Adonis declares end of the road for road-pricing

by Stephen Tall on June 25, 2009

From today’s FT (well worth reading today for other reasons):

The government will “definitely not” proceed with a national road-user charging scheme if it wins the next election, the new transport secretary has said, in the most comprehensive renunciation so far of a policy adopted in 2004. …

In July 2004, Alistair Darling, then transport secretary, committed the government to a national system of pay-per-mile charging . The scheme was intended to replace charging for road use via taxes on fuel. As cars become more fuel-efficient, taxes produce less revenue per mile driven and any deterrent effect of tax on car use reduces, increasing congestion. The 2006 Eddington report on transport policy said a national road-user charging system could provide benefits of £28bn a year by 2025. However, the government has cooled markedly on the policy since early 2007, when 1.7m people signed a petition on the Downing Street website opposing it.

“We will definitely not proceed with a national road-user charging scheme in the next parliament,” Lord Adonis said after addressing a conference organised by Transport Times, the trade newspaper.

Road pricing remains very much established as Lib Dem policy – just under a year ago, Lib Dem shadow transport secretary Norman Baker launched the party’s transport programme, Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century, with its declaration that “Liberal Democrats propose a motorway and trunk road pricing scheme covering all motorways and major trunk roads in Britain.”

However, when LDV polled our readers (who may or may not be Lib Dems, of course) the proposal to introduce road pricing proved controversial, dividing readers. In the end, 47% opposed its introduction while 43% supported it, with 10% undecided. With Labour now coming out firmly against it, it really does look like the end of the road for road-pricing.