Azara Blog: Cambridgeshire given money to do a road pricing study

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Date published: 2005/11/29

The Cambridge Evening News says:

It's official - Cambridge is to be one of the first areas outside London to look into the idea of congestion charging.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced yesterday (Monday, 28 November) that the city has been picked as one of seven local authority areas that will investigate what he calls "road pricing" - making motorists pay if they drive their cars on certain roads.

The Department for Transport will give the council a grant of £385,000 to mount a detailed study, which is expected to start soon and be finished by the summer of next year.

Cambridgeshire County Council, which will spearhead the study, says at this stage there are no firm proposals on how a charging scheme would work.

And lead councillor for highways and transport, Mac McGuire, told the News: "We have no plans to introduce a congestion charging scheme like the one in London. We are however interested in investigating one that, through rebates in other taxation, would cost the average motorist about the same as they are paying at present.

"This is an innovative approach, but until the study is completed we will not know whether or not it will work - or whether it will be appropriate for the Cambridge area."
Brian Smith, Cambridgeshire County Council's deputy chief executive, said: "The Cambridge area is facing big problems from traffic growth in future years, and we need to be planning now for how we deal with it. It's important to say however that although some form of demand management scheme will be needed, we simply don't know at this stage what it will be or how it will work."

One idea the council has floated publicly is compensating drivers who need to come into Cambridge in cars, and who will have to pay whatever charge is introduced. The idea is to give them some sort of discount - possibly a rebate on income tax, road tax or Council Tax.

The rebate would apply only to motorists who did a set average number of miles - those who were above the average would not qualify, thereby discouraging them from using their cars and encouraging them to use other modes of transport.

Mr Smith said the council will be working with other bodies - other councils, the Highways Agency, the East of England Development Agency, local businesses and so on - to canvass their views on what sort of scheme might work.

"Nothing is fixed - we want a wide debate and wide discussion on what we might do," he said.

If the study leads on to an actual project, it is likely to be several years before it starts, possibly not until 2011-2012.

Well needless to say anything to do with government is bound to be a disaster. Especially if it is to do with local government. However road pricing (often called "congestion" charging although the cost bears no or little relation to the congestion caused) is something that will obviously happen in the UK in the next twenty years no matter how expensive it is to implement and operate. It will certainly be interesting to see what kind of "business" model the county bureaucrats will come up with. Of course these are the very same bureaucrats who have purposely made road traffic in Cambridge worse and worse the last ten years. And although central government might be able to offer reductions in income tax or road tax as the alleged carrot to compensate for the introduction of road pricing, local government could only offer reductions in council tax. (It is also a bit of nonsense that the suggestion seems to be that only drivers get these reductions. Duh?) And because of the huge cost of implementing road pricing, the overall impact will not be tax neutral, since someone (i.e. the motorist) has to pay this cost. (And for the cost take whatever figures the government suggests courtesy of overpaid consultants and double these figures, or more.)

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