Road pricing technology is 'out there' says Darling

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The Government aims to make a decision on the future of road pricing within the next two years and may set up a pilot scheme in five or six years' time.

Transport secretary Alistair Darling told the Social Market Foundation today that a national scheme could be in operation by 2015. But a politicial consensus is needed because transport planning is "by its very nature long term".

"We need that consensus because moving to road pricing - charging on the basis of distance travelled varied according to how congested a road is - would be a radical change from where we are now," he said, adding that planning and delivery would "span several Parliaments".

But consensus amongst politicians...

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By Taxi
09th Jun 2005 23:51

I sure hope that another virgin planet, capable of supporting
life is also out there to take the survivors from this one.
"Climate change is a fundamental priority and the Government would ensure that incentives for cleaner vehicles are safeguarded, he added."
Nice one Alistair, tell that to President Bush.

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10th Jun 2005 17:12

Big brother is watching you....
I can't honestly see this one seeing the light of day this side of the oil reserves running out (mind you, you can be sure that that will not hamper the Government's determination to bring this silly scheme in anyway), nor can I see it coming in quietly - the civil liberties crowd will be up in arms.

Personally, I think this is over-engineering in the extreme. We already have a very simple method of taxing car use, which automatically penalises you for sitting in traffic jams (using expensive petrol going nowhere), which automatically rewards the use of a highly-efficient engine, hybrid or fully electric car. Simply keep on bumping up fuel tax - explain the reasons why, and we'll all grumble, and some of us will use our cars less.

For those roads which suffer regular congestion, stick peak-time toll booths on them & be done with it.

But, the simple use of fuel tax & toll roads doesn't give the Government what it REALLY wants - which is even more control over what we do, when we do it & how we do it... Or have I been watching too many conspiracy movies (Enemy of the State springs to mind)

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10th Jun 2005 20:36

Road Charges
Strange how Alastair Campbell thought this up just after the election campaign ! I can imagine that had the road pricing idea been floated just before, B.Liar & Co. might not have achieved such a resounding win. Also, have read and re-read the Queens Speech and found no mention of Road Pricing.
It seem clear that not only should objectors lobby their MP's, but also should make it quite clear to all car manufacturers that rather than buy a new car fitted with 'spy software', we should - en masse - retain our old cars for that extra couple of years. That may well persuade them to resist - and it could make a huge hole in revenue from New Car Excise duty.
I genuinely suggest that all members should take a few hours away from reading their professional magazines to re-read Orwell's "1984".
Bear in mind that they already have the GPS technology to know exactly where you are, how fast you are going, to recognise any excess speeds, to automatically fine you and put points on your licence and - probably - in time, to switch your ignition off when you have achieved 12 points.

Cyprus beckons !

I'm glad I'm not young any more.

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10th Jun 2005 12:34

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future. By 2015 the proportion of people retired as compared to those working will have shifted considerably and the rate of change will be accelerating. By 2035 there should be far fewer on the roads anyway - just look at birth rates. This presents challenges all of its own but why do they always trot out the same old rubbish about 'if we build more roads more cars will fill it' - true to a degree but fundamentally flawed in the longer term.

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14th Jun 2005 14:52

What is the government hoping to achieve with this?

A fairer system of taxing the wealthy?
We already have a tax which is equitable and progressive. It's called fuel duty:
Big car / lots of miles / sitting in traffic = pay lots.
Econmomical car / few miles / off peak times = pay less.

A means of reducing congestion?
Who sits in traffic jams because they want to? No-one. We do it because we need to get to work or drive because of our work.
Yes, there are alternatives in the cities but these are all either dangerous (cycling) or deeply unpleasant (public transport) or unreliable (public transport again).
How about tax incentives for companies to enable staff to work from home and who offer flexible working hours? Or compulsory buses/park & ride/walking for school children. Now that would be radical!

Benefits to the environment?
As has been noted, this road pricing proposal will do nothing to promote environmentally friendly use of the roads and will probably have the opposite effect.
A minor restucture of taxation policy to promote high mpg/low emissions vehicles (including trucks & vans) would do far more good.

There is nothing useful in this proposal that couldn't be achieved more efficiently another way.

I am not a conspiricy theorist but "1984" had a number of key features:
- a common yet ill defined enemy.
- zero free speech.
- constant monitoring of the individual.
- complete reliance on the state.

We aren't there yet but we appear to be edging ever closer.....

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10th Jun 2005 12:44

Stop living in NeverNever Land
So Mr Darling thinks a pay-as-you-go system will work better than the current one?

