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Road User Charging in the UK. Where will we be 10 Years from Now?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Phil BlytheORCiD


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In the 1998 Transport White Paper an shift in emphasis in transport policy was made, moving away from the short-term ‘predict and provide’ policy of building roads to meet demand to the emphasis on ‘Integrated Transport’ and utilising policy and ITS-tools to persuade the UK’s drivers to ‘use their cars a little less and use alternative transport a little more’. Key to this was the promise of enabling legislation to enable local authorities to introduce congestion charging, as a means to hopefully manage traffic congestion and also to allow local authorities to retain the income derived from congestion charging for re-investment in the local transport infrastructure and improvements in public transport. This has resulted in a number of cities adopting road user charging using a variety of technological solutions. In parallel with this the DfT launched the DIRECTS research programme which aims at trailing interoperable solutions for road user charging in Leeds with a view to delivering a National Specification for congestion Charging. The trial phase will be launched later this year. The two activities above make a sensibly synergetic package – however for road-use charging in the UK, this is not the full story. Following the successful fuel tax protests of 2000 which posed a problem for the government in dealing with the increasing inflows of foreign HGV hauliers, filling up at Irish and continental Channel ports with their (now cheaper) diesel and using the British road network “for free.” Which in turn led the Treasury in November 2001 to publish a consultation paper on distance-based charging for all HGVs, British and foreign alike, to ensure fair competition in haulage and shift to an efficient direct charging regime “at the point of use.” The precedent for this already exists: Switzerland has already introduced a nationwide charging scheme for HGVs since 2000 and Germany plans to in 2003. Implementation is relatively straightforward, as most HGVs are equipped with GPS location-finding equipment and many already have local cellular radio communications. The Chancellor confirmed plans for distance-based HGV charging in his April 2002 budget and has the backing of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and of the CBI. In the background there is the feeling that the real agenda is examine the feasibility of how quickly such a scheme can be “rolled out” to include cars and other vehicles using our congested motorways. The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfT) see this as the logical corollary to developing congestion charging in the urban “hot spots” and this future approach was largely confirmed in a major policy speech by the Secretary ofState for Transport earlier in June 2003. The paper will consider how these competing initiatives for road-user charging in the UK are evolving, how technical and interoperable convergence may be possible in the future and what impact the charging may have on future transport policy in the UK.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Blythe PT

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: IEE 12th International Conference on Road Transport Information and Control

Year of Conference: 2004

Pages: 214-221

ISSN: 0537-9989

Publisher: IEEE


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 863413862