National Alliance Against Tolls - Road Pricing or Tolls Chimera

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(A chimera or chimaera is a mythical monster that is assembled from parts of various beasts.)

If you can help in any way to fight the plans for road pricing either generally or in your own area, then please email us.

What is Road pricing?
Reasons Why Idea Is Daft
What should be done about reducing congestion?
What has been happening on Road Pricing in Britain from 2004.
Road pricing schemes around the world
Pilot schemes in Manchester and other cities
General Links: (There are other links at the end of each above sections.)
Department for Transport - Road Pricing pages
The famous Peter Roberts Petition to PM - "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy"
Safe Speed report - "Road Pricing - Money for nothing (except pricing the poor off the roads)"
Bath University - "A Note on the Distributional Effects of Road Pricing"

For Road Pricing News go to our news pages and look for items marked - chimaera

What is Road pricing?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But tolls by any other name are definitely not sweet!

Fuel taxes and vehicle taxes are of course charges for using the roads, but the authorities ignore these existing taxes when they refer to "Road pricing" or "Road user charging".
"Road pricing" or "Road user charging" are almost synonymous with "tolls" but unlike most tolls they do not just apply to individual roads or river crossings.
"Road pricing" means that roads users would pay a toll for the use of all roads over a wide area (a city or a country), with the charge varying according to the road and the time of day. Road pricing does not exclude the possibility that some roads are always free, or that some roads are free at certain times, or that some vehicles have full or partial exemptions from the charge.
"Congestion charging" is a form of "Road pricing" that instead of applying to a whole country or city is restricted to a small area.

Reasons Why Idea Is Daft

1. We already have road pricing!
It's called fuel duty and with associated VAT raises about £30 billion a year, and costs almost nothing to collect and enforce. Fuel used and therefore fuel duty also varies with congestion - a driver on a traffic free rural road gets about 50% more mpg than a driver on congested roads.
Fuel duty is an established tax which drivers are used to, and though it is set at an unfairly high level, most drivers prefer it to any other form of charging.
Taxing fuel encourages the use of smaller cars, more efficient engines, better driving (the less you use the throttle, the less fuel you use) and alternative fuels. Road pricing cannot readily do any of this and will have the effect of driving some less well-off drivers, who mainly use smaller cars, off the roads.

2. People do not want tolls.
Edinburgh voted three to one against tolls in February 2005, even though 40% of households didn't have a car.
Occasionally there are surveys that are said to show that drivers will support tolls. Those surveys are sponsored by those who want tolls. They get the "right" response by using loaded questions and "educating" surveyees before the question is asked, they also hide important facts like the billions that would be wasted in collection and enforcement. They mislead people into thinking that the money they pay will be used to build new roads or improve public transport or reduce other roads taxes. These surveys don't fool the Government, they should not fool anybody else.
Road pricing supporters also tell people that it will be "revenue neutral". To be "revenue neutral", there would have to be an equivalent reduction in other taxes on roads users. This is fantasy as existing taxes cost almost nothing to collect, but the cost of collecting and enforcing road pricing will average about £10 billion a year - there would have to be a massive increase in taxes just to cover that. On top of that, many of the supporters of road pricing want there to be extra money to go into the Government coffers that would likely be spent on various projects that would have little or no benefit for most roads users.
The Government was mistaken if it did not believe that people did not want tolls or hoped that it could permanently mislead them. This has been proved by the phenomenal runaway success of Peter Roberts's petition to the Prime Minister. The only response to this from the Government and their supporters was to say that those who signed had been misled by us and other opponents!

3. Freedom for the Elite. But Plebs driven off the roads.
Travel is one of the great freedoms. But all methods of travel are not treated the same. Paths, pavements, bridleways and cycle lanes are provided free. Trains, trams and some buses are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. Other buses and planes are not subsidised, but neither are they taxed.
How about cars and lorries? - About £50 billion a year in taxes.
Roads used to be reserved for the rich, but now over 80% of men drive and 60% of women. Tolls will inevitably increase the tax burden and drive less well off drivers off the road, that is their aim.

4. Vast amount would be wasted in the collection of tolls.
Of the £8 London Toll (so called "Congestion Charge"), £5 is swallowed up in collection costs, with profits boosted by swingeing fines for "late" or non payment.
The Government's own experts have estimated that a national toll scheme would cost between £10 billion and £62 billion to implement, with annual running costs of £5 billion on top. If you assume that the higher government estimate is more realistic and spread the initial costs over ten years, then:-
Collection cost is over £10 billion a year, or the same as adding another 23 pence a litre to the cost of fuel!

5. Fuel use and emissions would increase.
Replacing fuel duty with tolls will reduce the incentive to use cars that burn less fuel or use one of the "greener" fuels.
Some drivers will detour onto longer routes to avoid the higher tolls, and so use even more fuel!

6. Vehicle Licences would have to be kept.
It has been suggested that road pricing would replace vehicle licence charges. But licence information is used by the Government for various purposes, and how else will they know whom to charge the new tolls to!
Will they issue licences for free? - Of course not.
(There is an argument for reducing and simplifying licence duty - say £20 annual rate for all vehicles (including lorries, who pay more tax than European competitors). All roads users are overtaxed, so this could be done without any compensating increase. But if the Government want their pound of flesh, then it is simpler and better to put the tax on fuel and not tolls.)

7. This is not just a tax on drivers
A large part of the traffic on the roads is vans and lorries. They will at least have to pay the same charge as cars, and probably a lot more. Either that will all be passed on to the consumer (i.e. everyone) through increased prices for goods and services, or some of these firms are going to go bust.
There will also be an affect on retail businesses in areas where road pricing is higher, as customers will go elsewhere.

8. Spy in the Sky.
Welcome to 1984! This would be the biggest surveillance system ever. The use would inevitably spread so that the police and other agencies could officially use it to monitor vehicles and drivers. The scale of it is so massive and so many people would be working for the Spy in the Sky that there will also be lots of unofficial use of the information.
The Government are now saying that they will use some unspecified system such that they will not able to record where a vehicle is at any time. Really?

9. Congestion is caused by the Government.
The Government avoids and delays spending on new roads. Government and local authority spending on all roads is only tuppence a vehicle mile. Much of that is spent on restricting road space for cars and perversely trying to slow drivers, who they think are going too fast despite congestion!
The Government is left with over £40 billion profit from taxes on roads use.
If spending was increased to fourpence a vehicle mile, that would be £7 billion a year that could be invested in improving roads capacity (and not on more hampering of traffic), and still leave the Government with over £30 billion profit!
(Supporters of road pricing say that if you improve the roads, then traffic will increase and the roads will soon be as congested as before. If existing capacity is inadequate for demand, then there will an increase, but to suggest that this is infinite and you will be back where you started is a nonsense, as there are other constraints on how much drivers will want or be able to drive - fuel and other costs, parking difficulties and charges, other entertainments apart from just driving round for 24 hours a day! And if they apply this argument that demand will increase if you improve roads then why don't they say the same about hospitals, schools, libraries or houses?)

