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August 31, 2010 / clayliesstill

Road pricing: RAC v ABD (is this balance?)

New toll roads are the coalition Tories’ plan for using that wise but ferocious beast, the market, to alleviate road congestion. Unfortunately the only example seems to be abjectly failing to either make money or alleviate congestion.

Campaign for Better Transport‘s report suggests that the M6 toll road wasn’t quite performing to the financial expectations of its investors. Only around half as many people are using the road as was originally predicted. “Astonishing!” I hear the assembled multitude yell, “modelled outcomes from a transport intervention not being realised.”

The Today Programme decided to cover the story by holding a head to head on road pricing between the RAC Foundation and that group of moon-howlers, the Association of British Drivers. Perhaps the Campaign for Better Transport can be satisfied that they have got the issue of road pricing discussed on Today. RAC support for road pricing is, however, tempered by its enthusiasm for new roads and for road pricing to be an exact exchange for present motoring taxation. The ABD, of course, just want to be able to drive over every inch of the country’s massively subsidised road network at zero cost to themselves. Is this really a balanced debate?

The ABD speaker got in to a wonderful muddle at the end of the debate. He admitted that the French system of péage motorways was acceptable, but only because it allowed drivers to continue to use the existing road network for free. Then, without drawing breath, he related that in Britain this would mean people being pushed off motorways and using the more unsafe A-road network instead, leading to more crashes. This seems to be a good argument to have road pricing over the whole road network, not just motorways. And anyway, if the ABD is so interested in safety, why does it oppose speed cameras and lower speed limits?

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