Azara Blog: UK Transport Secretary wants national standards for road pricing

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Date published: 2006/08/06

The BBC says:

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander will seek powers to create toll roads across the UK, reports have said.

In a leaked letter in the Sunday Times, he outlines plans for a bill for widespread tolls to combat congestion.

Local authorities currently set charges - such as London's - but in the letter Mr Alexander says he should be able to set simpler national standards.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it had no intention of imposing road-pricing on local authorities.

Ministers currently give their approval for local schemes like London's congestion charge.

In a letter to Leader of the Commons Jack Straw, dated 20 July, Mr Alexander argues he should set national levels to prevent confusion that would arise if different cities adopted different schemes.

Drivers would be charged on a pay-as-you-go basis, with black boxes in their cars working out how far they drive on toll roads.

"The main purpose of the bill would be to support our efforts to cut congestion and improve public transport, particularly in the major cities outside London," the letter said.

"It would also help to pave the way for a national road-pricing scheme in the medium to long term.

"I would propose reforming the current arrangements for approving local road-pricing schemes, providing better targeted powers to ensure that schemes are consistent with a national framework.

"Current legislation offers very limited powers for pricing on the trunk road network outside of the area of a local scheme.

"We are considering pilots on the trunk road network as an important stage towards national road-pricing."

Nothing that new here, and at least (for once) the government is thinking of doing pilot trials rather than just dumping such a radical and complex change on the country in one go. (For one thing, it can almost be guaranteed that the IT system will not work properly.) Of course the real question is whether these new road taxes will be in addition to the already extortionate taxes that car drivers pay, or whether the other taxes will be reduced to compensate. Well, since road pricing is extremely expensive to implement, and since someone has to pay for that inefficiency, it is pretty obvious that motorists will end up paying much more tax than they already do. The end result will be similar to what has been observed in London: the poor will be kicked off the roads for the benefit of the rich.

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