10. Permanent Gridlock is Fiction.
There is of course some congestion, and at certain times it can be very bad. But if it becomes a regular occurrence, then people will move house, move job, change where they shop etc, vary their travelling habits.
Roads users are in effect "voting" for better roads by contributing vast sums to the Government, but the Government ignores this. The taxes collected from roads users should be used to see that people can generally travel where they want to, when they want to, how they want to.
Britain's population has increased, car use has gone up, people are travelling 50% further compared with 30 years ago, almost nothing is spent on new roads. Despite all that, the average daily travelling time (one hour a day) is the same as it was 30 years ago! It also seems that travel has peaked, as the average distance travelled in 2004 (6,762 miles) was less than in "1998/2000"(6,840 miles) - National Travel Survey 2004 (published July 2005) - (Section 2 - Table 2.1 Distance, trips and hours travelled per person per year: 1972/73 to 2004) (Note that figures for a year later are available, but though the figures from 1972 to 1994 are the same, the figures from 1995 have been changed to weight the figures for "non responses". It seems it would be unwise to rely on more recent Government figures.)

11. Doh! Technology might not work or be subject to massive evasion.
The proposed system doesn't exist. There is no guarantee that the satellite system will work, or that computer systems will be able to cope with monitoring over 30 million vehicles simultaneously, 24 hours a day, every day. And what happens if a satellite or computer fails?
With charges of up to £1.34 a mile there will be an incentive to cheat by using cloned licence plates or disabling or interfering with any electronic device that identifies the vehicle or records road use. A massive police system will be needed to try and catch people and to deal with disputed charges.
The latest official figures are that there are an estimated 2. 2 million unlicensed vehicles evading excise duty and, in many cases, insurance. As there are no licences, there is no one to bill for congestion charges or road pricing. Many more vehicles will join them.

12. Sting in the Tail.
The general idea seems to be that roads that are badly congested will have tolls of £1.34 a mile, and those that are not congested will charge 2 pence a mile. That means that if you are lucky enough to live in an area where there has been investment in adequate roads, you will pay a small amount to use the road. But if you live in an area that has been denied adequate roads, then you not only have to suffer congestion, you will also be stung for up to £1.34 a mile!

PS Some reasons from Paul Smith of Safe Speed

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What should be done about reducing congestion?

(Below is something that we were asked to do for the BBC website, but they changed their minds. Perhaps that proves it must be good!)

This question should not be considered in isolation. Those who say that they want tolls because of congestion are the same people who say that they want tolls because road users produce 25% of carbon emissions and contribute to "global warming".

If it is accepted that "global warming" is a man made problem, which should and can be tackled, it is very difficult to understand why anyone would propose to switch from a system of fuel duty to one of tolls.

Would it not make more sense to do the opposite? That is you would increase fuel duty and offset that by reducing vehicle excise duties, removing existing road tolls, and even including compulsory third party insurance.

There would obviously be losers in such a system i.e. those who drive more or faster and those who drive bigger or less efficient vehicles. But such a system would not waste the up to £62 billion implementation cost of a regressive system of road pricing.

All surveys have shown that most roads users strongly believe that fuel duty is the fairest and best way of paying for roads use. Indeed it may be that the main reason roads pricing is being sold like snake oil is because drivers do not want it!

Removal of existing tolls would also reduce congestion and emissions, as you would no longer have vehicles queuing at toll barriers or diverting on to less suitable routes. In particular if you removed the charge from the M6 Toll road, you would achieve a very major reduction in congestion and emissions around the West Midlands.

Most of the road engineering that has been carried out over the last 30 years or so has had a negative effect. This has included closing vehicle lanes in order to create bus lanes or cycle lanes, or even just narrowing carriageways and junctions either physically or by road markings or by removing bus lay-bys. It also includes installing too many traffic lights, poor phasing of traffic lights, removal of pedestrian subways and bridges, excessive use of traffic "calming" etc - all measures which seem to be designed to slow traffic and cause congestion. This negative policy should be changed.

Instead of negative measures we should have positive measures such as filter lanes at junctions, bypasses round towns and villages, multi level junctions where space permits, tunnels in urban areas, extra lanes on motorways, and more off road parking. You might even have a few more roads!

Those who advocate tolls say that better roads have no effect, as traffic will always increase to fill it. This argument is not applied to any other service. Drivers do not drive for fun, particularly as fuel is expensive and will become more so, unless that is of course they scrap fuel duty and replace it with tolls.

There are also soft measures that will increase road capacity such as - use of the hard shoulder during peak periods, minimising the time that road works take instead of the frequent sight of disruption caused by road works with not a workman in sight, and expeditious handling of accidents so that roads are reopened as quickly as possible.

Greater encouragement should be given to measures that would reduce demand particularly in peak periods, this includes - greater promotion and encouragement of car sharing, park and ride, flexible working hours and tele-working. People can also be encouraged to walk more, which would also have health benefits; though it might cause congestion on pavements!

And of course there is public transport. Most people agree that we need better public transport, but this does not have to mean building inefficient subsidised systems that cost billions of pounds and then forcing people to use them when it may be more convenient to go by car or bus. There will be some such schemes which are cost effective, but a far wider benefit can be achieved over a far wider area by measures such as making bus services free for children and the retired.

Congestion is a problem that should be cured by sensible, positive and cost effective measures not by creating a tolls system to bleed roads users.

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Britain 2004 to now

The "road pricing" idea has been peddled so many times it is difficult to know where to begin. We have ignored old attempts such as the Smeed Committee report in 1964 and have only shown what has been done recently by this Government and their allies acting in concert - 2004   2005   2006

  • Britain 2004

    The road pricing push began on the 6th July 2004 when Alistair Darling, then Britain's Transport Secretary, announced that the Government were thinking of building another tolled motorway from the end of the existing M6 Toll, to the North West. Then more extensive road pricing plans were leaked in the Observer on the 11th July. On the 12th July the "Tonight with Trevor McDonald" programme titled "Motorists Fight Back") included the spectacle of the Roads Minister denying that there were any such plans.

