The Transport Minister Norman Baker has hinted that road tax could be a thing of the past, but before you start planning what to do with that extra bit of cash, he warned motorists that it was likely to be replaced with a ‘pay as you go’ system. The new system would see hundreds of toll roads set up and a pricing plan that would effectively penalise motorists who drive frequently and on motorways, but benefit motorists who only drove on local roads and for less miles. This new pricing system would ensure that drivers would pay for every single mile they drove, meaning that drivers who use their cars less, would be the overall winners.
It is thought that the reason for the scrapping of road tax is the rise of greener and electric cars, causing a fall in Treasury fuel revenues, which has prompted this move towards paying through toll roads. At present, government reports show an estimated cut in fuel revenues of 50% by 2030.There are even talks of a ‘black box’ system for every car to monitor the new charges. Drivers are already being charged for using the M6 motorway and on a few bridges and tunnels, whereas in Europe and America, the use of toll roads is far more widespread.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Baker claimed that all political parties would have to act to make up for the the billions expected to be lost through carbon tax revenues. He assured motorists that the government will not introduce toll roads in this Parliament, but he does want the issue brought forward after 2015. With response to the loss on fuel revenues, Mr Baker said, “The Exchequer is not just going to say, ‘Oh, we’ve lost some money’, they’re going to do something about it. So I think we should actually face up to that now in a mature way as a society and address how we’re going to deal with that. In the medium term, there’s no question that we’re going to have to move towards road-pricing and I would like it to be on a revenue neutral basis for the average motorist.” He added, “So what you pay in using the roads, you get off in road taxes and fuel so that you end up even on it. It wouldn’t be an extra tax, it would be just a different way of raising money. You could have a charge per mile for roads like motorways. You could then offset that by abolishing road tax and by reducing fuel duty so that they would even out.”
Mr Baker said there was no need for the motorist to panic over the proposed changes, “People shouldn’t take fright. This isn’t about charging motorists a whole lot more money.” He also expressed concern for the green lobbyists to regard cars as cleaner and more environmentally sound. “We have to recognise that for the future the car is the friend of the environmentalist. We’ve moved very successfully towards the rollout of electric vehicles and a change to what cars are. They become a form of transport which is contributing to a healthy environment rather than damaging it as it was 20-30 years ago.”
Mr Baker’s comments are seen as ‘hugely significant’ by many in the transport industry, with Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, saying, “This is first time any first frontline politician has said in public a whole load of people have been looking at in private, which are the graphs showing a drop off in revenue as vehicles become more efficient. It’s one of those political realities that no one has been prepared to talk about, so all credit to Norman for raising it, but there are clearly going to be big political acceptability issues. I think the only way it would work is if people are given a choice between paying road charges or paying fuel duty.” Whilst Paul Watters, who works as head of roads policy at the AA, warned that motorists may not trust the reasons for the changes put forward, saying, “They do need to get to grips with this subject, but there will still be large numbers of petrol and diesel cars on the road. And our members tell us they do not trust Governments on road pricing and assurances about such systems being ‘revenue neutral’. No one ever believes it.”
Source: Daily Express