The Freight Transport Association has warned politicians of three potential reactions from road users if the government proceeds with its plans to introduce road pricing across the country.
Speaking at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress debate on road pricing at ExCel in London, James Hookham, FTA’s deputy chief executive, characterised the three reactions in the words of a typical road user.
The FTA said with British road users already paying the highest fuel taxes in Europe, at 47.1 p a litre, they might ask why should the Government receive “even more of their hard-earned money”? The economic arguments of paying external costs of transport will be hard pressed to overcome the injustice long felt by many road users about being the most highly taxed in Europe, according to the FTA. Adding to that burden, in future budgets would make the job even more difficult, it argues.
Secondly, road users may feel that whilst paying more money, the service gets worse, according to the association. It said road pricing works by charging users more as roads become more congested in an attempt to dissuade journeys being made at congested times. “This is fine if you are an economist, but if you are a road user experiencing congestion and the cost of your journey has just gone up because of the delay, then you will find yourself paying a lot more for a much poorer service from the road network,” an FTA statement said. “It is like charging more for the food at a supermarket checkout because there are long queues, hoping that some people will put their goods back and go home. It would not be tolerated in the shops and those same consumers will take some persuading that this is fair on the roads.”
People may also react to the issue of foreign vehicles using roads without charge, while UK road users have to pay. Making foreign vehicles visiting the UK pay their fair share of road wear and tear costs has long been an aim of road pricing schemes aimed at lorries, it said, but with an estimated one in seven of the heaviest vehicles on UK roads coming from overseas, the road wear costs attributed to these vehicles is in the order of £240 million each year. It said: “Enforcing road pricing will require much better information about the ownership and identity of any non-UK based company operating trucks in the UK.”
Acting on this issue, it is conducting a ‘Tell Us Who You Are’ campaign to persuade the government to require minimum information from foreign operators, concerning their identity and compliance history, prior to entering the country.
Hookham said: “These are real issues for many road users, particularly truck operators, who will view road pricing as simply additional tax until the benefits of clearer roads or lower fuel taxes are demonstrated.
“These issues are not simple and their solution will require the government to engage in an honest and open debate with all road users in order to convince them of the longer-term merits and benefits of national road pricing. I would urge the Secretary of State to start that debate straight away,” he added.