UK Road Charges – Alternative Solution?

A few months ago when the UK government was talking about the proposed ‘pay-as-you-drive‘ scheme I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about.

The following is an excerpt from today’s BBC News web site:

More road-charging debate pledged

The transport secretary has pledged to listen to opponents of the introduction of UK road charging.

Douglas Alexander said he will hear the concerns of more than a million people who signed a petition opposing pay-as-you-drive road charges.

The government has insisted that doing nothing would lead to a 25% increase in congestion in less than a decade.

But Mr Alexander said it was important to have a proper debate on the subject and consider a range of views.

The petition, which is the most popular on the Downing Street web site, calls for the scrapping of the “planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy”.

It was posted by Peter Roberts, from Telford, Shropshire, who describes charging as an “unfair tax”.

Mr Roberts – whose petition broke through the million-signature barrier on Saturday – believes charging is unfair on poor people and those who live apart from their families.

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6352957.stm

I signed the petition because I don’t agree with the methods they are discussing in tackling the problem with our transport system.
(Road charging petition).

I am not against the policy because of the big brother fears that have been expressed by certain groups, but because I think there must be a much better, more simpler approach that could be taken.

We all know that most people in the UK would be against extra taxes, because no one likes to pay any more tax than they currently do.
So I wouldn’t put it past the government if the current proposals are designed to instill the fear of big brother tactics in the UK people.
But given the governments history on the Air Traffic Control System, the NHS Super Computer Network and the National ID Card scheme, I wouldn’t rule out the idea that they would waste billions more on a such a difficult scheme to implement such as the pay-as-you-drive‘ scheme.

Forgetting about the ‘big brother’ idea, just the technology required to track and charge every single vehicle on the road would require something far beyond what we have at present.
There is technology available now that would come close, but how do you make it reliable enough.
For example if the system required having a device in my car that tracks where I drive, how long before someone places the transmitter/receiver in some sort of Faraday cage that restricts the signal between the vehicle and the satellite system.
What happens during times of bad weather that reduces the signal quality.
These are just small problems that the system would have to overcome.

The trials performed by the BBC ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6160174.stm ) showed charges of up to £2,338 a year for one driver.

Now the whole point I assumed was to impose a ‘green tax’ on those using the roads, as well as pay for the upkeep and expansion of the road infrastructure.

According to the follow article, from Jan 27th 2007, there are almost 2 million drivers not paying their road tax.

Two million drivers dodge road tax

By Laura Clout –

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/ne…

Last Updated: 2:06am GMT 27/01/2007

The number of drivers not paying their road tax has almost doubled to two million in the past two years, creating a growing “motoring underclass”, motoring groups have warned.

Figures released by the Department for Transport said 2,193,000 owners failed to pay vehicle excise duty last year, almost twice as many as in 2004.

This equates to one in 15 of the 33 million vehicles on the road, and is estimated to have cost the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency £217 million in lost revenue

If it is this difficult to manage the present system, introducing such a technology based scheme would not deter those wishing to avoid payment.

I can’t understand why road tax is not scrapped, and an amount added to Fuel Taxes. (This is why I eluded to the aversion to taxes earlier on.  If the UK Government had come out with this idea first, it would have been shot down immediately, so my other theory is come out with something that causes controversy, then follow up with the “Ok, we will add it to fuel taxes).

If I am a heavy road user, I will use more petrol and therefore pay more towards the environment, the upkeep and maintenance.
If I am a light road user conversely I won’t pay as much.
Businesses would be afforded a tax offset so it should effect haulage companies.  They could be refunded part of the upkeep and maintenance fees, but not the ‘green tax’ proportion.  They should be persuaded, or industry more exactly, to find alternative methods of transporting goods.
It is after all the publics requirement for goods now that prevents us from using the slower forms of transportation that have and do exist now.

Green taxes on less environmentally damaging fuels could be cheaper encouraging better use of those.  Illegally sourcing ‘black market’ fuel would be difficult although as seen presently with ‘red diesel’ not impossible.

I cannot avoid paying for my road tax if it is part of my fuel.
If I only drive 3000 miles away, I am only doing 3000 miles worth of damage to the roads and environment.
If I am driving 30,000 miles a year I should be responsible for paying a greater share of the cost towards the environment and road maintenance.

The only problem with this method is that the tax would be applied across all roads at all times. (Charging different amounts of tax depending on the time of the day would not do any good, since we’ll all end up driving round in ticking time bombs with 200 gallon fuel tanks so we can hold out until the time changes.  Likewise charging higher taxes on certain roads would not work for similar reasons).

If you are going to introduce a toll type charge (as is the ‘pay-as-you-drive‘  scheme) for a particular area or stretch of road to reduce the usage of that road (or encourage alternative routes/methods), then why not just build a toll booth at certain junctions?
All that would do is force higher volumes of traffic through alternative routes, defeating the objective of building the shorter route in the first place. 

I would have no problem paying a greater fuel tax (if all the other charges were abolished, such as road tax).

If there are 33 million road users, then road tax would be a fraction of the current cost if applied as a percentage of fuel tax.  There is no technology involved other than a calculator?
The more miles I do, the more I pay.  If I want to do less damage to the environment or road infrastructure, I use public transport.

  • I totally agree that paying a greater fuel tax is the fairest system PROVIDED that ALL other charges such as road taxes are abolished.
    “I’m a firm believer of the “user-pays-principle”