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March 07, 2013

So here’s something we wrote about last October making the headlines again – a two-tier road tax system.

The plans have been trust back into the spotlight as the government prepares to release a green paper in to the funding of the road network.

In addition a report by Lord Deighton was due to outline a number of options to let firms levy tolls on new roads and existing routes where road capacity is increased through extra lanes or widening schemes. Ministers hoped this raft of reforms would help to fill the estimated £10bn gap in the funding for new projects and road improvements

But it seems that Lord Deighton’s report has been torpedoed before even being released. The Financial Times reported the plans have been shelved by senior Tories looking to avoid a backlash from millions of motorist so soon after the party’s humiliation in the recent Eastleigh by-election. And, regardless of the sense of such a scheme, this is another set back to the government’s attempts to boost the economy by increasing infrastructure spending.

So the two-tier road tax system is back in favour once again. In case you’ve forgotten the detail, under the scheme motorists using major A-roads and motorways would be charged a higher rate of tax than those who only travel on local roads and minor A-roads. Though in these times of great mobility, when few of us work in the same town in which we live, nor live in the same town in which we were born, it’s hard to believe many of us would avoid the higher rate of tax. Which seems to be the point as the scheme was proposed by the government as way to plug the gaping hole it’s facing in projected revenues from vehicle excise duty. Despite encouraging us to do so with tax incentives, it seems more of us have switched to lower emission vehicle than the Treasury could really afford.

The plans have been strongly criticised by the AA as a “polll tax on wheels” while others, including ourselves, have questioned the impact such a scheme would have on road safety. Given that at current levels of traffic you’re 5 times more likely to be seriously injured on an urban A-road than on a motorway, do we really want to price more people onto those very roads?

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