    On the 18th July the Institute for Public Policy Research, a Labour think tank, issued their bit of this organised softening up campaign - "National congestion charging could raise £16 billion". The next day we had the so called "Independent" Transport Commission chipping in - "fiscal and land use policies are needed to persuade suburban residents to buy ultra economical cars and minimise the use of them." (their full report).

    At last on the 20th July we could officially see what it was all about, when the Government released their 10 year Transport plan. Though it was all a bit vague - Government Press Release 20 July 2004   "Future of Transport" White paper (tolls is chapter 3).
    That day the BBC interviewed Alistair Darling about his tolling plans. He was even vaguer than the published plans, and said that nothing might happen for "20 or 30 years". He was asked whether there would be an overall increase in road taxes and avoided answering. Drivers of "gas guzzlers" would however have been pleased, as he said that he couldn't see why they should pay more than the drivers of other cars. All in all the only ones who seemed to take much notice of it were us - Our Press Release on 20 July 2004

    On the 19th July the all party Commons Transport Committee announced that they would look at the effect of the M6 Toll road and invited evidence by September. Then on the 28th October they announced that they would also look at all tolls and road pricing, they invited further evidence. Also in October, following a public inquiry, approval was given to a congestion charging scheme in Edinburgh, but it would be subject to a referendum.

  • Britain 2005

    On 22nd February of 2005, we had the Edinburgh Toll Poll. The tolls lobby lost the vote by three to one. The defeat was despite a vast spin campaign and it was thought that road pricing was now dead. But the reaction from the tolls establishment was that next time there would not be a vote.

    The Commons Transport Committee had been looking at the question of tolls and road pricing (though they already knew the answer as most of the committee had voted for a Bill to increase tolls). In March they published their Seventh report(part). Paragraph 24 suggested that tolls be used as "a revenue raising, rather than a revenue neutral, approach".

    The 2005 road pricing campaign proper then kicked off on Friday 3rd June with Ken Livingstone arguing for more "congestion charges" at the U.N. World Environment Day Conference. Then on the Sunday, Alastair Darling, the Transport Secretary, revealed to the papers and BBC his plans for tolls on all British roads - The Observer - "Drivers to pay £1.30 per mile"   Sunday Times - "New plan for drivers to pay £1.30 a mile"   BBC - "'Pay-as-you-go' road charge plan"   BBC - "Expert warns on road charge plans"

    There was more of the same on the Monday - Guardian - "Charging plan aims to prevent road gridlock "   Telegraph - "£1.30 a mile to drive in a city at rush hour"   Times - "New rail lines, runways and roads urged to beat gridlock". It is interesting to see from the Times report that Australia's flying knight was enthusiastically backing tolls, though it would be over a year before his report to Gordon Brown would be written.

    We got more details of the latest plans on Thursday 9th June, when Mr Darling gave a speech to the Social Market Foundation - BBC - "Car charge trials 'in five years'"   BBC - "In full: Alistair Darling's speech"   BBC - "At-a-glance: Road charge plans"   Guardian - "Will the new road charging technology work?"   Guardian - "Darling unveils road charging plans"   Telegraph - "Q&A: Road charging plans"   Guardian - "Green anger at plan to tax journeys, not gas-guzzlers"   Telegraph - "'Gas guzzlers' to escape steeper road charge"   Times - "Free ride for gas guzzlers as top scientist attacks 'gutless' policies"
    Our Press Release on 9 June 2005

    So what was all this about? The idea was to introduce tolls on all roads - they said that this would be offset by scrapping fuel duty and vehicle duty. All vehicles would have boxes monitored by satellites. The tolls would range from tuppence to £1.34 a mile based on the road and the time. (Tuppence by the way is all that the Government spends per vehicle mile travelled, so they would make a VAST profit on most roads.) Pilot schemes would start in 2010 and the full scheme in 2015.

    The Government had been so busy spinning this yarn, that they forgot about the MPs. The Tories called for Alistair Darling to be be suspended from the Commons, or at least reprimanded over his failure to make a statement in the house. Needless to say nothing happened.

    Oddly, on the 5th July, the Government announced that is was abandoning the "Lorry Road User Charge". This was due to start in 2008 and would have meant that all lorries paid tolls on main roads. The Government said they were abandoning it because they were introducing road pricing for all vehicles. The true reason was that it would have lost a lot of money as it had been promised that British hauliers would get their costs refunded.

    During the two weeks following the intitial leak, there was a great deal of reaction, here is part of it.

    Over the next few months there was more backing for Government plans for road pricing from amongst others the Tories, Lib Dems, RAC Foundation, BBC (who declared "Charging people according to where, when and how far they drive is a big idea whose time has come"), Times papers and bosses from the CBI, Institute of Directors and Chambers of Commerce.

    Then on the 28th November the Government announced the "Seven Poison Dwarves" or the lucky winners from the 33 areas that had volunteered to act as pilot areas for road pricing. They received about one million pounds each. Not a lot for their consultants to gorge on, but then the areas had promised virtually nothing in return.

  • Britain 2006

    The Big Tolls sell has continued throughout the year. The RAC Foundation and BBC have continued to play a leading role and are virtually the Government's PR machine for selling Road pricing. Others giving the Government a hand are the green Tories and Lib Dems; the AA Motoring Trust and the so called Road Users Alliance; Eurocrats; some academics, think tanks and other bodies; and most of the "broadsheets" particularly the Times and the Guardian. The FT was quite frank in August in an article which urged businesses to support more tolls as they are "a regressive tax on the poor (and) a free-market policy of benefit to business and the rich".

    Amongst others joining in were Channel Four, who gave Bob Kiley, the American ex Congestion Charge Czar, an hour long political broadcast on behalf of the "Anti Roads, Pro Tolls Party".

    In stark contrast to all the spin, on the 17th March the Government released a report with with not even a whimper - DfT - "Consumer Behaviour and Pricing Structures: Final Report on Qualitative Research". There are more details elsewhere, but the two main conclusions were that road pricing would have very little effect on how much and when drivers used the roads, and that drivers were opposed to road pricing and thought that fuel duty was a better, fairer and simpler tax.

    IPPR, the Labour think tank, in April issued a report on how best to sell the tolls idea "Charging Forward".
    Also in April, the "Independent" Transport Commission, long standing advocates of road pricing, produced a report - "Paying to Drive".

    In May, Douglas Alexander replaced fellow Scot, Alistair Darling, as Transport Secretary. Dougie was reported to have been given written instructions by the Prime Minister telling him to make road pricing a priority. Within days Dougie said - "I now want to move from the why to the how.". Perhaps a bit of necromancy might help him to avoid a disaster that will make the Poll Tax debacle look like a success.

