Road tolls 'risk failure without trap for dodgers': Experts weigh merits of satellites, short wave radio and infra-red technology
At a London gathering of more than 500 experts, advisers will urge the Department of Transport (DoT) to be explicit about toll enforcement, as it decides the technical features of road pricing. Trials on a few thousand cars are planned for the M4 or M25 in less than two years.
The sophisticated electronic technology needed to make road pricing work is proven, but only at prototype stage. Technologists want to know the Government's targets on enforcement so their designs can meet the challenge.
It should also ease public acceptance of tolls if people know beforehand how the authorities will compel the public to pay, according to Peter Hills, director of the Transport Operations Research Group at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Professor Hills is one of the DoT's key advisers, and a speaker at today's meeting. 'To have a system that accuses people of not paying when they have, or charges them twice because it is over vigilant, would be just as damaging as a system so lax it becomes widely known that cars can get away without paying,' he said yesterday.
Simple decisions such as whether systems must be sharp enough to pick up motorcycles hidden behind lorries could be critical in dictating the sensors and transmitters used.
Other basic questions remain unanswered. It is not yet clear whether failing to pay a road toll will be made a criminal offence. The problem is whether to distinguish between the old man who strays onto the M5 on a Sunday afternoon without the kit in his car to pay, and persistent violators. Professor Hills suggests an approach that is pragmatic, but has few supporters in the police establishment.
Most proposed toll systems store images of the licence numbers of cars that pass but do not pay. Professor Hills says these could be scanned to pick up cars that fail to pay perhaps five times in a week, thus ignoring one-off defaulters and concentrating the cost of enforcement on persistent offenders.
Early generations of road tolls were based on read-only tags that identified vehicles to a roadside computer. Then came systems whose tags could be altered, not just read. Beacons on gantries need not know the identity of each car, but use two-way communications with a 'smart card' in a unit inside the car to deduct payments. This makes roadside computers redundant, so avoids worries over privacy.
However, the Government has reasoned that offenders forfeit the right to privacy and it wants to be tough on enforcement. This means cameras sharp enough to spot and log non-payers within huge volumes of traffic.
The DoT has decided against the kind of 'toll plazas' used at the Dartford tunnel, for instance. But monitoring traffic on the move imposes huge technical demands. Equipment must cope with massive volumes of cars, and also vehicles travelling at high speed, possibly straddling lanes.
This requires a whole new approach. The most ambitious option uses satellites to broadcast signals that dock credit from in-car units. Local broadcasts, using cellular communications, might prove cheaper. Both approaches would require roadside cameras, because cars without toll units could avoid paying. Short wave radio links or infra-red communication are a possibility, although the favourite is microwave communication.
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...
£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Experienced Software Dev...