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Time to put a brake on road-pricing inaccuracies

16 February 2007
Press release issued jointly by Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth

The anti-road charging petition on the 10 Downing Street website has provoked a lot of debate. Sadly, much of the information in the petition and associated emails encouraging sign-up, and on the websites of groups supporting the petition, is inaccurate.

Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth have prepared this media briefing to clear up some of the inaccuracies. We believe that road pricing could play an important role in reducing congesting if a scheme were joined with improvements in public transport to tackle climate change. The success of the anti road pricing petition is an indication of people’s fears, not an indication of the public’s views on road pricing. Indeed, a recent survey showed 87 per cent of businesses support the principle of road pricing [1].

Jason Torrance, Transport 2000’s campaigns director, says:

"We need facts, not fiction or scare-mongering, to guide future plans to tackle congestion and improve public transport. The Government must answer concerns about road pricing by announcing that any future scheme would give people real travel choices, with increased investment for public transport to tackle climate change."

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth’s senior transport campaigner, says:

"Road pricing can play a significant role in tackling Britain’s transport problems. But it must be used to cut its growing contribution to climate change, as well as congestion. Road pricing should be part of a package of measures including greater investment in public transport, safer streets for cycling and walking and better land-use planning. Building more roads and widening motorways will lead to increases in traffic, congestion and emissions of carbon dioxide. We need sustainable solutions to the transport challenges of the 21st century."

Clearing up the inaccuracies

They say the Government should "scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy" [2]

But the fact is no policy is in place.

The government has provided funding for 10 areas of England to develop proposals for schemes that tackle congestion with measures such as road pricing together with better public transport. These proposals may lead in summer 2007 to pilot schemes with extra funding from government [3].

They say The scheme will be a "massive increase in tax" and "the tracking device will cost about £200"[4]

But the fact is no charges have been set and no equipment has been chosen.

They say "It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs" [5]

But the fact is over half the poorest households in the country don’t have a car.[6]

Poor people rely on public transport and walking to get around. Road pricing could be a progressive tax, if revenue was ring-fenced for investment in better buses and trains. Data shows that richer households travel further by car [7].

They say "Road Pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel - the more tax you pay" [8]

But the fact is the cost of motoring has fallen by 8% in real terms since 1997.

Since 1997, bus fares have risen by 14% and rail fares by 5% [9]. Fuel duty has not increased in line with inflation since 2000, with only 1.25p added for the first time in Dec 2006. Tax, as a percentage of the fuel price, has fallen consistently since 2000, and is at its lowest since 1991 [10].

They say "You will be tracked. Somebody will know where you are at all times”; this is an “Orwellian plan", an attack on "freedom and democratic rights" [11]

But the fact is there have been no decisions about how the scheme would track people’s driving.

Providing more road space can generate more traffic meaning that the extra space just fills up again, meaning more congestion, and more carbon dioxide emissions. This will exacerbate the problem, and take us in the wrong direction for meeting our climate change targets. When parts of the M25 were widened to 4 lanes in the 1990s, some parts were as busy again only one year after the extra lane was opened [12].

They say "Man-made global warming, albeit non-existent, has been seized on by politicians to justify anti-car policies" [13]

But the fact is the international scientific community is in consensus that global warming is man made, and requires international action to tackle it. Road transport accounts for 21 per cent of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide [14], the main gas causing climate change. The transport sector is also the only sector where emissions are rising.

Post release note

Stephen Joseph OBE, Executive Director of Transport 2000, was asked to share his views on road pricing on the 10 Downing Street website. Read his comments here.

 

References

1. British Chambers of Commerce press release, 20 November 2006 http://www.chamberonline.co.uk/YSNNg55oarMi4g.html

2. Online petition, on the Number 10 website: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/traveltax/

3. Transport Innovation Fund Pump Priming, DfT, November 2006 http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/statements/transportinnov...

4. Email circulating to encourage sign up. Full text available from Transport 2000.

5. Online petition. See reference 2

6. Transport Trends 2005, published by DfT January 2006 , paragraph 4.2

http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/190425/220778/trends2007a.pdf

7. National Travel Survey 2005 (joint ONS / DFT publication) published Oct 2006, Table 5.5 http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221531/223955/223958/NTS2005p...

8. Online petition. See reference 2

9. Written Answer by Gillian Merron MP on 14th December 2006

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm061214/text...

10. Transport Statistics Great Britain, DfT and ONS, November 2006, Section 3, Table 3.3: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/tsgb/edition...

and Transport Statistics Great Britain, DfT and ONS, 1996 Edition, Table 2.4: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/tsgb/edition...

11. Email circulating to encourage sign up. See reference 4

12. The M25 ORBIT Multi Modal Study showed that the widening between junctions 9 and 10 were full within a year.

13. Website of the Association of British Drivers, a group strongly supporting the petition: www.abd.org.uk

14. Transport Statistics Great Britain 2005, Table 3.7, DfT October 2005

http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_transstats/documents/page/dft_...