Road tolls 'risk failure without trap for dodgers': Experts weigh merits of satellites, short wave radio and infra-red technology

ROAD TOLLS will fail unless the Government decides how to catch and penalise those who do not pay, ministers will be told today.

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.

(Photograph omitted)

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Swimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
News
people
News
i100
News
moneyForbes 400 list released
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style