Matt Dyer's blog: 27 November 2012 - Stand and deliver: toll roads are a shortcut to highway robbery
27 November 2012
Matt Dyer is commercial director of Leaseplan
Over the last few months we have seen a growing tide of news stories suggesting the UK government is contemplating a rise in toll roads.
Such a policy would not be the solution for a better road network.
The dilemma faced by the government is straightforward. As drivers embrace environmentally-friendly vehicles, tax receipts from vehicle excise duty (which is charged according to a vehicle's carbon emissions) are diminishing.
As a result, the already squeezed government is facing a serious funding shortfall.
At the same time, most drivers will agree that the road network is in need of investment to fill potholes and ease congestion.
At first glance, toll roads may appear to be a proportionate way of charging for road usage, but it is a short-sighted solution that will hamper business drivers and potentially derail our economic recovery.
UK drivers would welcome improvements to the condition of the road network, but privatisation and the introduction of more toll roads is not the answer.
Road travel is a necessity for many businesses which need to move employees, services and products around the country in a timely fashion.
These businesses are vital to our fragile economic recovery. We cannot afford to introduce new charges that put additional strain on these businesses and risk hampering their crucial contributions towards growth.
Moreover, we have seen from the experience of the M6 Toll Road that the pay-to-drive concept does not work in the UK.
Rather than pay some of the highest charges in Europe, motorists opt to drive on the neighbouring M6, where traffic levels are rising.
As many business drivers will attest, the M6 toll remains underused for most of the day.
Toll roads threaten to create a two-tier road system. A minority of affluent executives will be forced to make the trade off and pay more for faster travel time.
The majority of logistics businesses, operating on small profit margins, will instead be pushed off main thoroughfares and onto narrower local roads.
This would be a worrying development. Motorways offer faster, safer travel that directs traffic around urban centres.
If toll charges force people off motorways and on to secondary routes, we are at risk of greater congestion, more accidents and road damage from heavy vehicles on roads that were never designed for high volumes of traffic.
UK businesses already make a substantial tax contribution to the Treasury and in return they should be able to drive on roads that are fit for purpose - without incurring further costs.
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