Azara Blog: Road pricing is going to be introduced in the UK

Blog home page | Blog archive

Google   Bookmark and Share

Date published: 2005/05/05

The Financial Times says (subscription service):

A national system of road pricing that would replace taxes on motorists with charges for each journey could be approved halfway through a third Labour term, the transport secretary said yesterday.

Alistair Darling told the Financial Times that Labour would be "taking this forward" early in the next parliament, even though a nationwide scheme would not come into force before 2014.

"There has to be a strategic decision in the next two to three years as to whether this works," he said. Mr Darling used the interview to stress his support for road pricing as a means of tackling increasing traffic congestion. "I very strongly take the view . . . there is no way we can build our way out of the problems we face," he said.

The chances of a scheme going ahead had been improved by a change in the Westminster climate, Mr Darling said. The Tories had dropped their opposition to a national road pricing scheme.

Tim Yeo, shadow transport secretary, said yesterday there was a good case in principle for such a scheme. "I would certainly engage with Labour - either as a government or in opposition - to achieve bipartisan consensus," Mr Yeo told the FT. The Liberal Democrats also support road pricing.

In the past, politicians have been wary of offending the motorists' lobby, particularly after the highly disruptive fuel protests in 2000. Mr Darling said: "There is no way one party could do this in the teeth of [political] opposition. You are changing something fundamental."

Should the consensus survive the election, the next step towards a scheme would be a pilot study in which motorists would receive tax rebates in return for paying charges. Mr Darling said a number of local authorities had expressed interest in such a trial, which would need primary legislation.

Is this news? But you have to laugh when the ruling elite talk about "offending the motorists' lobby", given that motorists are the biggest suckers in the country, paying far more in tax than they receive in return.

It is also interesting to know which taxes the government would "replace". Road pricing is expensive to implement so the overall tax burden is almost certain to go up (someone has to pay for it). If they removed the annual road license tax then that would be reasonable, although that is likely to be only a fraction of what road pricing will take in. If they reduce the petrol (gasoline) tax then they are asking for trouble.

The big advantage of the petrol tax is that it is (obviously) proportional to how much petrol you use, so is an ideal reflection of the environmental damage you are causing. (It is also relatively cheap to collect.) With road pricing it does not matter whether you drive a thirsty Jaguar or a lean Toyota, you pay the same. Of course a small part of the reason for taxes on cars is to pay for the road network, so some part of that amount could reasonably be raised by road pricing (if it wasn't for the ridiculous costs of implementation).

If road pricing was being introduced solely to improve the efficiency of the road network and if it was cheap to introduce it would just about make sense. But of course the real reason to introduce road pricing is because the ruling elite hate motorists and want to screw them for every penny they are worth. And who cares if billions of pounds are being burned every year in the implementation.

All material not included from other sources is copyright For further information or questions email: info [at] cambridge2000 [dot] com (replace "[at]" with "@" and "[dot]" with ".").