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Charging testers wanted

Date: 02 August 2006

The first drivers to be charged per mile will do so voluntarily, predicts Britain's leading road-charging expert. He also foresees drivers installing satellite speed limiters to reduce insurance bills, and reckons London will be the first major customer for satellite road-charging.

Professor David Begg also believes it's too much for the Government to handle. "I think the Government will bottle it. They're scared stiff of big IT projects," said the former chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport. "I think Transport for London will be the first."

But the key to success will be the new European satellite network, called Galileo. Adding 30 new satellites to the 30 already on the GPS, it vastly increases accuracy and reliability.

"No one's going to use satellites to charge motorists because it's not accurate enough. With Galileo they can fine-tune much more accurately," said Professor Begg, who was a Transport for London board member until January this year.

As for the rest of the UK, Begg believes charging will be rolled out slowly using carrots instead of sticks. "I suspect the Government will incentivise users to choose it," he said.

"The bigger draw will be vehicle speed limiters, and individual motorists will be the first to use them. Insurance companies will offer discounts to those that have them fitted," he said.

Professor Begg, now Director of the Centre for Transport Policy at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, foresees a wealth of other transport-related changes brought about by Galileo, including hugely improved telematics and reliable traffic reporting via GPS transmitters in mobile phones.