Business leaders have told the Government that toll roads could kick-start the economy and bring much-needed investment to the country’s infrastructure.
A major new survey of 477 businesses, conducted by the CBI in partnership with KPMG, shows that 58% rate the UK’s infrastructure worse than other EU countries, when judged on quality, value for money and reliability.
John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, said: “If we are serious about boosting exports - especially in emerging markets - and achieving sustainable growth, the Government must put infrastructure investment firmly at the top of its agenda.
“There are large amounts of business capital waiting to be unlocked if the Government achieves a step-change on transport, for example with the introduction of road tolls.”
The Department for Transport says it would be happy to listen to road-building proposals funded through a system of tolls, but it has “ruled out” introducing tolls to the existing network.
However, some form of national road pricing scheme is inevitable, according to Bracknell Forest Council fleet manager Damian James.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that it’s going to happen,” he told delegates at the recent Nationwide Fleet Day. “We’re going to have to get use to it and adapt to it.”
Local road pricing already exists in the UK. Congestion charging was introduced in London in 2003, while other areas have considered similar schemes.
However, the previous Labour Government’s drive to encourage such plans was effectively abandoned after people in Greater Manchester voted four to one against a congestion charge.
Their ‘no vote’ also came a year after transport secretary Lord Adonis killed off his Government’s road pricing policy, when a public outcry saw more than a million people sign a petition on the Downing Street website calling for the idea to be scrapped, in 2009.
Road pricing is not supported by the Coalition Government either. But Professor Stephen Glaister believes it will have to look at ways of raising additional revenue, because it is losing duty through the introduction of more fuel efficient cars.
The director of the RAC Foundation told delegates at the Nationwide Fleet Day that burning less oil will significantly dent the Government’s fuel duty take. “Something has to change whether we like it or not,” he said.