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February 01, 2013

Navman Wireless aren’t the only ones currently calling on the government for a major strategic rethink – a group of 32 leading transport academics including Prof. David Banister of Oxford University and Prof. Peter Mackie of Leeds, have done so too. In an open letter to the Transport Secretary, Patrick Mcloughlin, they claim if the government is to tackle congestion and cut carbon emissions they must have a radical rethink on how motorists are charged for driving.

“Our cities are simply not equipped to take further growth in road traffic and the benefits of faster journey times on the strategic network risk being lost in greater congestion on local urban roads where the majority of journeys are undertaken,” they wrote.

The group suggest the acceleration of what they call “smart demand management measures” to deal with the problem – in short, “pay as you drive” road pricing.

It’s not a new idea but the government is under increasing pressure as they attempt to hit their carbon reduction targets while simultaneously maintaining tax receipts from motorists.

The government’s handling of this balancing act has so far left them facing a funding gap of several hundred millions of pounds as motorists have chosen smaller, greener vehicles in their droves thanks in part to the dramatic reduction in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) on those vehicles.

And their approach to plug this funding gap has, so far, been mixed at best and confused at worse.

We’ve seen fuel duty rise at the pumps; an ongoing review of the VED system – likely to see VED rise for the very same smaller, greener cars the government is encouraging us to buy. While just last year, ideas were floated about the introduction of a two-tier tax system.

But “Pay As You Go” charging is something the government is understandably apprehensive about. The previous Labour government had considered the idea but the response from the public was overwhelmingly negative. Over 1.8 million of us signed a Downing Street petition opposing its introduction.

Combined with the government seeming to favour private investment in the strategic network – that could see tolling introduced where key routes are improved “beyond all recognition” – thankfully it seems “Pay As You Go” motoring isn’t something we’ll see any time soon.

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