    On 21st June, the Transport department issued another report - DfT - "Experiences of congestion and attitudes to road pricing". There was no publicity, so they evidently didn't like the results, even though they had control over the way the questions were asked and the answers presented. Instead of being given facts like the cost of implementing a road pricing system, those surveyed were told that - "A number of transport experts have indicated that building new roads and improving public transport cannot on their own deal with the congestion problem. It has been suggested that we need to also look at alternative methods of charging for road use that might encourage people to use their cars differently or change their travel.". Despite this bias only 32% said that they thought road pricing was "fair" and only 30% thought that road pricing would reduce congestion.

    On 12th July the Transport Secretary, was pressed in the Commons to answer some questions on road pricing. He said that the road pricing pilots "will be operational in four to five years". When asked about "revenue neutrality", he avoided answering.

    The Commission for Integrated Transport were set up in 1998 to come up with measures to hit drivers, and on 19 July they issued a report - "Sustainable transport choices and the retail sector". Their proposals included "congestion charging at sub-regional level" and compulsory parking charges for out of town shopping centres. The idea was that motorists would not be able to avoid parking charges and "congestion" charges as they would be hit wherever they went.
    The very next day, the Government announced that they had abandoned the idea of a new M6 Toll road. The bad news was that they now had an idea to toll the existing M6.

    On 7th August, there was another report. This time it was the turn of the "Environmental Audit" Committee of MPS - "Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport" report   The report (pdf version)   The Oral evidence to MPS.
    The committee attacked cars for being the cause of pollution and said with emphasis (paragraph 75) "We strongly support the introduction of a national road user charging scheme as soon as technically possible-and would support the revival and early introduction of the formerly proposed Lorry Road User Charge." They also said that the aim should not be to reduce congestion, but to force drivers off the roads altogether, and they therefore called for higher overall taxes on roads use.

    On 11th August the Lib Dems announced new tax proposals "Fairer, Simpler, Greener" . Their proposals included increasing vehicle excise duty on the top 3 bands - £150 band to £850, £190 to £1500, and £210 to £2000. They also said that they would increase fuel duty, they didn't give a figure but by deduction it would be by 10 pence a litre. They concluded "We remain committed in the long term to the development of a scheme of National Road User Pricing. This is already being applied on a limited scale to tax congestion in big cities and we support the principle as well as local experimentation."

    On 27th September good old reliable Ken volunteered London for road pricing on all roads. At the same time he also urged compulsory metering of water as people flush toilets too much. A few days later Price Waterhouse Coopers produced a report warning of the perils of global warming. They suggested spending "one trillion dollars" and that there should be "road pricing where proceeds are not given back to motorists".

    At the Tory party conference in October, David Cameron put the party even more firmly behind road pricing - "I think that looking at charging, whether it's tolls or other forms of charging, is absolutely necessary. Money doesn't grow on trees.". This was confirmed a few days later when the Shadow Roads Minister was interviewed by the Times, he said that he also wanted lanes added to existing roads and any new roads to be tolled. He said "poorer drivers were more likely to use the (toll) lanes because they had less control over the time that they made their journeys .... the poor are less able to get off work early and may have more time constraints on childcare."

    During October the BBC stepped up its pro tolls campign, and on the 29th there was a leak in the Mail on Sunday of a memo from David Milliband (the Environment Secretary) to Gordon Brown calling for lots more "green" taxes - i.e. more road taxes and road pricing. Then on the 30th we had the Stern report warning of a global warming Armageddon, including -"devastation of the world economy on a scale greater than the world wars, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, declining crop yields, drinking water shortages, higher death tolls from malnutrition and heat stress, and widespread outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever". The report's recommendations on transport included - "Behavioural changes - perhaps encouraged, for example, by congestion pricing or intelligent infrastructure". "Intelligent infrastructure" means tolls and road pricing.

    On 6th November the Transport Secretary announced the results of the bids for the second round of "pump priming" of pilot schemes of road pricing. It hardly seemed worth the bother as all he was giving out was £7 million to be spread over 9 pilot areas and wasted on more consultants. There was the usual confusion, with the various local authorities reassuring their residents that they didn't really mean to introduce congestion charging or road pricing.

    A few days later we had a UN report warning of a water shortage catastrophe due to CO2 emissions from cars.

    On the 9th November the Queen's Speech as forecast said that there would be legislation to make it easier to impose tolls, though it was phrased - "A draft bill will be published to tackle road congestion and to improve public transport".

    On the 20th November a national Chamber Of Commerce Survey was published showing that 87% of their members supported road pricing, or at least that was how the answers to a biased question were interpreted.

    The 27th saw another Monday and another pro tolls press release hyped up by the BBC. This came from the "Independent" Transport Commission - "Road Pricing and Road Investment". The ITC release was accompanied by a report from Imperial College - "Investing in Roads: Pricing, Costs and New Capacity". The report suggested that more toll roads should be built, but this was just to distract from the main object which is tolls on all existing roads.

    The 29th saw a report from IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit advocating more congestion charges - "Driving change - How policymakers are using road charging to tackle congestion". The same day there was another report - "Steering Through Change - Winning the Debate on Road Pricing" from the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Labour think tank. On the basis of "research" that they had carried out they asserted that most people supported road pricing - IPPR press release -"Government must lead public opinion on road pricing".

    On the 30th the Transport Secretary said in a written statement to MPs - "Sir Rod Eddington's study into the effects of transport on economic growth, competition and productivity has been informed by the recently published report by Sir Nicholas Stern on climate change which made a major contribution by demonstrating, on the basis of the most robust and comprehensive evidence available, that economic growth and the environment cannot be considered in isolation. The Government will outline shortly its initial reactions to his advice. I will then publish next year, alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review, a more detailed response, which will take forward the 2004 White Paper and set out new plans to minimise carbon emissions and sustain economic growth, by delivering improvements to transport at the national, regional and local levels. And it will reflect the conclusions of ongoing work on the long-term development of rail, as well as the conclusions of the ports policy review and the further steps on road pricing mechanisms."

    After all this warming up, at last on the 1st December the Eddington Transport Study report was released with a big fanfare. The proposals included tolling all roads, confirming what the flying knight had already told the Times in June 2005. Some of the news reports - BBC - "Motorists 'must pay for road use'"   FT - "Transport solution to focus on planning overhaul"   Reuters - "Transport plan gives green light to road tolls"   Times - "Wider motorways and bigger trains 'needed to keep Britain going'"   Guardian- "Transport chief backs road-pricing schemes"   BBC - "Business wants rapid transport action"   BBC - "A businesslike approach to fixing transport?"   BBC - "Experts consider Eddington report" (What the BBC calls "experts" are mainly groups that campaign for tolls)   BBC - "UK transport needs 'urgent' help"   BBC - "National road tolls 'in 10 years'" - If you have a spare week or so, then you can read the 5,520 comments posted on the "Have Your Say" link , before it closed.

