper which included a wide range of ideas by many different external bodies and interest groups.
"Ministers have ruled out the suggestion of tolling on the M4 - and any other suggestions from this exercise would be subject to decision by them. No decisions have been taken."
Severn bridges are third most expensive to cross
TOLLS to cross the Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing are the third most expensive in Britain, behind the Skye and Humber Bridges.
Until the 18th Century - and before the advent of the motorcar - few bridges crossed the Severn. But it could easily be crossed by the numerous fords or by ferry.
Severn River Crossing plc has a concession from the Government to collect tolls for 30 years or when a predetermined level of revenue from tolls has been collected, whichever is the earlier. It is forecast that this target will be reached in 2016 - and the Government will then decide whether tolls will continue.
The number of westbound toll-paying vehicles over both crossings during 2003 topped 12.5m - but more drivers are going into England than the other way round.