A FAIR DEAL FOR THE MOTORIST

 

 

 

 

        

 

 

A BLUEPRINT FOR UNIVERSAL ROAD PRICING...

 

The government wants us to believe that it does not want to toll existing road capacity for private vehicles (at least before 2015). However this is not the view of the European Commission, which sees UK roads as part of a ‘Trans European Network’ (TEN-T) governed at EU level.

 

On 28 March 2011, the European Commission released a transport White Paper "Roadmap Towards a Single European Transport Area".

 

This is essentially a political initiative, pushing towards a single European approach, including ‘new congestion and 'climate change' taxes such as road pricing’. A bit of an early April Fool's joke - the EU has long been pushing for road pricing to pay for its Galileo satellite, which has had financial problems.

 

(Media coverage typically missed this, instead focusing on the well-spun distraction of plans to ban cars from cities in several years' time).

 

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas was not credible when he said that 'Curbing mobility is not an option' or was the press release that hints that any moves towards road pricing are for national governments.

The Executive Summary (on page 5) compares 4 different policy options (including a do-nothing) - the EU's preferred policy options (#4 and #2) both are scored as markedly REDUCING 'citizens' mobility'....and at the same time improving 'choice'!

 

READ THE SMALL PRINT...

 

The small print makes it quite clear that the Commission is going to push for European road user charges for 'all vehicles'. (Relevant phrases - 'demand management', p8; 'all vehicles/passengers cars', p15; 'full and mandatory charging',  p29).

 

The White Paper warns that transport users are likely to pay more than today.

 

Ironically both options are scored as reducing household cost(!) and assisting economic growth, though again the small print admits to 'a significant degree of uncertainty' and 'factors that are difficult to predict or quantify'.

 

Both options #2 and #4 rely on what is euphemistically called ‘managing mobility’ and on carbon pricing (probably pricing people off the road like Labour's former proposals, but based on questionable assumptions about 'global warming'), although the less drastic, #4, is more about urban restrictions..

 

The EU rejects a policy option (#3) which seems to be based mainly on 'cleaner vehicle technology' as it is technology dependent, although quirkily, the EU would need a lot of journey tracking and pricing technology for the others.

 

In making a recommendation, it adds 'Policy Option 4 would avoid the creation of a pervasive command and control approach to mobility' but the small print says it reserves the right to go for the more drastic option (#2).

 

The general thrust indicates road pricing ambitions for major routes (TENs) and other main roads that 'compete' with them, and by implication more local roads that take displaced traffic.

 

So fair to read that the plans are for all vehicles on all roads.

 

Transport measures are typically now decided by majority voting, without a national veto. Interesting also that compulsion is intended after 2015, the date before which David Cameron has been reported as ruling out wider road pricing.

 

LORRY CHARGE THE TROJAN HORSE?

 

Local Transport Today magazine (17 Feb 2012) regarded the UK government’s plans for road pricing for lorries (in England after 2014) as a stepping stone.

 

The latter is subject to consultation (to 18 April 2012), and interestingly the EU wants ‘distance-based charging’ not a daily rate (‘time-based’) proposed by the UK government.

 

The EU approach would require detailed journey tracking and recording. (NB Introducing road pricing for lorries might be a softly-softly way of installing the nationwide tracking and charging technology, which could then be extended to all vehicles).

 

By pure coincidence, in March 2012, the UK government announced a study into the leasing of roads in return for ‘private capital investment’, with tolling an option.

 

If main roads (motorways, highways) were leased to private operators on the blueprint of the ‘independent’ Highways Agency report, they would almost certainly consider maximising their profits through wider tolling.

 

As they would already be geared up to charge lorries, what would be to stop operators from charging smaller vehicles? Would the government regard this as a private sector matter and disown responsibility, as the HA report hints?

 

 

References:

EU White Paper documents – COM(2011)144 etc http://ec.europa.eu/transport/strategies/2011_white_paper_en.htm

 

EU Presidency and European Parliament looking at road pricing for cars as well as lorries

http://www.roadtransport.com/Articles/2010/07/21/136536/EUs-Belgian-presidency-resurrects-Euro-wide-road-charging.htm 

 

EU general blueprint for main routes, air, sea and land – is in several documents, mainly Common Transport Policy, European Commission Consultation on Trans European Network - Transport Policy. Useful starting point: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/transport/intermodality_transeuropean_networks/l24481_en.htm

 

The road pricing (‘ITS’) technology blueprint is diversely covered in

European Commission documents COM(2008) 436, 886, 887; 

SEC(2008) 304 covers the ‘EU right to act’

 

 

MANY THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT

 

 

 

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