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Roddy Graham's blog: 28 June 2013 - Spend road tax on roads

Date: 28 June 2013

Roddy Graham is commercial director of Leasedrive and chairman of the ICFM

I see drivers agree with my views, expressed over many years in these blogs, that there needs to be a direct correlation between the amount of taxes collected from UK motorists and that spent on maintaining and improving our road network infrastructure.

A recent RAC Report on Motoring found that 78% of drivers felt that way, stating that the tax paid to Government is not properly invested in local roads.

To make matters worse, 84% consider that their local roads are deteriorating, and three-quarters extend that belief to major roads and motorways.

The condition of local roads in rural areas is of particular concern, with 87% very worried about the state of them after successive harsh winters and a failure of local councils to address the dire situation.

Currently, more than £40bn is raised by the Treasury through motoring taxation and yet only around 22% of that money is invested in new roads and maintaining existing ones.

Two in every five drivers now consider maintenance of motorways and local roads a top priority.

The report, now in its 25th year, highlights that there is a new urgency to examine how drivers are taxed, especially given that in the face of rising fuel prices we are driving fewer miles in more fuel-efficient cars.

Not surprisingly, drivers want to pay less VED and fuel duty, but, on the other hand, a third would be prepared to pay tolls on motorways or in the form of city centre congestion charges if taxation was lower.

Presumably they feel that in addition to having a choice on what roads they use, more money would be directly spent on those toll and congestion charge roads to keep UK PLC on the move rather than disappearing into the chancellor's coffers.

Certainly, the RAC is advocating that a greater proportion of the taxes raised from motoring are ring-fenced for roads rather than disappearing into another big, black hole.

At least that way, we might all avoid disappearing into too many of those nasty little black holes encountered each and every day.

I would add, too, that the Government should properly address the repair and proper maintenance of the existing road network rather than building more new roads and ignoring the condition of the existing ones, which are falling into a greater state of neglect by the day.

Meanwhile, I see it's been a busy month for the RAC with its Foundation arm also producing a report on the effectiveness of speed cameras.

An analysis of 551 fixed cameras in nine different areas in central and northern England revealed that serious accidents had fallen by 27%. Without them in place, director of the RAC Foundation Professor Stephen Glaister claims around 800 more people would have been killed or seriously injured.

While the evidence is overwhelming that fixed speed cameras do help reduce serious road accidents, 21 of the 551 sites had actually exacerbated the situation with more collisions recorded.

In these cases, the RAC Foundation is questioning the positioning of these cameras with the relevant authorities.

As always, we are reliant on our motoring organisations as much as other lobbying groups to keep Government and local authorities on their toes.

Professor Stephen Glaister was our moderator at last year's 20th ICFM Conference and impressed all attendees with his insightful and balanced views.

The professor of transport and infrastructure at the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, is one person currently in the driving seat who can help make a real difference. More power to his elbow.