Road user charges should be tailored to drivers, says ACE

Drivers should be charged for using the UK's road network based on their individual circumstances and when they are using the roads, according to a new report released today by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

Funding Roads for the Future calls on the government to introduce dynamic road user pricing which takes into account a driver’s journey (motorways or country lanes), the time of day, congestion on the network, and even their financial situation - i.e. whether they’re a student, pensioner, or unemployed.

Currently, motorists pay fuel and vehicle taxes and the funds raised are invested in roads but ACE says that this model is failing in the face of new technology and changing social trends, such as zero-emission vehicles, ride sharing, and increased urbanisation. ACE wants to see short-term reforms to the existing road taxation system, pushing it towards the longer-term aim of dynamic road user pricing.

Commenting on the report, ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said: “Our report argues that in the years ahead only a reformed funding regime based on dynamic road user pricing will manage traffic flows and deliver the significant investment needed to keep the country moving. It’s vital that the government starts these conversations with the public now, as to date there have been suspicions of road user pricing and fears that people will be priced off the road. This doesn’t have to be the case and there is a great opportunity to develop a fairer-for-all road funding system which delivers the first-class road network that this country needs long into the future.”

Some of the report’s other recommendations are to:

  • Develop a new overall National Roads Strategy outlining a co-ordinated approach beyond the national network, including introducing a Local Roads Fund to amalgamate and ring-fence funding for local roads;
  • Look at short-term reforms to widen the scope of Vehicle Excise Duty to include zero emission vehicles, therefore securing revenue for the National Roads Fund;
  • Reform the existing HGV road user levy, using it as a pilot for the broader introduction of dynamic road user-charging across the network;
  • Establish a Local Infrastructure Tariff allowing councils to develop a sustainable revenue stream for local road infrastructure investment;
  • Increase private investment in England’s road network.

Funding Roads for the Future was developed with detailed from ACE’s road sector interest group. Dave Beddell, managing director strategic highways (Europe) at AECOM and chair of the group said: “Such is the importance of the road network to our national economic and social wellbeing that we cannot allow the way in which we fund its future development and operation to become misaligned with emerging customer needs.  Alongside the increased levels of spend we have seen allocated to parts of the network in recent years comes an equally exciting opportunity for industry to work alongside government in order to create an investment framework that supports a modern and sustainable road network.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme today, Ogunshakin said that increasing devolution across the UK provides an opportunity for a national debate on the approach ACE is advocating and that local councils would have a key role to play in new funding models. “With devolution empowering local authorities on ways to regenerate their local economies, it seems like an ideal time to start a conversation on the future funding the road network,” Ogunshakin said.

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