|Current thinking is best illustrate it by the article below that comes from the Financial Times. It is clear that the proposed approach is extremely difficult, expensive and unwieldy - in addition to arriving many years later than the proposal advocated by us..|
|PLAN TO START WORK ON NATIONAL ROAD-PRICING SYSTEM WILL
BE WELCOMED BY BUSINESS
By Jean Eaglesham
Published: May 4 2005 03:00 | Last updated: May 4 2005 03:00
Business will welcome Labour's signal that it intends, early in a third term, to start work towards a national system of road pricing, which could replace fuel and vehicle taxes with charges for individual journeys, writes Jean Eaglesham. Industry groups have criticised the party's manifesto for its promise of "examining the potential" of such a scheme, saying the estimated £10bn-£15bn a year cost of transport problems demands a much greater sense of urgency. But the support of industry and a growing political consensus behind the scheme still leaves formidable obstacles to its introduction. A government-commissioned feasibility study on a national road-pricing system last summer warned that "delivering such a system would be a major challenge". One of the hurdles is technological. An effective system could not be limited to the motorways, as this would simply displace congestion on to other trunk roads. It would also have to be sufficiently sophisticated to appear fair to the powerful motorists' lobby group. Labour's provisional plans envisage a system that would use a "black box" in each of the country's 30m-plus cars to bill drivers on a monthly basis, depending on the timing and route of their journeys. But the satellite technology to allow such a scheme is relatively untested. The feasibility study warned it would not be available in a mass-market, low-cost form until "at least" 2014. The troubled development of Germany's heavy truck-pricing system suggests such technology may not be foolproof. The scheme's introduction had to be put back from August 2003 to this January following a range of technical problems. These included a high failure rate in the trucks of the electronic units that handle the positioning and billing information. Revenue & Customs, which is in charge of plans to introduce a similar scheme for trucks in Britain, said yesterday it intended to learn from Germany's problems. The department has yet to make a final decision on the technology it will use for the system, which is due to come into force in 2007-08. A shortlist of seven suppliers announced in March includes Autostrade, which has built a truck-charging system for Austria's motorways, Siemens and Serco. Industry and public reaction to truck charges could help to determine the eventual fate of a national scheme for cars. The fuel protests of 2000 brought home to Labour the dangers of imposing changes on motorists without their consent. As the feasibility study on road pricing warned: "A sufficient level of public acceptability is critical."