    There was the usual support for Road pricing from the RAC Foundation, who seem to be toll evangelists for the Government. For some inexplicable reason there was also support from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems supported road pricing, as did the Greens, CBI and the Chambers of Commerce. The Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association supported the idea but not as warmly as previously. The AA Motoring Trust who have also been advocating tolls seemed to have withdrawn to neutral ground, and maybe will switch to supporting drivers. The Times, Guardian and Independent supported tolling all roads, as did initially the Daily Telegraph, but by the next morning's papers they had muted their support - Editorial - "The car economy and the morality of driving"   "Raising fuel tax could be the stick to beat gridlock"   "Pay £24.57 a day for right to drive to work"   Simon Heffer - "Why we must tell the road-pricers to hop it". By Sunday, the Telegraph, possibly realising that the Tories were supporting tolls, seemed to be back in favour of road pricing, though one of their contributors wasn't - "Wogan's World"

    Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times was very keen on tolls though he said "It will penalise the poor". He puts forward a remarkable idea - "With rationing by price the available tarmac can handle more traffic, perhaps even 50% more, without too much pain."

    There were some against the proposals. Saturday's Daily Express described road pricing as a "Toxic" idea, and there were these press releases - Ours   Association of British Drivers   Paul Smith of Safe Speed.

    On the 4th December there was a sales conference organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research, following on from their report "Steering through change: winning the debate on road pricing". The sales team were - the Transport Secretary and bosses from - Transport 2000, the RAC Foundation and London "Congestion Charging".

    On the 6th the Chancellor in his pre budget announcement increased vehicle fuel duty from 47.1 pence to 48.35 pence a litre. He was attacked by the Tories and Lib Dems for not being "green" enough. Not surprisingly the other advocates for tolls on all roads said that the increase would damage Britain and hit the poor -
    AA Motoring Trust - ""Nobody is going to scrap their driving habits, simply because most people can't. People would rather give up spending money elsewhere than stop using their cars.
    FTA - "Increase in fuel duty will undermine public confidence in a national road pricing system. This will remind all road users that the main aim will be to dip into motorists' pockets."
    RAC Foundation - "The increase in fuel tax would be especially hard on low-income families, who spend around a quarter of their household expenditure on running a car. Many on low incomes are dependent on their cars."

    For more Road Pricing News go to our news pages and look for items marked - chimaera

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    Around the World

    There is so much talk about "road pricing" you might think that there were lots of examples of it. There are lots of tolls around the world, but in the narrow sense there are almost no examples of area wide road pricing. Below we have the few that come close to being "road pricing". Whatever data is available comes either directly from those who operate the tolls, or indirectly from organisations who want to promote road pricing. The validitity of the data and some of the claims made are therefore suspect. Some of the road pricing schemes have been funded by the European Union, who are also funding the Galileo satellite system which will be able to monitor all vehicle movements.

    General Links:   CFIT - "World Review of Road Pricing Phase 1: Lessons for the UK"   CFIT - "World Review of Road Pricing Phase 2: Report"   CFIT - "World Review of Road Pricing Phase 2: Case Studies"   Economist Intelligence Unit - "Driving change - How policymakers are using road charging to tackle congestion"   Federal Highway Administration- Proceedings of a conference in 2003.

    Singapore   Norway   Stockholm   USA

  • Singapore

    This is probably the nearest anywhere to a "road pricing" system.
    Singapore is a small independent city state, with an area of less than 700 square kilometers and a population of 4.5 million. (By comparison, the London administrative area is nearly 1,600 square kilometers with a population of 7.5 million.)

    Apart from "road pricing", Singapore has almost draconian measures to discourage car ownership, though drivers of gas guzzlers are let off relatively lightly. The number of cars is rationed, with drivers having to bid in monthly auctions for the right to buy a car. The December 2006 auction resulted in 2,700 sales of licences for vehicles below 1600 cc at 12,200 Singapore dollars ($US 7,900) and 1,300 licences above 1600 cc at 14,400 Singapore dollars ($US 9,300). The annual road tax is also fairly steep e.g. a 1600 cc car is 950 Singapore dollars ($600). Cars over 10 years old pay higher rates and later become "time expired". Fuel taxes for petrol / gas driven cars are a lot higher than USA but a lot lower than in Europe. Fuel tax for diesel cars is even lower than in USA. One of the effects of the Singapore system is that the average miles travelled per car is very high - 12,500 miles per car per year - even though the whole country is smaller than London.   Singapore Government portal for drivers

    Singapore introduced an "Area Licensing Scheme" in 1975 to discourage vehicles from entering the central "Restricted Zone". In September 1998, they switched to the current "Electronic Road Pricing" or "ERP" system, and a year later extended the size of the charge zone, and also put the system on to 8 main roads or expressways outside the central area. The charge in the Central Business District operates from 7.30 AM to 7 PM. The charge on the other 8 roads is in the morning peak only. Charges only apply Monday to Friday, apart from one road where there is a charge for part of Saturday.

    The ERP system is based on three elements - Gantries over roads, all vehicles having an onboard device knowns as an "In-Vehicle Unit" or "IU", and prepaid ERP cash cards which are inserted into the device. As a vehicle passes under a gantry a signal is sent to the onboard device which then decrements the prepaid balance on the card. If there is no device or it is not working or there is no balance left on the card, then a fine is issued, with a facility to have fines automatically debited to a bank account.

    The amount of the toll varies according to which road / gantry it is, and the time of day. The charging is very complex with charging bands that generally apply for 30 minute intervals, but with some bands of only 5 minutes. There are many different rates, which are mainly multiples of 50 Singapore cents (32 US cents), and range up to $Singapore 3.50 ($US 2.30). The most common rates are nil!! and 50 Singapore cents. The rates are changed several times during the year, and can be reduced as well as increased. (Foreign cars can pay a fixed daily rate (five Singapore dollars = about three US dollars, or one pound fifty) in lieu of the ERP charges.)

    It is claimed that the system has reduced traffic on the roads which are charged by about 20%. This may be true, though it is difficult to reconcile this with these facts -
    1. Car ownership is rationed with demand exceeding the permitted number of vehicles, so the ERP system can have had no effect on the number of cars.
    2. Though ownership of cars is penally taxed, the taxes on use of cars are very low. Even with the ERP charges added, there must still be an incentive to drive rather than leave an expensive vehicle idle.
    3. Payment is in advance and the driver will not be very conscious of the toll, as the driver does not have to stop and hand over cash.
    4. As mentioned above, cars in Singapore average about 12,500 miles per car per year.

