UK

Motorists want action on roads and tax, survey says

A busy motorway
Image caption The cost of motoring has risen much faster than other living costs, according to the RAC

The rising cost of driving and the "pitiful" state of Britain's roads should prompt a review of the way motorists are taxed, the RAC has said.

More than three quarters of the 1,542 drivers who took part in the motoring group's annual survey said the UK's roads were deteriorating.

The RAC said some tax from drivers should be "ring-fenced for roads" to stop them becoming "one big pothole".

The Department for Transport said it had spent extra money on roads.

The top concern for drivers was the cost of motoring, with 46% choosing it as their most serious driving problem.

The report said that while the cost of living in the UK had gone up by almost 125% since 1989, many motoring costs had risen much faster, with fuel costing 303% more and the combined cost of tax and insurance up 344%.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, warned that people on the lowest incomes were "drowning under the weight of motoring costs".

He said: "The government's recent freeze on fuel duty, while welcome, is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic - ultimately futile."

The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol was less than 39p in 1989 and more than £1.34 in 2013, the report stated.

The report also found 84% of motorists believed the condition of their local roads was deteriorating, while 75% said the motorways and other main roads had got worse.

RAC technical director David Bizley said motorists and roads had both been left "battle-scarred" by the "burden of extreme financial conditions" since the last survey a year ago.

"Despite this, motorists are willing to pay their taxes, but want the balance of levies to reflect how they live and how the use their vehicle," he said.

Mr Bizley said drivers would prefer to be taxed more on things they can control, such as whether they use motorways or drive into town centres.

About a third of the drivers surveyed supported more tax in these areas, while just 6% and 5% backed increased fuel duty or road tax. By contrast 77% wanted lower fuel duty and just 16% wanted congestion charges cut.

'Massive decline'

The RAC said the Treasury collected more than £40bn in motoring taxes each year but spent just 22% of that on improving and maintaining roads - and the report called for more investment.

"The RAC believes that without this investment the government will be responsible for overseeing a massive decline in the state of our highways which negatively affects consumers and businesses alike, stalls the economy and stores up a huge bill for future tax payers," the report said.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "The government is providing councils in England with more than £3bn between 2011 and 2015 to maintain their highways."

The spokesman said an extra £215m investment was announced in December, following £200m additional funding given to councils in March 2011 to assist with repairs after the freezing winter.

"It is ultimately up to local highway authorities to determine how they prioritise their funding," the spokesman added.

Motorways and major A roads are maintained by the Highways Agency, an executive agency of the DfT, while other roads are the responsibility of local councils.

The RAC survey also revealed 92% consider themselves to be law-abiding motorists - but 65% admit to breaking the 70mph limit on motorways.

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