Mike Waters' Blog: 26 January 2010 - A tariff on travel
26 January 2010
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
Pay-as-you-go phones have been around for a while and we are getting used to pay-per-view television but what about a similar system for driving. It is highly likely that the widespread charging of drivers based on their mileage would come up against significant resistance but it looks as though it may play a role in the future of road transport.
While Road Safety Minister Paul Clark is playing down the prospect of road pricing (certainly for the near future) the party is already amassing pricing information from several trials. What's more, the Committee on Climate Change (set up to advise Parliament on the progress of green initiatives), has suggested that road pricing be "seriously considered".
Road pricing is a direct response to two major issues that are currently high on the political agenda: reducing carbon emissions and congestion. Previous experience shows that the best way to influence these two things is through people's wallets and building more roads won't tick the environmental box. There is also plenty of precedent with road pricing schemes common all over the world.
Schemes in Norway, USA, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Malta and many other countries vary in complexity and methods of enforcement but the range and frequency show a worldwide requirement to charge road users as a means of managing traffic flow and reducing CO2.
Singapore implemented the world's first congestion pricing scheme in 1975 and has been moving the agenda forward ever since. East Coast Parkway in Singapore is regarded as one of the world's most advanced electronic toll roads with a peak toll applying during rush hour when the number of commuters is at its greatest. On each entry to the city, car owners have to pay a fee which is deducted from pre-paid smartcards. There are also lower tolls which apply for 30 minutes before and after the peak hour. The system can even recognise mini-buses and trucks and charge them accordingly.
The technology to make road pricing practical is widely available with some methods relying on electronic transponders that follow a vehicle as it passes points on a road while others use satellite global positioning systems to track vehicles.
It may be a little way off but it looks likely that road charging will grow over time, something that is sure to rile motorists and increase the cost of travel. Although maybe in the UK we should count ourselves lucky - in Singapore they don't just focus on travel, they also enforce restraints on vehicle ownership - either through high ownership costs or by restricting the growth of the car population.