The UK Transport Committee has announced it wants to start a national debate about road pricing – something that has been lacking for more than a decade since the then Labour Government’s road pricing plans were abandoned.
This is in advance of an inquiry that is set to be formally announced in early 2020, when the Committee will invite views from across the country from drivers and non-drivers alike about the future of road-based transport.
On road pricing and sustainable transport, the Transport Committee said the UK needs to decarbonise its transport network, tackle congestion, and encourage ‘modal shift’ to alternative forms of transport, where appropriate. The £40 billion annual income from Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty is likely to decline sharply in future, and may end entirely if the Government keeps its pledge to fully decarbonise road transport within two decades. This income will need to be replaced if the Government is to continue to invest in transport infrastructure and prepare the transport network for a new greener future. In early 2020 the Transport Committee will investigate whether national road pricing should be a part of that future, but wants the public – drivers and non-drivers alike – to begin the discussion now.
Issues the Transport Committee will take into consideration will include pros and cons of road pricing including the economic, environmental, and social impacts. We will also look at the lessons that can be learnt from existing schemes at the national level, local level, and overseas. Road pricing does not only mean tolls – it also includes congestion charges, an HGV levy, workplace parking levy, low emission and clean air zones.
The Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said, “It’s been almost ten years since the last real discussion of national road pricing. In that time, we have become much more aware of the dangers of air pollution and congestion. Parliament declared a Climate Emergency in May, and local councils have begun to do the same. This requires a serious response, including rethinking how we manage our road network.”
“We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole. We need to ask how we will pay for roads in the future and in answering that question we have an opportunity for a much wider debate about our use of road space, cutting carbon emissions, tackling congestion, modal shift and how we prioritise active travel. Tackling the Climate Emergency is essential but this is about more than what we must do to meet that challenge. It’s also about our health and the sort of towns and cities we want to live in.”
“This isn’t about pricing drivers off the road; it’s about making sure that as many people as possible have a say in future plans so that we can manage the changes to come. The Transport Committee wants to kickstart this conversation,” concluded Greenwood.