Does this mean that he will scrap the tax on petrol to change the way we are taxed or will this be in addition to one of the highest rates of fuel tax in the world?

If he is to scrap the fuel tax how will he get any benefit from European drovers coming over here? I can just imagine the Road Haulage Association being happy with their drivers paying the mileage rate whilst the French truckers pay a low fuel rate per litre but do not have the box in the cab to pay a mileage rate.

How will he get round this - put a compulsory box in each foreign car at Dover? How will he collect the money once they have left the UK?

Or is he proposing a Europe wide system.

Get real Mr Darling and stop living in NeverNever Land

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10th Jun 2005 13:10

Who's living in nevernever land?
I agree with the Stephen Joseph’s comments, this is a very complex subject and so it’s right to look at all alternatives even if the technology for this proposal will not be in place for years.

It occurs to me that with uncertainty over oil price & supply and rapidly worsening environmental impact, significant change may be forced on road users way before even the planned pilot scheme.

I sat on the M25 car park day and night for ten years, which probably amounted to 460ish hours a year. I moaned about it non-stop but it never occurred to me that there may be alternatives. Change was forced upon me and I now drive or cycle or train 6 miles to & from the office and can not now understand how I put up with that ten years.

The government, bless ‘em, will do what they can but ultimately it’s for road users to wake up to the reality of what they are doing and to try alternatives, even if it’s for one journey a week or looking at gms/k rather than torque when they next change their car. If we don't take responsibility then someone else will.

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10th Jun 2005 13:49

What about Kyoto
The most fundamental flaw I can see in this farcical nonsense does not relate to the taxation issue at all and has also currently had no mention in the press.

If Mr Darling proposes removing road tax and fuel duty and replacing it with a usage charge, what incentive is there to use fuel efficient cars?

Just look at the USA, cheap fuel and everyone uses gas guzzling leviathans. The impact on the environment could be catastrophic and would make the UKs chances of meeting their Kyoto obligation negligible.

The current system, whilst significantly flawed does at least bring such issues as fuel consumption to the fore of the "average punter".

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10th Jun 2005 13:59

Complex Issues
I think the general view is correct that there are numerous and complex issues here. However I suggest the following real scenario that I have. I can travel from my office in London (NW2) via the A406 to Southgate (N14) where I often have to go. Alternatively I can travel from NW2 to N14 via back turnings (apart from about 1- 1.5 miles on the A5 or A406). I don't think it should take much brainpower to workout which would be the more expensive and where more traffic will end up. Ho Hum

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11th Jun 2005 11:50

Why do politicians constantly tinker with things. They can bring new taxes in when they want so why not change our transport system completely.
Mono-rails would be an answer. People could either own or rent their own little or big cab. The existing road and rail network could be easily utilised. Every thing would be computerised so you just plonk in where you want to go and hey presto. Yes it would cost a lot of money but if the EU spent it on something useful like this instead of spending millions on telling us when we can work and constitutions that don't mean a thing (which nobody really wants anyway)then we might actually start beleiving that politicians are listening to what the people want and not just how to raise money to waste on existing schemes that don't work.

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13th Jun 2005 12:33

technology is 'out there' says Darling. IS IT?
Before venturing into this latest Government quest to improve society, I would suggest that the technology employed in other govenment departments is improved first.

What about the CSA? What about the Tax Credits?

I think with dread what a shambles the road pricing sceme is likely to be.

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13th Jun 2005 23:53

Too attractive for any Government to resist
The system will allow the authorities to know where every vehicle is (or, at least, was) at any given time and, thus, how quickly it was moving. So, the system will automatically detect:
- speeding motorists
- lorry drivers who have spent too long in the cab
- vehicles in congestion zones
- vehicles following routes that should excite the suspicion of the police and security services (get-away cars from crimes, joy riders, potential terrorists etc)
- illegal parkers.

Of course, not all potential uses will be so unattractive to drivers. It will be reassuring to know that your problems will soon be detected if you break down somewhere out in the wilds or your car has crashed off the road.

It will also be simple to have a separate rate per mile for each class of vehicle (possibly speed dependent), to take account of:
- the amount and type of fuel it uses
- the amount and type of pollution it generates
- the wear and tear it causes to the roads
as well as the times of day at which it is used.

So, how long will it be before we can buy computer programs to calculate the cheapest routes? Then we will have a new application of the law of unintended consequences as the expensive highways are abandoned in favour of the cheaper rural byways, much to the annoyance of the people who live on them. But then, they are more likely to be Conservative voters.

