Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Annex A



  We support the principle of road pricing, believing that it has an important role to play in a sustainable transport policy by helping change how much we travel and by what means. Distance-based charges for road use will make the costs of motoring more transparent and encourage drivers to think more about the individual journeys they make, about whether the journey is really needed or if they could use alternative ways of making the journey.

  However our support for road pricing in practice as well as in principle depends on the following conditions being met in any scheme which the Government introduces:

Road pricing must be designed not simply to cut congestion, but to cut carbon dioxide emissions from transport and to meet other transport objectives

  The Government seems to see road pricing simply as a way of tackling congestion. We believe that its purpose must be much broader, aiming to change how much we travel and by what means. Its principal role should be to help cut climate change emissions from transport. The Department for Transport now has joint responsibility for delivering the Government's Public Service Agreement on reducing climate change emissions and a key policy measure such as road pricing must contribute to meeting this target.

  Road pricing should also be used to meet other transport policy objectives such as improving air quality, reducing transport's contribution to social exclusion, improving road safety and bringing environmental benefits to urban and rural areas.

Road pricing must be used to increase the overall cost of motoring

  Government figures show that the cost of motoring has fallen in real terms since 1997. Road pricing must be used as one means to reverse this trend and increase the overall cost of motoring.

  Research shows that a revenue-neutral road pricing scheme under which road pricing charges are offset by cuts in fuel duty would lead to increases in both traffic levels and in emissions of carbon dioxide because the cut in fuel duty would make driving cheaper on less congested roads in rural areas. A revenue-raising scheme under which road pricing charges are added to existing motoring costs would lead to falls in traffic levels, congestion and emissions of carbon dioxide.

  Any revenue raised from road pricing should be invested in measures which encourage travel by means other than the private car or which reduce the need to travel. This would mean that, whilst there would be increases in the monetary costs of driving (in line with the "polluter pays" principle), these would be compensated not only by the benefits of reduced congestion, but also by benefits to those using (or switching to) other transport modes. Hence road pricing could be "cost neutral" to travellers overall. Alternatively, some of the revenue could be used to support local services and other community facilities which reduce travel demand, making it "cost neutral" to society in general. Either way, the links should be explicit, to counter any suggestion that road pricing is a revenue-raising tool. The Government should investigate these options.

Road pricing will not work on its own, but must be part of a package of measures

  Road pricing on its own will not solve Britain's traffic problems. Other demand management measures are also needed, including road space reallocation, parking controls, higher density developments, speed management and smarter choices.

  Investment in alternatives to the car (public transport, cycling and walking) must be increased immediately. Safer, more efficient, more reliable and more affordable alternatives to car use are needed now, and must not be delayed until road pricing technologies and proposals have been fully developed. Legislation must guarantee certainty in funding with clear plans for expansion and improvement of these alternatives.

Road pricing charges must maintain incentives for using greener cars

  Any road pricing scheme must be designed, and its charges set, so that it complements rather than undermines fiscal incentives for using greener, more fuel-efficient cars such as fuel tax and Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax). Replacing fuel tax and road tax with a charge for road use that does not differentiate between fuel-efficient cars and gas guzzlers will not be acceptable.

Road pricing should not be introduced only for new capacity

  Road-building is not the solution to the UK's transport problems. Large-scale additional road capacity is not needed. Road pricing should be applied to all existing roads rather than just new capacity. Nor should road pricing be used as a way of generating money to invest in building new roads or wider motorways.

Further private toll roads and motorways should be ruled out

  Further privately-funded and operated toll roads and motorways, such as the M6 Toll to the north of Birmingham, should be ruled out as the revenue goes to the shareholders of the companies, and is not used for investment in sustainable transport.

Road pricing should not have adverse effects on rural areas or increase urban sprawl

  Road pricing should be designed so that traffic is not diverted on to cheaper, less congested rural roads. Any scheme should be designed so that it reinforces policies to deliver an urban renaissance; and accompanied by tough land-use policies so that it does not encourage development in inappropriate locations. The Government should investigate providing clearly targeted support for those on low incomes living in genuinely deep rural areas.

Local and regional schemes are useful stepping stones to a national scheme

  A nationwide road pricing scheme is probably at least a decade away. As well as working towards this, the Government should also continue to encourage the implementation of locally—and regionally-based congestion charging or road pricing schemes. The Government should issue guidance to all regions and the Highways Agency so that Regional Spatial Strategies adopt the default position for purposes of traffic modelling that national road user charging is introduced during the lifetime of the Plans.

February 2006

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