Are road charging and tolling things of the past?

At a recent ‘Transport Debate’ Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat transport spokespeople seemed to agree that traffic congestion can be tackled by using traffic and freight management technology, without resorting to systems of road user charging which many people, including myself, do not like or support.

Patrick McLoughlin MP, Liberal Democrat transport minister, Baroness Susan Kramer and former shadow transport minister, Labour MP Lilian Greenwood made the comments as part of a ‘Great Transport Debate’ debate hosted by KPMG.

Conservative Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘Intelligent traffic control will happen and the smart motorway programme is the way forward’, and that in addition to smart motorways roads could be relieved through more effective freight distribution, including encouraging night-time deliveries and transferring more freight off the road and onto the railways.

Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat) thought there would still be a role for congestion charging as in London, in order to improve air quality, but ‘where I’m much less convinced is on the open road, I think this debate will be overtaken by new technology’, for example ‘by vehicle platooning as a way of increasing road capacity, with convoys of cars or lorries travelling in electronic road trains behind a lead vehicle’.

‘There is an awful lot of new technology coming and, in five years, we will see road pricing as an argument of the past’, she added.

This information has come via a report from Transport Surveyor, although they didn’t actually report what Labour said.

This is an interesting development which links together two of my recent blogs: about ‘Smart Cities’ being about making places work for people rather than the technology suppliers; and on some evidence from the USA which found that people are paying to use ‘fast’ motorway lanes when it doesn’t save them much time, and the poor were paying to do this more than would have been assumed.

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