    It is also claimed that the system costs practically nothing to administer and makes a large profit. This may be true if you ignore the capital cost of the gantries and the in car devices. Costs will be reduced because drivers have to pay in advance and the system is difficult to evade, on the other hand it still requires a secondary system to catch defaulters. The Singapore secondary system is the same as the primary system in London i.e. cameras. Camera systems are expensive to administer, and it is possible that the Singapore system is cheap because the camera system is a sham.

    It is difficult to see how a system which only applies to a small part of a very small country with a tight control over people and vehicles can be cited as a model for pricing on all roads in Britain. There must also be some doubts as to its effect on drivers. The complexity of the Singapore tolls means that most drivers will regard it as just another unavoidable and fairly invisible charge. Some of the behaviour modification will be negative - drivers may detour to avoid the gantry locations or go over fast or over slow in order to pass gantries at a time where the charge rate is thought to be lower or they may modify the time of their journey slightly and find that the roads are more congested.

    Links:   Official site: Singapore Land Transport Authority motoring   "Anglo" info   Wikipedia

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  • Norway

    Norway is a sparsely populated country, with the capital city, Oslo, only having a population for the whole conurbation of 850,000 and other cities being a lot smaller. Despite this Norway has a combination of tolls on its motorways and some of the higest fuel taxes in the world. The tolls which are usually said to be examples of "road pricing" are not the motorways, but the seven toll rings - Bergen, Kristiansand, Namsos, Oslo, Stavanger, Tønsberg and Trondheim.

    The Trondheim toll ring is usually given as the prime Norwegian example of road pricing. This is possibly because it was part of the "Progess" project, an EU funded scheme to encourage road pricing, which covered eight cities. Trondheim is a small city (population just over 150,000), where a lot of journies are made by foot, and almost none by public transport. A congestion charging scheme started there in October 1991, it was a cordon system. As 40% of the people lived inside the cordon, this scheme was considered unfair and also did not generate much income. In 1998 it was replaced with a zone based sytem; they still had toll points at the boundary, but they added some in the city. The toll was based on an electronic tag fitted to the car, and detected at the unmanned toll booths. The toll of 15 kroners ($2.40 or £1.25) was either debited to a prepaid account or debited at the end of month to a bank account. It was claimed that the scheme reduced traffic (though it is difficult to se how the effect of the toll was isolated from improvements that were made to public transport and the effect of parking charges). It was also claimed that it made a large profit. The scheme was stopped at the end of December 2005.

    The six remaining toll rings are cordons only, i.e. tolls are only incurred when the boundary is crossed, there is no toll for moving around inside (or outside the cordon). The cordon is either round the city centre (e.g. Oslo and Bergen) or round the whole "city". The charging system is similar to the dead Trondheim system - vehicles are fitted with an electronic tag which is detected by the unmanned toll booths. There is a secondary camera system, for vehicles either not fitted with the tag or it is not working - this system generates monthly invoices, with no penalties. The schemes are said to have generated large profits, but to have had little effect on traffic levels. The toll for crossing the cordon varies between the six cities, it is either 10 Kroner ($1.60 or 80 pence) or 15 Kroner ($2.40 or £1.25) or 20 Kroner ($3.25 or £1.65.

    Link   Norvegfinans - the official Norwegian toll site

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  • Stockholm

    Stockholm is part of a large archipelago of about 24,000 islands. The conurbation has a population of about 1.8 million, of whom about 770,000 are in the Stockholm city administrative area. The conurbation is divided by large expanses of water.
    The majority of people in Stockholm city, including then Mayor Annika Billstrom, were opposed to any form of "congestion charging". The Mayor was however forced into it in order to get the Greens into a Socialist coalition. After a very long preparation the scheme started on 3rd January 2006 for a seven month trial period.

    The scheme is a toll ring, similar to the Norwegian ones, i.e. the charge is for crossing the ring and not for travelling within the ring. The charge was applied during the working day, Monday to Friday. According to the time of day, the charge was 10 kronor, 15 kronor or 20 kronor, with a maximum daily charge of 60 kronor. (10 Swedish kronor is about one dollar 40 or 70 pence.) About 60% of Stockholm city residents live within the ring and were therefore relatively unaffected.

    It was claimed that the charge reduced traffic by about 20 per cent, and that the scheme made a large profit. Whatever the truth in the claims about profits, they must have ignored the cost of setting up the scheme. The cost was 4 billion kronor ($600 million or £300 million). During the seven month trial it was also claimed that initial opposition to the charge had been overcome and that 60 to 70% of the people supported it.

    Referendums on the scheme were held on general election day - 17th September 2006. The result of the Stockholm city referendum was that just under 52% of those voting supported it. Stockholm seemed to take lessons from Edinburgh and the poll question etc was biased to increase the chance of a yes vote. About 2 out 3 of the municipalities around Stockholm also voted, the support here was 42%. If all the votes were added it was 46% for the charge and 54% against. The Swedish Government was replaced following the election with parties that had said that they were opposed to the charge. Despite this and despite the overall referendum being against the charge, it is assumed that the Swedish Government will reintroduce the scheme during 2007.

    Link   Official Swedish site   Wikipedia

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  • USA

    There is no real road pricing in America, but there are a few toll schemes which are usually mentioned -
    "HOT" lanes or High Occupancy Toll lanes   Seattle area   Oregon

  • "HOT" lanes or High Occupancy Toll lanes

    "HOT" lanes are sometimes said to be road pricing, but they are really just tolls, usually on lanes which were originally supposed to be car pool lanes, but as they were underused were changed so that other cars could use them if they paid a toll. In some cases, the toll varies depending on time of day or volume of traffic. The main example of this is the "Riverside Freeway" in Orange County, California, where motorists pay tolls of $1.15 to $8.50, depending on the time of day or volume of traffic. The lanes were constructed in 1985 and initially were privately operated, but in 2003 they were taken over by the public authority that runs the rest of State Route 91 and other roads - Riverside County Transportation Commission.
    Here are some other examples that have been pointed out to us - Minneapolis, Houston, San Diego (Interstate 15) and Washington State (SR167).

    Special lanes, whether tolled or not increase the number of accidents as drivers have an additional factor to think about when deciding to change lanes or not. If the tolled lanes, particularly where the toll is variable, have the effect claimed by toll advocates (i.e. that drivers will be making minute by minute decisions whether to join or leave the tolled lanes) then there will be even more switching of lanes and more accidents.

