MPs to investigate road pricing

10 October 2019, 00:05 | Updated: 10 October 2019, 00:06

MPs are to investigate new ways of paying for roads (Andrew Matthews/PA)
MPs are to investigate new ways of paying for roads (Andrew Matthews/PA). Picture: PA

The Transport Committee will consider whether road pricing should be part of the future of transport.

MPs are to investigate if drivers should be charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The Commons’ Transport Committee said it wants to start a national debate about whether road pricing can play a part in the future of transport.

Consideration of such a scheme has not been government policy since the then-Labour administration abandoned proposals in 2007 after an online petition attracted 1.8 million signatures.

But experts believe ministers must re-consider it as motoring taxes – worth £40 billion to the Treasury annually – are likely to decline sharply in the coming years as people switch from conventionally-fuelled vehicles.

The term road pricing covers a range of measures including tolls, congestion charges, HGV levies, workplace parking levies, and low emission and clean air zones.

The MPs are inviting views from drivers and non-drivers ahead of launching a formal inquiry next year.

Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the Transport Committee, said: “It’s been almost 10 years since the last real discussion of national road pricing. In that time, we have become much more aware of the dangers of air pollution and congestion.

“We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole. We need to ask how we will pay for roads in the future and in answering that question we have an opportunity for a much wider debate about our use of road space, cutting carbon emissions, tackling congestion, modal shift and how we prioritise active travel.

“Tackling the climate emergency is essential but this is about more than what we must do to meet that challenge. It’s also about our health and the sort of towns and cities we want to live in.”

In April 2017, AA president Edmund King and his wife, business analyst Deirdre, revealed proposals to generate funds for road investment which included companies such as sports teams, supermarkets and tech firms purchasing the naming rights of major roads.

Their Road Miles plan outlined the potential establishment of the Manchester United M6, the Morrisons M1, the Microsoft M4 and the Adidas A1.

Responding to the Transport Committee’s announcement, Mr King said: “We do need a national debate about how we pay for our road infrastructure to bridge the taxation gap between falling fuel duty revenue and the electric vehicle revolution.

“However, the British public will never vote for national road pricing so we need greater imagination to sell the public something that they actually want.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “For the Treasury, the beauty of fuel duty is its ease of collection and difficulty of evasion.

“Whatever replaces the existing system is bound to raise new challenges and complexities, will take time and effort to establish, and could potentially be difficult to explain to the public.”

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