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By derdle
14th Jun 2005 11:44

Road pricing
Anyone with GPS only Satnav will know that there are blackspots where there is no signal...many places in London suffer from this. Although I imagine that Darlings idea is to use the new UK/Europe system just about to be launched into space which promises to be more accurate.

Are they going to install special transmitters in tunnels to keep track where there is no signal?

Surely the "black box" can be defeated by disconnecting the aerial or similar (Ok there will be penalties if found out but there are few traffic cops about now - there will be fewer in 10 years time). So the dishonest motorist will get cheaper fuel and not pay via GPS so will get away altogether. No, I can't imagine this at all, fuel duty will remain and this will become another tax.

It's not going to happen for 10 years, there are at least 2 elections between now and then in which to vote out the government.

To ease congestion, raise the car driving age to 20, and ban the school run. If all the kids walked to school they would be fitter and the roads less congested.

To raise more revenue charge extra Council Tax for more than one (maybe two) cars per household.

Rant over......the men in white coats have come to collect me now.....

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14th Jun 2005 15:53

Spot on Robin
fuel tax / duty is the

- easy
- cheap
- enviromentally friendly! if we drive less

way to proceed, and tax relief for essential services workers realtively easy to build in as part of an overhaul of the taxation of home / work expenses

if we have learnt anything from the congestion charge, which incidentally goes upto £8 next month, it is that a potentially ood and fair sysytem ends getting corrupted - fair means of appeal cut off by unjust rules , incompetent assessors not even bothering to read evidence, comprised court officials making life intolerable and on and on

i would not want to inflict this totalitanarism on anybody, keep the fuel tax.

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By davewye
15th Jun 2005 09:17

How will road charges be collected from unwilling payers?
With an estimated 36,000,000 vehicles on the UK road network the costs of collecting road charges from each vehicle owner will surely render the proposed scheme inefficient. Inevitably law abiding citizens will reluctantly accept the obligation to pay, but those in our society who habitually fail to abide by rules and regulations, and those who are financially incapable of coping with paying for road use in arrears, will either simply not pay or become hopelessly in debt to the system. Unless the government are prepared to enforce payment, the proposal will result in a chaotic muddle which will be unfair to those who do pay. Are we to expect a complex system of road charge exemptions to apply to cater for the underpriveleged classes in our society? No doubt such stategies will be used to help the government out of the difficulty of collecting fees from certain recalcitrant payers.

Has the goverment considered the knock-on effect of high charges for motorways and trunk roads? People currently holidaying in Devon and Cornwall, Scotland and the Lakes, might well decide to fly Easyjet or Ryan Air
to foreign destinations rather than spend the same money on the governments road charges. What then the propspects for the UK tourist trade?

The road charging system proposals are simply an example of this governments totalitarian ambitions to control the lives of UK citizens. The real purpose of the black boxes is to enable the government to know what we are all doing at any given point of time. The idea should be strongly resisted.

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By Anonymous
16th Jun 2005 21:24

Don't even think about it.........
Mr Darling

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17th Jun 2005 14:49

Incentives NOT to travel
Instead of potentially spending MBillions on just deciding how the charge for future road usage, why does a Government not spend a few pounds, relatively, on subsidising people who use the technology of today and tomorrow NOT to travel?

For example, give incentives for companies and businesses to develop the concept of "tele-cottages"/ "tech-units" where a work-force can spend, for example, 4 out of 5 days in the week working up to 5 miles from their homes rather than travelling 50-100 miles 5 days a week into the city centre or mega business park.

Help workers use the Internet/email/video-conferencing etc much more by providing grants, subsidies for training; basically, create a working culture where you are a bit of an oddity if you choose to "manufuacture" a business letter and use the Royal Mail to deliver this letter.

Come on you boffins and Darlings in control of our lives, get a bit innovative and forward-thinking OR let someone else run this country.

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22nd Jun 2005 17:15

Insurance & MOT
For those honest citizens ( & I assume that all of us here are)how is Big Brother going to see if we have indate insurance & mots. Or is there going to be a duplication of maintaining the present system to some extent with the proposed horrors of the new.

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By Anonymous
10th Jun 2005 15:04

Wonder where we'll be in 10 years time?
Many of us could be working from home?

Trouble is we always put future plans into today's society.

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10th Jun 2005 09:52

A privacy issue?
First we're told that biometric ID cards will save us from terrorists and asylum seekers - now exactly where and when we travel in our cars will be broadcast to the authorities in minute save us from traffic jams. I'm just a little cynical about the motivations for these schemes.

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