SMMT has today welcomed publication of the DfT’s road pricing feasibility study but has raised concerns over some of its findings.
The DfT has suggested that it could cost as much as £3 billion a year to implement, with essential on-board vehicle technology representing the biggest cost. A pan-European consensus on the technology to be used is key to the scheme’s success. However, while existing satellite navigation systems can pinpoint the location of a vehicle, significant investment will be necessary to develop a ‘box’ that can also measure other factors such as time and distance travelled.
The study suggests that nationwide road charging is at least a decade away. In the interim, investment in transport infrastructure – including new roads – must continue as planned and not be allowed to take a back seat.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan, a member of the steering group for the study, commented, ‘Road charging may well have a role in managing demand on the UK’s congested road network but it must not lead to an increase in tax take from the motorist.
‘The objective for the motor industry and government alike must be a modern and efficient transport system that supports vehicle production, aids economic growth and respects the environment. This requires sustained levels of new government investment in the short and medium term based on targets that are clearly set and reviewed regularly.’
SMMT believes government faces a significant challenge to win the trust of road users and will only succeed if it delivers on its immediate plans for improved road and rail infrastructure.
The introduction of local congestion charging schemes, described as pathfinders, also needs to be treated with care. Timing and costs should be co-ordinated if motorists are to accept the long-term benefits of road charging as a concept and not be confused by a host of systems, operating at different times and with different cost structures across the country.