London, 6 June 2005.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Darling's Satellite Road Pricing Scheme is a White Elephant, a Trojan Horse and a Red Herring, say Britain's Drivers.
The ABD today condemned Alastair Darling's plans to track Britains drivers by satellite and charge them per mile.

"Satellite road pricing will be hugely expensive to install, and it`s effect on peoples behaviour have not been properly thought through," said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. "It won`t work - it will be a huge white elephant, and hiding within it is a dark trojan horse for civil liberties, as it means that drivers will be tagged and tracked like criminals. It will just be a giant version of the London Congestion charge - hugely unpopular and full of perceived unfairness and aggravation for drivers."
Many of Britain's roads are congested, that`s true enough. But our rail network simply does not serve the needs of the new population and business centres which have been constructed around an inadequate motorway network. Where they do exist, the railways are also operating at capacity.
"Darling is trying to wave a magic wand at this mess," continued Humphries. "But he is not a fairy godmother — road pricing is just an excuse to delay essential investment in transport infrastructure for another fifteen years. Road pricing is just a great big red herring — another way of blaming drivers for congestion when it`s really down to the investment and planning failures of successive governments."
This scheme is just tinkering with the problem at huge expense. The only way it can cut congestion is to bring in punitive charges which reduce personal mobilty and adversely affect both the economy and people`s quality of life.
The idea should be consigned to the dustbin before any more time is wasted.
Analysis of the Practicalities of Road Pricing
Darling`s scheme involves charging differing amounts per mile with the stated aim of discouraging motorists from using the roads at busy times.
This idea is flawed, not least because people already have a built in time incentive to avoid congestion, so where they can they already are!
The charging can work in two basic ways - varying the charges by time or by route. Neither of these will show significant benefits. It can also have a very simple structure or it can be flexible, which brings a whole new set of problems. Darling and his advisors simply haven`t thought these problems through.
Varying the charge by time, like the London Congestion Charge is just going to charge most people more to sit in the same jams. It has been tried on public transport, with higher peak time rail fairs and concessions only applying off peak. We know it doesn`t work - the peak time trains are still full and the off peak ones empty, because people need to get to work! A full train moves as quickly as an empty train, so there is no built in incentive to travel off peak. With roads, that incentive is already there, so those who can avoid rush hour already do! This means the effect of peak time/off peak charging differences will be much less on the roads than on the railways.
Varying the charge by route, like the M6 Toll, will just mean that people use the cheaper route and that becomes congested, while the more expensive route becomes an empty expressway for the wealthy or the occasional leisure user. That`s exactly what`s happening with the M6 Toll and it means that the overall roadspace is being used less efficiently. Applying this sort of scheme to existing roads will just move the congestion from one place to another and waste everyone`s time in the process!
Bringing in a flexible charge that automatically changes to incentivise the less congested route is doubless seen as the answer to these problems. But it isn`t.
People cannot plan their journeys in advance if they do not how much it is going to cost. The only benefit is in last minute route changes, or leisure trips where there is some time flexibility. The traffic information technology to deliver these choices to drivers is already available and will be universal in ten years.
Road pricing, at a huge cost to both the nation`s finances and its citizens` civil liberties, will do nothing but make the country a less efficient and more unpleasant place.


Notes for Editors