Azara Blog: Eddington report recommends road pricing

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Date published: 2006/12/01

The BBC says:

Motorists should be asked to pay to drive on the nation's road network, a report commissioned by the government has recommended.

Former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington has examined options for modernising the UK transport network.

He has reported that road tolls could bring £28bn a year of benefits to bus and rail users.

With road charging, drivers would pay more to use roads when they were busy or more congested.

If road charging was introduced, the government would be able to examine the option of whether it could raise enough revenue to replace fuel duty and the car tax disc.

What a surprise. The ruling elite have been baying for road pricing for years, and a government-appointed and run commission now says it thinks it's a jolly good idea.

The alleged 28 billion pounds in benefits of course has to be offset against the costs. And what does this brilliant report say about the costs: "While firm estimates of the costs of such a scheme are not developed at this stage, those costs would have to be extremely high to outweigh benefits on this scale" (paragraph 1.109 in the summary volume). And those are the direct costs of implementation he is talking about. He completely ignores the indirect, social, costs of denying mobility to people.

Unfortunately all the people who work fulltime on this subject have a direct financial interest in making sure road pricing goes ahead. Hence their sums should not be trusted. At this stage of the game, you can assume that any alleged benefit should be divided by two, and that any alleged implementation cost (when they deign to give us one) should be doubled. Needless to say, the total costs will be high enough to make any alleged benefit largely vaporise.

And should these "benefits" go "to bus and rail users" (as the BBC story implies)? Well the report says that: "I have long argued that all users, including air travellers, should pay the full costs of their travel, whether those are the costs of congestion or environmental damage" (paragraph 1.44). If only bus and rail users came anywhere close to paying the full costs of their journeys. They do not come even close to paying the direct costs, never mind the indirect (e.g. environmental) costs.

One impact of road pricing is that instead of Britain having busy roads 5 or 6 hours a day, it instead will have busy roads 10 or 12 hours a day. Indeed, as shown by the graph in paragraph 1.63, the country is already heading that way. What the report calls "leisure" and "other personal" journeys already are bunched in the middle of the day, avoiding the rush hour. But these are exactly the kinds of journeys that road pricing is being introduced for to allegedly remove from the rush hour.

There is no space for more roads in most urban areas. But there is plenty of space for more roads between urban areas. Of course the ruling elite refuse to build these roads, and this is one of the major contributions to congestion.

The one saving grace in all of this is that the government has proven itself so incompetent over and over again at implementing large projects, that the date of introduction of road pricing will be far, far off into the future.

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