THE GOVERNMENT will need to consider a new form of national road pricing if it’s serious about banning petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2040, a cross-party group of MPs has suggested.
The Transport Select Committee has argued the £40bn generated annually through fuel duty and vehicle excise duty (VED, or road tax) levies is “likely to decline sharply in future”, as more and more motorists upgrade to more efficient low and zero-emissions cars.
It also claims that revenue stream could disappear entirely if, as explicitly stated in its Road to Zero decarbonisation strategy, the government wants “almost every car and van [on UK roads] to be zero emission” by 2050.
To make up for this future shortfall in public finances, the Transport Select Committee has floated the idea of a national road pricing model, which would see motorists charged based on where and how often they drive, that could replace the current fuel and VED charges.
While the committee explicitly mentions toll roads as a possible solution, it does claim money-raising methods outside of turnpikes could be worth considering. Possible solutions it’s put forward include, setting up more congestion charging and ultra-low emission zones across the country, and introducing new heavy goods vehicle and workplace car parking levies.
“We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole”
More fleshed-out recommendations won’t be revealed until the Transport Select Committee publishes its report on the pros, cons and effects of adopting a national road pricing system. It’s unclear when exactly the full document will be completed, though the committee has confirmed it will launch its initial inquiry in “early 2020”.
Whatever the final decisions on UK-wide road pricing, the committee says it wants the general public to be involved as heavily in the discussion as possible. It will “invite views from across the country from drivers and non-drivers alike about the future of road-based transport”, to better inform the cross-party group’s future guidelines.
Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: “We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole. We need to ask how we will pay for roads in the future and in answering that question we have an opportunity for a much wider debate about our use of road space, cutting carbon emissions, tackling congestion, modal shift and how we prioritise active travel.”
She continued: “This requires a serious response, including rethinking how we manage our road network … this isn’t about pricing drivers off the road; it’s about making sure that as many people as possible have a say in future plans so that we can manage the changes to come.”
The Transport Select Committee’s call for a road pricing reboot comes a week after similar comments where made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. According to the think tank, the government should “take the opportunity it has now to set out both its long-term strategy for taxing motoring and how it will get there”.
It added: “There is a window of opportunity to do this quickly, before revenue from fuel duties disappears entirely.”