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Roads to Nowhere

Lorry road pricing good for economy and environment, says new research

15 June 2007
Leading environmental campaign group Transport 2000 [1] is today calling on the Government to move ahead on national road pricing by introducing a national scheme for lorries.

Research published today by the group, using the freight model used by the Government, shows that a lorry road pricing scheme could improve the efficiency of road freight, almost double rail freight and also increase coastal shipping and the use of northern ports.

The research, carried out by consultants MDS Transmodal [2], assumed that road haulage would pay its full environmental and social costs through a distance charge scheme on all roads, with different charges for different types of road and different levels of congestion. The lowest charges would be on motorways, to encourage lorries to use these rather than local roads. The research found that:

 

  • Some international freight would switch from South East England ports to those in Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East
  • Rail freight would more than double and would grow to nearly a fifth of total freight (currently it's about 10%)
  • The environmental costs of road freight would be tablilised

Stephen Joseph, Transport 2000’s executive director, said national leadership was needed: "We want to see the Government move ahead on road pricing, because we want to see real alternatives to road building and increasing traffic. So far, despite all the words, the Government is relying on local councils to implement pilots. This research shows there could be real benefits from lorry road pricing, so we’d like to see the Government introduce a national lorry road pricing scheme now. It would help level the playing field with foreign lorries, so they would have to pay to use Britain’s roads, and it could move a lot of freight on to rail and water. We know the Government considered this idea before – we’d like to see them revisit it with a less complex scheme."

 

But the study also suggests that charging schemes would have to be designed properly. The study found that some kinds of distance charging could increase lorry mileage and carbon emissions because of drivers taking longer routes to use the cheaper roads. Transport 2000 is concerned about this. Stephen Joseph said: "This underlines the need to make sure that road pricing supports and promotes carbon reduction and doesn’t just tackle congestion.".  

Notes to editors

[1] Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.

[2] MDS Transmodal is an independent consultancy that conducts economic and commercial studies in the transport sector, specialising particularly in freight transport including shipping, ports, road and rail, logistics and distribution. http://www.mdst.co.uk

[3] The Government abandoned a lorry road pricing scheme in July 2005 citing complexity issues and the need to integrate lorries into a wider national scheme.