Road pricing: More new roads could be funded by tolls

M6 toll road gates The report is expected to be ready in the new year

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A plan to fund new roads using tolls which drivers would pay to private companies is to be included in the coalition's new policy agenda.

A recently approved upgrade to the A14 in Cambridgeshire could be the first building project funded by tolls.

The policy programme - for the second half of the coalition - is expected to be set out in the new year.

A spokesman said the DfT was looking at tolling schemes to fund "new capacity in very limited circumstances".

In the Autumn Statement earlier this month, Chancellor George Osborne announced that a feasibility study would be carried out by the Department for Transport.

It will explore whether private sector companies could own new roads and how new road building projects could be funded.

The spokesman said the government had made a "clear commitment" not to toll parts of the existing road network and that position "has not changed".

He added: "We have always said we would look at schemes which would fund significant new capacity through tolling. This would be in very limited circumstances and only where schemes deliver new roads or transform an existing road literally beyond all recognition."

Massive taxation

More than 20 national road building schemes have been approved by the government, and currently only the A14 improvement scheme is being considered for tolling.

Start Quote

There's something in the region of £50bn taken in road-related taxes every year and the government spends a small fraction of that on the roads”

End Quote Peter Roberts Alliance of British Drivers

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said road tolling was seen by its supporters "as a more sophisticated way of charging motorists for using the roads than vehicle excise and fuel duty".

Our correspondent added: "Tolling can take account of where and when a driver is using certain roads, but road tolls are a very visible charge and likely to prove rather tricky to sell to a largely sceptical electorate."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said the government was looking for radical solutions to the "chronic problems" of congestion and rising traffic levels due to population growth and under-investment.

"As always the devil will be in the detail. Who would be the winners and losers under a change of regulation and would the already massive amount of tax taken from motorists rise overall?" he said.

"Drivers rightly feel they are already been squeezed and any change has to deliver real benefits not just more financial misery."

In 2007, about 1.8 million people registered their objection to road-pricing in a petition on the Downing Street website.

Peter Roberts, from the Alliance of British Drivers which organised the petition, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that tolls would be a political disaster.

"There's something in the region of £50bn taken in road-related taxes every year and the government spends a small fraction of that on the roads, so it's not as if we're not paying for the roads already," he said.

"It's not fair that at the moment that the government should take such a massive amount of tax in road-related taxation and spend such a pitiful amount on the roads."

There are already examples of tolls on the UK road network, such as the London congestion charge and at the Dartford Crossing.

The M6 Toll road, which aims to alleviate the increasing congestion on the M6 through Birmingham and the Black Country, opened in 2003.

In March, the prime minister David Cameron called for an "urgent" increase in private investment to improve England's road network.

He said tolls for new roads were one option, alongside attracting more money from pension funds and other investors.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    I find it hilarious that people still get caught up in this illusionary left/right paradigm. Voting Labour in will not fix anything, just like voting the Conservatives made no difference. Their boundaries are one of the same.

    Stop voting these vermin in. Hit the reset button and start again with the sole intention of running this country for the masses instead of a very small % of the population

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    Forget upgrading the A14. Complete dualling the A1, our premier road. Between Newcastle and Edinburgh most of it is single carriageway. It links the capitals of Scotland and England Westminster dummies! No wonder the Scots feel discriminated against.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    We already pay for new roads, it's called road tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    To all those mumbling about 'road tax'. Please note this has not existed since 1937. The fact of the matter is 'peak car' has arrived and there is simply too many motor vehicles chasing too little room. We cannot as a nation continue to concrete over our land chasing empty dream of motorised transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    I'm fed up with this con-dem car-boot sale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    This the thin end of the wedge, the next move I suppose by this pathetic government will be to privatise the road network. Anything to help their friends by raising taxes.I suppose Osbourne wants to push this through quickly so that he has money for a tax give away in 2015. Don't be fooled!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    I usually travel 50 miles a day for work, and must carry equipment for my job. I am required to travel to sites all over the country to resolve critical customer issues. I am fed up of idiots telling me I should use public transport or "move closer to work", neither of which are viable. I think that this idea would be a disaster for any government that enacted it - that "one step too far". Think!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    If the Govt want to raise extra money to build more roads why dont they raise petrol duty but ringfence the extra money that can then be spent on extra roads. This will not incur any additional administrative cost to raise the money whereas tolls will require hundreds of bureaucrats to design and thousands of people to collect the tolls, cause congestion at toll booths and local roads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    My wife and I both pay £120 a year in road tax and whoknows how much in tax on petrol. Why isn't this being spent on the roads?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    A simple question for the government.

    How much money is raised in road tax ?
    How much money is raised in fuel duty?
    How much money is spend in Roads?

    I bet a LOT MORE is raised than we spend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.


    We started having to use grass as a staple food a long time ago.

    Bread, beer and rice don't grow on trees.

    The problem is WE are the fodder for the people who tell you they are a 'government'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    I work for a large PLC in the Motor Trade. We are not allowed to use any Toll roads due to the cost. I doubt the business I work for is different from most others, so how on earth do we expect more privately owned roads to help the situation?

    I resent payinging the ridiculous costs already for driving. I'll be damned if I'm paying any more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    Population growth = madness when most people are already under employed.
    They intend to build another half a million houses in the Green Belt. The roads into the citys are already unable to carry the traffic. For example, they will need another A6 in S Manchester. To do this they will have to knock down hundreds of buildings because every available space is already built on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    Where has the road fund licence money gone? Where does it go?

    you're a bit behind the times, Road Tax was scrapped in 1937 & replaced with Vehicle Excise Duty which does not (& never has) directly funded roads

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    Tolls on new roads perhaps as we have a choice to use them. For mere upgrades no. We are taxed already for that. Sadly this is unoriginal thinking borne of lazy but hugely expensive planning and politics to just raise tax under pretence. Plus tolls are expensive because they are expensive to collect, do not lead to traffic reduction, merely traffic redirection, and cause jams. Tolls are stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    The major problem with the toll roads not working is because there is a free alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    yes yes yes
    it's not called Road Tax anymore......
    it's called VED, however it is charged for owning a vehicle that expels carbon emissions to be used on a public road
    So name Road Tax may not be 100% correct.
    but it is a TAX charged for having a carbon emitting vehicle on a public ROAD..... Road tax is quite fitting really IMO

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    It is astonishing how quickly the 'Big Society', transformed back into the 'Big Steal'. But we should have been forwarned by the history of the Tory party over the last 150 years - honesty and integrity have never been Conservative principles! Scammongering, rack-renting and wholesale fraud are the bedrock of 'conservative' practice worldwide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    The question is would you rather pay for new roads via taxes or via tolls. Taxes share the burden, tolls charge the actual users. I can't get hugely excited either way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    How about 'New roads funded by your taxes, as it's supposed to be, and we'll take a slightly smaller bonus this year'? Wouldn't that be a refreshing headline...


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