MPs will get their first chance to comment on road pricing as plans that would allow local pilot schemes are published by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Measures to allow local authorities to launch pay-as-you-drive trials are included in the draft local transport bill, published by the government for consultation and parliamentary scrutiny.
At least ten local authorities have expressed interest in the scheme, widely held to be the precursor to any possible national road pricing system.
The local pay-as-you-drive trials will be used to test the feasibility of road pricing, measuring the impact on congestion and more importantly the resistance among drivers - who have so far been vocally opposed to any nationwide road pricing scheme.
The trials will be accompanied by renewed investment in public transport.
Drivers in Great Manchester, West Midlands, Wolverhampton and Coventry, east Midlands, Derby and Nottingham, Tyne and Wear, Durham, Bristol, Reading, Cambridge, Shrewsbury and Norwich could be the first to experience the new system of road pricing, but not before 2012 at the earliest.
Ministers claim a national scheme is likewise many years in the future. Writing for politics.co.uk, transport secretary Douglas Alexander said a local scheme will give the government a better idea of how national road pricing could work in the future.
"It's only on the evidence of these established schemes that any decision on national road pricing would be made," he insisted.
The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to be "open and honest" about any plans to push forward with road pricing.
Lib Dem transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael said motorists must not pay more overall.
He warned: "If the public feel that road user pricing is just another cash cow for the Treasury, then it will meet stiff resistance and a real opportunity to reduce congestion will be missed."
The draft road pricing bill also contains measures to give local authorities more power to regulate bus service, including the power to set fares, bus frequencies and timetables.
The Liberal Democrats said such powers were long overdue, reversing the "bad Tory idea" of deregulation.
- Click here for exclusive articles on road pricing by the transport secretary Douglas Alexander, Chris Grayling and Alistair Carmichael.