    The authorities have an incentive to keep the free roads congested. The HOT lanes are referred to as "Lexus" lanes as they are mainly occupied by luxury cars, while the American proletariat is stuck in the congested lanes.

  • Seattle area

    The Seattle area has had an experiment in something like full blown road pricing. The experiment or "Traffic Choices study" was run by Puget Sound Regional Council, a planning organisation, who have been advocating tolling of roads since 2001. In 2002 the Federal Highway Administration agreed to bear 80 percent of the estimated $2.35 million cost of the trial. Preparations for the experiment took a long time, with the trial only starting in March 2005 and ending in December 2005.

    The experiment was first said to have 500 participants, who were all volunteers. Though later reports had widely conflicting numbers. From enquiries, we have learnt that "participants" was not drivers, but vehicles, of which there were initially 465. Though the trial was a short one, by the end of it there were 420 vehicles, spread over about 275 households.

    All the vehicles were fitted with special GPS devices. These were tracked by satellite, they also showed the driver what the toll per mile for that time of day was on the road that they were approaching.

    As no one would normally volunteer to pay tolls, the volunteers were given an "endowment account", which was credited with the amount of tolls that they were expected to pay based on what was thought to be their previous use of the roads. If they used the roads less (or at lower charge times) then they would be given the surplus up to a maximum of $150. If they were in the red there would be no charge. Tolls were deducted electronically from the endowment accounts. The volunteers had to log on at a PC to find out the balance on their account.
    There are more details of the experiment at - Official web site. This includes details of how the devices or "meters" worked. But there is no official information on the results of the experiment.

    When the Seattle trial ended in December 2005, the initial news reports said that drivers had driven more than before (it was speculated that this might have been to detour round the most expensive tolls) - Seattle Times - "Do cash incentives alter driving habits?". There were also logistical difficulties in fitting cars with the devices, signal reception problems in downtown streets and some concerns over privacy.

    However nearly a year after the trial ended, there was a completely different news report which said that drivers had driven less - Seattle Times - "Tolls could cut congestion, test shows".

    It is unfortunate that over a year after the Seattle experiment ended there is no official report. By the time it is published it will probably just endorse what the sponsors wanted to prove.

    The trial participants were people who presumably either supported the idea of tolls, or who expected that they would drive less during the trial and thus earn some money. Despite this it appears that some of the drivers dropped out and there are conflicting reports about whether the remaining drivers had their behaviour modified. Even if the report that is eventually published says that people did drive less, to what extent were the meters working all the time? - They could have been accidentally or deliberately not working or had their signals blocked. And to what extent was there any driving with participants using vehicles that were never installed with a meter?

  • Oregon

    In March 2006 Oregon started a 12 month trial in part of Portland of what they called a "Road User fee". The project was run by the Oregon "Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding" with help from Oregon State University in Corvallis. It is claimed to be an example of road pricing. In reality it is more like a farce, which is complex, expensive and favours gas guzzlers.

    Cars taking part in the trial were fitted with a "vehicle mileage reading device". Participants were warned that if they were caught tampering with it, then they would be "expelled". The device does more than the name implies. The "meters" are connected to the OBDII (On-Board Diagnostic System) port of the car and are also linked to satellites. The onboard meter records four sets of mileages - in-Oregon, non-Oregon, rush hour, and no signal from satellite (due to masking by buildings etc). The mileage readings are automatically transferred to a recorder when drivers fill up at the (two) specified gas stations. It has been claimed that none of the information is transmitted or recorded other than mileage to the gas station recorder.

    When the trial started it was reported, e.g. - "Oregon may get some mileage out of fee experiment" - that drivers would pay a mileage fee of 1.2 cents for each mile they drove, but would not have to pay the state gas tax of 24 cents a gallon (US). This would have meant that if the car did more than 20 miles per US gallon (equivalent of 24 mpg in Britain), they would be paying more then they got back.
    In fact what happened during the the first 8 months of the trial (up to 12th November 2006) was practically nothing. Mileages were recorded, but drivers still paid the usual gas tax and were not charged any "road user fee".

    For the final part of the trial (from 13th November till the end due on 21st March 2007), drivers have been split into three groups - a control group, a vehicle miles tax group and a rush hour group.

    The control group continued as for the first part of the trial.

    The vehicle miles tax group are being charged a "vehicle miles tax". The tax is calculated from the readings done at the (one) gas station, and the participants are at the same time given a ticket showing the mileage over the 4 categories and the "tax". They just pay for the gas, including the gas tax (but see below), as they otherwise would. The user fee or tax is 1.2 cents a mile traveled (it ignores when or where) debited to an "Endowment Account".
    The account is credited with an amount based on what mileage the car was recorded as doing between June 21 through to October 21 2006. If the driver exceeds this allowance then there is no amount due, but if the amount recorded from 13th November to 21st March 2007 is less than the allowance, the driver gets paid the differnce. Every 2 weeks the driver is given a statement showing how the charges compare with the allowance. Drivers in this group have been told that the fee replaces the gas tax. This is not just notional as for this part of the trial, the participants in this group are being refunded the gas tax for the gas they use. This is done at the point of sale, if they use the specified two gas stations. For other Oregon gas stations, participants have to keep the receipts and fill in a claim by mail for each vehicle, and for out of Oregon gas stations there is no refund.

    If you have managed to follow all this, you will understand what a wonderful system it is. The participants are being charged the user fee but they have been credited with the anticipated fees, and will not be charged more. On top of that they get all their gas tax back. Assuming that participants are behaving rationally and are not cheating, this would then lead to one of two sets of behaviour. The first set would be drivers of fuel efficient cars, these drivers would try and drive less, in order to get 1.2 cents for every mile reduction they achieved. The other set would be drivers of gas guzzlers, who would not attempt to struggle to get their mileage down, but would drive more, knowing that they would not have to pay any gas tax.

    The rush hour group is similar to the vehicle miles tax group. The "rush hour" is travel anywhere within the Portland Metro area on weekdays (excluding public holidays) from 7:00-9:00 a.m. and from 4:00-6:00 p.m. During these hours there is a "tax" of ten cents a mile. Outside these hours and at weekends or outside the Portland Metro area, the "tax" is 0.43 cents a mile. As with the vehicle miles tax group, Endowment accounts were credited with an amount based on travel patterns from June 21 through October 21 2006. Again the group can claim nearly all its gas tax back. With regard to overall mileage, we would expect the same conflicting effects as with the vehicle miles tax group. You would also expect some shift away from "rush hour" travel. In our view this would be quite small. Firstly the vast majority of drivers on the road at this time have very little choice, and secondly a charge of ten cents (about 5 pence) a mile is unlikely to be much of a deterrent, when compared with a charge of over £5 (nearly $10) for a return trip over Humber or Severn bridges, or a charge of £4 for the M6 toll (which works out at 16 pence or 31 cents a mile) or the London charge of £8 ($15.50) even if you only travel a few feet! When we finally see the results of the trial, it may show a significant reduction, but that may be due to one form or other of avoiding the recording of what the driver has been doing.

