NEW POLL: do you support road pricing?

by Stephen Tall on June 3, 2008

The party has today launched its new transport programme, Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century, promising to “significantly increase long-term rail investment, introduce road user pricing to tackle pollution and congestion and hand control of buses back to local authorities have been launched today by the Liberal Democrats.”

You can find the full news release on the Lib Dem website here, and the full document is available in PDF format here.

There’s a raft of proposals – building a high speed rail network; introducing rolling contracts for train operating companies to increase long-term investment and improve services; giving power to control local bus services back to local authorities; and introducing a new fund for rural transport – but there’s no doubt what will attract most attention… The BBC website gives a clue:

Clegg unveils road charging plan

(The full details of the Lib Dem proposals for road pricing are copied below.)

Party policy has generally been in favour of road pricing – though we’ve been a bit quiet about it in the past couple of years – with most concerns centring on the privacy issues of the state collecting data on citizens’ movements.

Personally, I’ve never seen the problem (with reasonable safeguards in place). It is one thing to have to carry an ID card simply to prove to the state you exist – that’s bad; but quite another to enjoy the privilege of using a less-congested road system. The fact remains that the market is the most efficient – and certainly most effective – way of pricing road use according to the value we place upon it.

But that’s my view: what’s yours? Choose now in our new Lib Dem Voice poll asking: Do you support Lib Dem plans to introduce road pricing in return for the abolition of vehicle excise duty and cutting fuel duty?

You know the drill: simple yes / no / don’t know options are located in the right-hand column. (And of course feel free – I know you will – to use the comments thread to pick apart the question).

Motorway and Trunk Road Pricing
2.4.11 Liberal Democrats propose a motorway and trunk road pricing scheme covering all motorways and major trunk roads in Britain.
2.4.12 During our first parliament we would undertake preparatory work:
– Detailed consultation on the design of the scheme, including levels of charging and data privacy issues.
– Invest significantly in public transport through our Future Transport Fund.
2.4.13 The key aspects of our proposal are:
– Road pricing should be seen as part of a package of measures – it is not a solution on its own.
– To tax differently, not more. Our scheme will be revenue neutral for the average motorist, with the revenue from road pricing used to remove VED entirely and reduce fuel duty.
– Significant investment would be injected into public transport prior to introducing any charging, providing a viable alternative to the private motor vehicle, where possible.
– Pricing would be linked to car emissions, benefiting lower emission vehicles.
– A ‘Privacy Guarantee’ would be provided to motorists, by separating any personal details held from journey details. This would include the option of using an anonymous pre-pay system and would establish robust legal guidelines around the use of data collected (i.e. data would not be passed on to other organisations).
– Exemptions and discounts would be introduced for emergency vehicles, NHS vehicles, public transport vehicles, and vehicles used by disabled drivers who rely on their car for transport (following the disability exemptions for VED).
– We would make a firm commitment to provide political leadership in tackling emissions from the transport sector.
2.4.15 A number of locations have already implemented forms of road pricing including London, Stockholm and Singapore, and the Netherlands are currently considering a national scheme.
2.4.16 The benefits we would expect to see include:
– Fairer charges for using roads according to the polluting effect of each vehicle.
– Financial benefits for drivers who have no public transport alternatives and are dependent on the car (particularly in rural areas).
– An increase in the certainty of journey times (vital for the freight and services sectors) due to an incidental reduction in congestion levels.
– A commensurate improvement in viable public transport alternatives to the car.
2.4.17 We envisage that our motorway and trunk road user charging scheme would operate using the ‘tag and beacon’ scheme, covering motorways and trunk roads. To avoid a plague of ‘rat running’, the technology chosen must allow for penalties to be enforced on drivers who ‘rat run’ in order to avoid payment.