County council leaders should be saluted for their boldness this week in putting forward the topic of a congestion charge for the city.

The levels of traffic in Oxfordshire are reaching appalling levels and we have been warned (not that we really needed warning) that we cannot just carry on as we are.

Something has to be done and it possibly has to be something very big to have the required impact.

For this reason, it is important, as council leader Ian Hudspeth points out, to keep an open mind about the options at our disposal. Just because an idea seems radical does not mean we should simply discount it.

County cabinet member for environment and transport, David Nimmo Smith, stresses that many of the suggestions in the report are just ideas and are not necessarily to be taken as a statement of intent on the part of the council.

We accept this. But it is from the ideas in the consultation document that the actual Local Transport Plan will eventually be formed.

So, do not be surprised if one or more of the seemingly radical proposals — be it the monorail or the congestion charge — makes it through to the final strategy.

The idea of a congestion charge will be welcomed by some.

It could cut traffic flowing into the centre of the city, and also carbon emissions, and provide a much-needed boost to the county council’s spending power.

But there will be many opponents.

It has now been more than 10 years since London introduced a congestion charge, and although it has proved a lucrative policy for Transport for London, it has not stopped levels of congestion in the capital — according to a recent BBC report — becoming second only to Brussels in Europe.

Mr Hudspeth is right to say the subject should be approached carefully. It may not be a pleasant conversation, but it is one worth having.

The tone of our politicians on this is telling — they are seriously considering all options at their disposal.

There is an important debate to be had about how new transport projects can be paid for.

And if a congestion charge is not the answer, then it is time we start looking for others.

But you cannot get an answer without first asking a question.