Headlines: October 26th, 2005

The Government needs to start now to build support and understanding of the issue of national road pricing if it is to have any chance of success in the future, according to the RAC Foundation today. It will tell a seminar in London that the policy is in danger of being seen by motorists as just another way of raising revenue rather than a real attempt to tackle congestion.David Holmes, chairman of the Foundation, will speak at an event organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research and will tell delegates that motorists’ views on road pricing will depend heavily on how they and their families will be affected. He will say, though, that national road pricing is still ten years off and that detailed effects cannot be predicted now, so the potential benefits of the idea have to be spelled out so people can see that the objectives are worth pursuing.

Mr. Holmes will outline a plan designed to win over motorists and which would include firm commitments agreed by the major political parties on key points – objective charges and an independent regulator; the reinvestment of proceeds from pricing in transport in addition to current spending; a clear timetable for implementation; protection of privacy and protection for the least well off.

Mr. Holmes says these principles must also apply to any pilot schemes run by local authorities because if these are seen just as ways of raising money they will damage the credibility of the whole policy.”We talk about encouraging people to take rational decisions on how and when they travel and to make adjustments, but people may fear that road pricing could actually mean enforced changes in their patterns of life – for some possibly changing jobs, where they live or where their children go to school,” he says.

Mr. Holmes says road pricing represents a fundamental change in motoring taxation and charges must not be imposed on top of existing motoring taxes but be evidence-based and independently audited. Any scheme must be overseen by an independent regulator to maintain public confidence and drivers need to see real benefits from pricing, either through road improvements or investment in alternative public transport services.