Recent reports from Downing Street suggest that government officials are looking at implementing a new two tier road system, in which drivers are forced to pay higher charges for driving on motorways and A roads. An overhaul of the vehicle excise duty means that this new plan would see a radical two tier system, whereby there is a lower tier for users of small roads and a higher charge for those driving on motorways and other major routes. However, this could mean that only rich motorists will be able to use the fast routes and poorer drivers are forced onto B-roads. The new system will see all motorists paying the first charge which allows them to use local roads and A-roads, but then anyone who wishes to drive on motorways and major A-roads would then have to pay a second charge.
It is thought that this radical measure is in direct response to people purchasing more eco friendly cars that incur a much lower vehicle road tax, something that the government encouraged motorists to take up, but are now regretting, as the Treasury now faces a budget shortfall caused by families switching to these types of cars. A senior Government source confirmed the two-tier idea was one of a number of proposals to reform the vehicle excise duty regime, which raises £6billion a year. However, the AA warned that a two-tier duty system could see motorways become the preserve of wealthier motorists. Spokesman Paul Watters said: “We don’t want a first- and second-class system on the roads. There would certainly be more traffic, and, if enough traffic diverted, it would stick out like a sore thumb. It will lead to slower journeys and more congestion. It will also be an extra nuisance to towns and villages and increase the risk of accidents as A roads become too busy.”
With the government already hammering motorists with the highest fuel prices in Europe, this news is going to be particularly hard to swallow, especially in these supposed times of austerity and it could even force some motorists off the roads entirely. Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said reforming road tax could be acceptable if it led to better journeys for motorists. “Ministers would go a long way to restoring trust among drivers if the proceeds were ring-fenced and ploughed back into road provision,” he added. And if you think you can get away with not paying but still using the main roads then think again, as Big Brother will definitely be watching you! New technology such as automatic number plate recognition – similar to the London congestion charge system, will catch out anyone who has not paid.
So how much do we think we will be paying under such a new scheme? A report from the Institute for Economic Affairs, published today, suggests tolls would be as little as 6p a mile on a new motorway. Dr Richard Wellings, head of transport at the IEA, said: “For too long British drivers have had to pay over the odds for a road network that is simply not up to scratch. It is lamentable that this vital area of infrastructure has been neglected by government after government. Denationalising the network would ensure British motorists had better roads to drive on. It would also be much cheaper and mean an end to the enormous burden of motoring taxes like fuel duty.” A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Government has made clear it will not implement tolls on existing road capacity and has no plans to replace existing motoring taxes with pay-as-you-go road charging.” He said the roads review was looking at increasing capacity and boosting economic growth.
Meanwhile, judging from the response from the general public to this news, people are definitely not in favour!