Life after fuel tax: How road pricing could work in the UK

Life after fuel tax: How road pricing could work in the UK

What is road pricing?

It uses telematics technology to charge motorists by distance driven, factoring in vehicle size and type. It also serves another purpose of managing the costs of motoring such as pollution, emissions and congestion. The TSC says that to be seen as fair and acceptable by the public, road pricing ‘must be revenue neutral, with most motorists paying the same or less than they do currently.’ It adds that it hasn’t seen a viable alternative to a road pricing system based on telematics.

So road pricing is inevitable?

The TSC says that much of the technology required is already available and that ‘introducing road pricing is an opportunity for the UK to be a world leader.’ It recommends the Department for Transport and the Treasury appoint a body of experts to identify an alternative road charging mechanism by the end of the year.

However, it also accepts that road pricing ‘has acquired the reputation as a policy that is toounpopular [with voters] to implement’. It says the government ‘must start an honest conversation with the public’ but soon because, it warns, as electric vehicle drivers become accustomed to no-tax motoring, it may become socially and politically difficult for theExchequer to extract motoring taxes from them in the future.

What other country has a road pricing scheme?

In 2009, Singapore was the first to launch electronic road pricing (ERP) aimed at reducing congestion. Sensors mounted on overhead gantries communicate with an In-vehicle unit (IU) affixed to each car’s windscreen into which the vehicle keeper inserts a pre-pay card. Cameras record the vehicle’s registration number. Charges fluctuate according to the time of day, with peak times being the most expensive. London’s congestion charge zone was inspired by the system. A road pricing system on the scale of the UK’s would need to be GPS-based.

What alternatives to road pricing has the TSC considered?

Recovering lost revenue in general taxation is one idea but the TSC says this would be unfair to non-drivers. Pricing electricity used for charging an EV differently from that used for the home is another but doing so would require costly infrastructure. The TSC says that whatever solution is adopted must not discourage active travel (walking and cycling), which the government is committed to increasing or encourage vehicle use and consequently congestion, which it has pledged to reduce.