London, 9th June 2003.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Darling's Satellite Road Charging Proposals Make British Families into Scapegoats for Government's Transport Policy Failings
Yet again the Government ducks the real transport issues — investment and planning.
The ABD today slams Alastair Darling's proposals for road tolls based on satellite tracking as harmful to the economy, bad for families, impractical and damaging to civil liberties.
Congestion on Britain's roads exists because successive governments have mismanaged both roads and railways, failing to invest in infrastructure and leaving Britain with the worst transport system in Europe.
For many years, housing and commercial development has been built around the motorway network with little thought given to the inevitable traffic growth consequences.
Increasing tendencies for both parents to work in specialised jobs and to change them more often, together with the high cost of moving house and the difficulty of getting children into good schools have lead to much increased commuting distances for many family breadwinners.
Britain's transport system has been taken for granted — no wonder it is groaning under the strain.
"Once again the government has ducked the real issues and resorted to scapegoating motorists for its own policy shortcomings," says the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "They just seem to think people use the roads for no reason and that they can change this behaviour without any consequences. The answer to congestion is to look at ways of reducing people's need to travel, not to obstruct them when they do."
People use the roads for a purpose — and they use them in the most efficient way for them — they dont sit in jams deliberately — and distorting this by trying to change people's behaviour can only reduce this efficiency as people try to avoid the higher charges. This would harm the economy on a national basis.
Whilst there would be winners — those in rural areas who use their cars off peak — people who earn a living need to travel at certain times. An economy that penalises its families and breadwinners is foolish in the extreme.
It's worth pointing out that trains have differential fares to discourage peak time use but they are still congested at peak times because that's when people need to travel.
There are also many practical problems with the proposals. To be effective at changing peoples behaviour, the charges would have to be simple and predictable so that people could plan their journeys. However, to truly charge people accurately for contributing to congestion they would have to be flexible — otherwise we run the risk of simply moving the congestion to other times or other roads.
This proposal also raises serious civil liberties concerns — we wouldn't accept being tagged and tracked as people — after all that is a punishment for criminals — so why should we accept being tagged as motorists?
So the ABD would urge Mr Darling to think again — to stop trying to force motorists to change their behaviour and instead to invest in proper roads and railways and have a really good think about ways to reduce people's need to travel — improve efficiency rather than penalise it!


Notes for Editors