    The definite gainers from the trial will have been the participants. The volunteers will have received payments of $300 for taking part in the trial. This is to compensate for their time in taking the car to have the meter installed (and removed at end of trial), attending a training session, taking the car for 3 check readings (at start, middle and end of the study), and taking part in surveys. Drivers, other than those in the control group will also have got back all their gas tax for a period of over 4 months and may have a surplus in their "Endowment accounts".

    Why have they gone to all this trouble to achieve practically nothing? The theory was put forward in 2001 by the "Road User Tax Force" and was based on the premise that Oregon drivers were using cars that were more fuel efficient, thus causing a fall in revenue fron the gas tax, but that the drivers were opposed to any increase in the gas tax. Though it is not clear why any rational person ever thought that this complex and expensive system would be better than an increase in the gas tax. The Federal gas tax in Oregon is of course the same as the tax in all states i.e. 18.4 cents, the State addition is quite small and brings the total gas tax up to 24 cents per US gallon. Compared with European countries this is almost like no tax.

    Links: Official site   View from

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    Pilot schemes

    The Government in 2005 and 2006 invited local authorities to apply for handouts from a newly established Transport Innovation Fund. TIF promises vast riches in the long run, though initially it was only small amounts for "pump priming" of road pricing schemes. The pump primimg money is mainly spent on consultants and the promotion of tolls. To qualify for the pump priming money the authorities must at least give the impression that they intend to bring in some form of road pricing or "congestion" charge, though they may get away with schemes that instead have a "workplace parking levy".

    Though the scheme has been going since 2005, so far (July 2008) only two schemes have gone past the pump priming stage -
  • Greater Manchester made a TIF submission at the beginning of August 2007. The submission was made by two bodies, neither of whom had the power to do so, but the DfT have turned a blind eye to this and on 9th June 2008 gave first stage approval to the scheme. The NAAT have been actively involved in the opposition to the scheme and you can see more on our Manchester page.

  • Cambridgeshire County Council put their submission in about the middle of October 2007. The scheme covers Cambridge city which has its own council but they are not involved. The opposition to the scheme has been very fragmented, though the local Chamber of Commerce created a more organised opposition at the end of May 2008 - "People Against Congestion Charge Alliance". Then on the 23rd June the County Council said that it was going "back to the drawing board" and the scheme is in doubt.
    County Council main TIF page (see links on both left and right)   This is link directly to the TIF submission page (pdf)   Script used for the consultation survey (pdf).


    For the 2005 allocation, 33 authorities applied and on 29 November 2005, the seven "winners" were announced.

    The seven 2005 winners and their submissions (as pdf files):-
    £2.6 million - West Midlands.
    £1.5 million - Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council
    £1.25 million - Greater Manchester     Greater Manchester - Annex     Greater Manchester - Timeline
    £1 million - Tyne and Wear
    £0.5 million - Shropshire County Council (for Shrewsbury)
    £0.4 million - Cambridgeshire
    £0.3 million - Durham County Council (for Durham City)

    For the 2006 allocation, 21 authorities applied and on 6 November 2006, the nine "winners" were announced. Six of the seven that were given money on the first round had applied again and had been given more money. (The area that had not applied again was Bristol.) The three new areas to be given money were the East Midlands, Norfolk and Reading.

    The nine 2006 winners and their submissions:-
    £1.95 million - Greater Manchester
    £1.8 million - East Midlands
    £1.1 million - Cambridgeshire
    £0.75 million - Tyne and Wear
    £0.7 million - Reading
    £0.6 million - West Midlands
    £0.4 million - Shropshire
    £0.25 million - Norfolk
    £50 thousand - Durham

    Links: Department for Transport - Transport Innovation Fund pages - includes links to all 2006 bids, including those that failed
    Department for Transport - Freedom of Information - All 2005 bids, including those that failed

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    Legislation in Britain

    In Britain, there are three Acts that allow some form of road pricing of existing roads -

  • London has its own legislation - the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The part which refers to "Road User Charging" is section 295, but the detail is all in - schedule 23. There is no compulsion to consult or have an inquiry or pay any attention to the results of the consultation or inquiry. It is a criminal offence to try and evade any toll.

    The London legislation was used to bring in the London Congestion Charge in 2003.
    There is a Private Bill going through Parliament that will give the Mayor even more powers - Transport for London (Supplemental Toll Provisions) Bill.

  • The rest of England and Wales has a separate Act - Transport Act 2000. The part which refers to "Road User Charging" is sections 163 to 177. The authorities may decide to consult on any road pricing proposal, and the Government may direct that there is a public inquiry. But there is no compulsion to consult or have an inquiry or pay any attention to the results of the consultation or inquiry. It is a criminal offence to try and evade any toll.

    The Transport Act 2000 has been used twice. It empowered the Durham Congestion charge which started in 2002. It has also been used as a way of keeping tolls on the Dartford River Crossing. The Dartford tolls would have ended in 2002 under the legislation under which the bridge and tunnels were built, as all the costs had been recovered.
    The only proposals for further road pricing schemes that we are aware of are - firstly a plan to put a toll on the existing free bridge over the Mersey east of Liverpool, and secondly, the long term Government aim to have road pricing on all roads starting with various nebulous undefined schemes - road pricing pilots.

  • Scotland has an equivalent Act - Transport (Scotland) Act 2001. The part which refers to "Road User Charging" is sections 49 to 67. The Act does not require that there is any consultation, but empowers the Scottish Ministers to make regulations on this and other matters. As in England and Wales it is a criminal offence to try and evade any toll.

    The Scottish Act has not been used, but there have been two near misses. The first was the plan for a congestion charge scheme in Edinburgh. That was thrown out following the Edinburgh Toll Poll. The other miss was on the Forth Road bridge, where the existing tolls have been renewed several times, possibly illegally. The last toll extension was to March 2006, and the toll authority wanted to replace the toll with a road user charge which would have been far higher than the existing toll. Following strong opposition, the Scottish Executive in March 2006 threw out the road pricing plan, and instead extended the existing toll for a few more years. Forth road bridge.

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