Campaign for Better Transport oppose road pricing

Today a new report has been released arguing that toll roads are not the economical answer to traffic problems. However it is from an unlikely author – Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) – who back in January argued that spending on roads is a major “gamble” because the Highways Agency has, on occasion, inaccurately predicted their road schemes’ effects on traffic, noise and greenhouse gas emissions. I pointed out that an increase in use when a road is widened or a new road is built happens because there is more pent up demand for roads than was originally thought.  That actually implies taxpaying motorists were particularly in need of new capacity in order to get around, driving to work or to access services.

Today CBT spokesperson Stephen Joseph said that instead of road tolling the government “needs to invest what limited funds it has in maintaining well the roads we’ve got and in providing alternatives for driving where they exist.”

Well the TPA has been arguing for prioritising road spending in a shrinking transport budget as it would deliver the most passenger kilometers for a smaller amount of public spending. Commuter rail should also be prioritised as it is the major alternative to driving for commuters heading into cities.

The CBT report uses the M6 toll road as justification for not privatising the roads and introducing tolls. The report states: “When the M6 Toll opened, drivers were promised faster, more reliable journeys if they paid the £2 charge. However, with journeys on the toll road not being significantly faster than on the M6, and with sizeable price increases every January, paying the toll remains a bad choice for motorists.”

And why would drivers want to pay an additional charge to use a road when they have already paid large sums in VED and fuel duty if they aren’t going to experience quicker journey times? If road tolling as a scheme was rolled out nationally it would cost up to £28 billion to set up and as much as another £23 billion to run annually. This means that drivers would be charged between 10.7p per mile and 30.1p a mile to drive on trunk roads and motorways for the scheme to break even. The annual total cost of scheme - for the average driver who travels 9,000 miles a year - would be between £963 and £2,709. That is on top of existing fuel duty and VED.

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