Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Appendix

SOME REASONS WHY NAAT OPPOSE "ROAD PRICING" PROPOSALS

1.  WE ALREADY HAVE ROAD PRICING

  It's called fuel duty and with associated VAT raises about £30 billion a year, and costs almost nothing to collect and enforce. Fuel duty is an established tax which drivers are used to, and though it is set at an unfairly high level, most drivers prefer it to any other form of charging.

  Taxing fuel encourages the use of smaller cars, more efficient engines, better driving (the less you use the throttle, the less fuel you use) and alternative fuels. Road pricing cannot readily do any of this, and may even encourage drivers to detour onto longer routes to avoid the higher tolls, and so use more fuel.

2.  "PLEBS" DRIVEN OFF THE ROADS

  Roads used to be reserved for the rich, but now over 80% of men drive and 60% of women. They pay a great deal for this privilege; the total taxes (including vehicle excise duty, VAT on new cars, company car tax etc) derived from roads use is about £50 billion. Roads users are in effect "voting" for better roads, but very little (tuppence a vehicle mile) goes back into maintaining or improving the system.

  With road pricing, drivers will be expected to pay even more and this will have the effect of forcing less well off drivers off the road.

3.  VAST AMOUNT WOULD BE WASTED IN THE COLLECTION OF TOLLS

  People are being misled into believing that road pricing will be revenue neutral. The Local Transport Bill does not include any provisions for offsetting the new charges in any way. In the case of the Manchester scheme it appears that they wish to spend £3 billion on public transport schemes, and hope to get £1 billion of that from the taxpayer via TIF. The intention seems to be that the rest of the money plus interest on borrowings will come from profits from the charges on road users.

  Even if road charging were really to be "revenue neutral" (ie no net increase in tax revenue), there would have to be a massive increase in taxes on roads users, because of the cost of setting up and running the charging system. Deloitte were asked by the Government in 2004 to look at the costs. Deloitte estimated that a national scheme would cost between £10 billion and £62 billion to implement, with annual running costs of up to £5 billion on top. If you assume that the higher estimate is more realistic and spread the initial costs over ten years, then the collection cost is over £10 billion a year, or the same as adding another 23 pence a litre to the cost of fuel.

  Even these figures may be an underestimate, as based on the London scheme the annual cost of the system could be several times higher.

4.  CAUSES AND CURES FOR CONGESTION

  One cause of congestion is that main road space has been reduced for the majority of motor vehicle users and the smooth flow of traffic impeded. The main answer to congestion is instead to improve the system. Advocates of road pricing say that if you do this then traffic will increase and roads will soon be as congested as before. But this ignores the other constraints on how much drivers will want or be able to drive—fuel and other costs, parking difficulties and charges, other entertainments apart from just driving around for 24 hours a day! The argument that you should not meet the demand is not used for hospitals, schools, libraries, houses, etc.

  There are many other things that can be done to reduce congestion, not least of which is to remove existing road tolls. It is scandalous that the M6 Toll road is almost empty while there is major congestion elsewhere in the West Midlands.

5.  THIS IS NOT JUST A TAX ON DRIVERS

  A large part of the traffic on the roads is vans and lorries. They will have to pay at least the same charge as cars, and probably a lot more. Either that will be passed on to the consumer (ie everyone) through increased prices for goods and services, or some of these firms are going to go bust. There will also be an affect on retail businesses in areas where road pricing is higher, as customers will go elsewhere.

6.  BIG BROTHER

  This would be the world's biggest surveillance system. Its use would inevitably spread so that police and other agencies could officially use it to monitor vehicles and drivers. So many people would be involved that there will also be lots of unofficial use of the information. It has been suggested that in some unspecified way the system would not record where a vehicle is at any time. This is not credible, as there will have to be systems to identity and record vehicles as they pass along the roads so that those who appear not to have paid can be pursued.

7.  TECHNOLOGY MIGHT NOT WORK OR BE SUBJECT TO MASSIVE EVASION

  Even if a system can be made to work (or at least the public can be convinced it works) over a small area, there is no guarantee that it would be able to cope with monitoring over 30 million vehicles over the whole country.

  According to the Government, charges could be up to £1.34 a mile. There will be a massive incentive to evade the charge. A massive police system will be needed to try and catch people and to deal with disputed charges.

June 2007





 
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