Fleet News

Rethink likely over road charging plans

The new Secretary of State for Transport has hinted that the government may be rethinking its intention to introduce national road pricing but suggested that the focus would instead be on local solutions rather than an all-encompassing network.

Speaking on a Department for Transport webchat, Ruth Kelly said congestion was “a real economic issue” for British business and the government was committed to looking at plans to limit it.

She said: “We have no current commitment to introduce national road pricing.

“But we are actively thinking about how to deal with congestion problems.

“The fact is that sitting in traffic jams is no good for commuters and it’s no good for businesses.

“This is a real economic issue facing our country which will need to be tackled. Of course we will consult actively with everyone affected.

“What I am interested in is seeing proposals from individual parts of the country about their solutions to tackling local congestion, some of which include a form of road pricing alongside significant public transport investment.

“It will be interesting to see how these work in practice before we take any decisions on whether there should be any national proposals.”

Ms Kelly’s comments reflect the government’s increasingly softly-softly approach to this emotive subject.

When the notion of road pricing was first mooted by then Transport Secretary Alastair Darling two years ago, his vision was for a nationwide scheme with all cars tracked using satellites and black boxes.

Cost, administration and privacy issues have seen the government backtrack to a position which is to opt for local tolls and a more consultative approach, especially after nearly 1.5 million people signed an online petition against road pricing earlier in the year.

However, fleets will be concerned that the lack of a unified scheme, with many cities or regions introducing their own systems, could lead to a huge administrative burden.

Ms Kelly added that she would be responding shortly to the Eddington Report, published last year, which recommended that motorists be charged on a per- mile basis.

She added: “There are going to be tough choices ahead.”

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