Motorists should pay for using Britain’s roads to cut congestion and reduce pollution, a government-sponsored report on transport after 2015 said on Friday.
Britain should also expand its sea ports and airports, and ensure the cost of using all forms of transport fully included the impact on the environment to help tackle global warming.
The report’s author, former British Airways chief Rod Eddington, said properly targeted and priced road tolls could offer benefits of 28 billion pounds, or $55 billion a year by 2025 and all but torpedo the case for major new road-building.
Without it, some 30 billion pounds would have to be spent on new roads after 2015. Nearly all Britain’s roads are toll-free.
“For me, road pricing is an economic no-brainer,” Eddington told a news conference. “Business as usual is not an option. Implementing these recommendations is essential to maintaining the UK’s current strong economic position.”
Eddington concludes a national road pricing scheme could cut congestion by 50 percent below the 2025 projection and reduce the need for additional road infrastructure by roughly 80 percent.
But the plan did not win complete praise from environmentalists who applauded the conclusions on roads, and pricing in relation to the cost to the environment, but queried his approval of airport expansion.
Just another tax?
Motorists organization the Royal Automobile Club said while road charging could help reduce congestion, it should not simply be an extra tax on drivers.
“It is a mixed bag. There is some good stuff in there ... but allowing aviation to carry on growing is going to put it on a collision course with climate change targets,” Friends of the Earth transport expert Tony Bosworth told Reuters.
Eddington said he agreed with former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern who said in October one of the best ways of promoting environmentally friendly economic growth was to ensure carbon emissions carried a price.
Eddington noted that 61 billion journeys were made each year on Britain’s transport system and the resulting congestion was costing business and households a fortune.
Without positive action road traffic would surge 31 percent and congestion would jump 30 percent by 2025.
The central London daytime congestion charge, which uses cameras, has cut traffic by 22 percent since it came into effect nearly three years ago.
Eddington called for targeted investments to ease road and rail bottlenecks, boost public transport and add to the improvements in traffic flow from congestion-charging, including building more cycle paths and longer train platforms.
However, he said the case for a major expansion of the country’s high-speed rail network was not proven.
“Rail’s energy consumption and carbon emissions increase with speed and this would erode rail’s environmental advantage,” Eddington wrote.