Toll plans run into traffic

Public sector finance: Pay as you drive is anathema to most motorists, but the DoT is determined not to give up yet. By Paul Gosling

Motorists involved in an experiment in Leicester are to be charged for using a key commuter road. Payment will be made from money given to the motorists, and they will save money if they instead use trains, buses or park and ride. The results should indicate how a national system of road charging could influence driver behaviour.

Participants' cars will be fitted with electronic equipment that will register a charge, with road prices rising on days of heavy atmospheric pollution. The project, part of the European Commission's Eurotoll scheme, is also being tested in France, Germany and Italy, and is based on proven technology.

Driver behaviour is assumed to be influenced by two factors: cost and convenience. As well as introducing road- charging, Leicester's council will change road priorities to make journey times shorter by bus than by car.

Eddie Tyrer, of Leicester council's traffic section, says: "Politically road charging is not acceptable nationally or locally. But if it does come, what we want to see is what it would do, how it might become acceptable, and how it might improve air quality. We also want to determine what price is necessary to create a change of behaviour."

The Department of Transport, one of the partners in Eurotoll, is keen to see tolls introduced on British roads, to reduce excessive traffic on some urban roads and as a way of encouraging more private finance into new road building, especially for motorways. But efforts to create toll roads in Britain have been hit by a series of problems.

Until now the biggest obstacle has been drivers themselves, who simply do not want to pay tolls. The RAC polled motorists and found strong opposition. Jeremy Banks, head of public policy at the RAC, says: "The outcome was that drivers were very strongly opposed to tolling. If it happens, they would prefer toll booths, and would like the money to go to road maintenance and public transport."

But booths would not fit easily on many British motorways, and would slow down traffic flows. Moreover, part of the attraction of tolling is to bring in private capital which, it seems, drivers would resist. And drivers are one of the most powerful vested interests.

What is more, all opinion polls of drivers have shown that tolls will lead to the diversion of traffic, rather than converting drivers into public transport users. Higher car-parking fees in town and city centres has been a factor in the popularity of out-of-town shopping malls. Urban tolls would have the same effect, and motorway tolls could dramatically shift traffic on to trunk roads.

One study predicted that introducing tolls on the M25 could lead to a 500 per cent increase in heavy goods traffic on parallel sections of the A25. While the extent of diversion is dependent on the level of charges, any charge produces a worryingly high level of diversion, according to the studies conducted. And anti-roads campaigners have warned that private motorway developers will be able to set their own tolls. This might lead HGV tolls to be set at deterrent levels so that privately built motorways were geared to car use, forcing heavy lorries on to suburban streets and narrow trunk roads.

The technology is proven, having worked satisfactorily in Germany and the Far East. Indeed, regular users of the M25 Dartford River Crossing have been able to use pre-paid tags combined with automatic vehicle identification since 1992. The result has been a significant improvement in vehicle throughflow compared with either manual or machine payment.

But the political problems currently seem insurmountable. These have led the Government reluctantly to turn its back on road pricing, and turn instead to shadow road tolls. Under this, a private developer would be paid by the Government for the level of traffic that uses a road, but will pay a penalty when roads are out of service for repair.

Even the shadow road tolling programme has hit problems, with eight consortia bidding for the supply of the technology now down to just four after the others withdrew. The remaining potential suppliers now face testing at the Transport Research Laboratory starting this summer, and then a further trial on the M3 next spring.

The bright new future of a network of privately financed toll roads no longer looks a realistic option. Toll roads might even be seen as a metaphor for the Private Finance Initiative as a whole. Private capital is being brought in, but not on the Government's original terms, and in much smaller sums than had been envisaged.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

    £215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

    Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power