Members of Parliament have pledged to start “a national debate” about the introduction of pay-per-mile road charging and other road pricing schemes.
The cross-party House of Commons Transport Select Committee will launch an official investigation into road pricing early next year and says that it wants “drivers and non-drivers” to start discussing the matter ahead of this.
MPs haven't looking into the prospect of a national road pricing scheme for more than a decade, but the Committee now wants to consider the prospect again. This is because, it says, there's a need to decarbonise the transport network, tackle congestion and “encourage modal shift to alternative forms of transport” where appropriate.
It also notes that the £40 billion annual income from Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) is likely to decline sharply – or end entirely – if government goals to make road transport carbon-free within two decades come to fruition.
The Committee said the investigation will consider the positive and negative aspects of road pricing, including economic, environmental and social impacts. It will study existing schemes at local and national levels in the UK and overseas. It notes that the concept of road pricing isn't limited to tolls but could include congestion charges, an HGV levy, workplace parking charges and the introduction of clean air zones.
Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Committee and shadow transport secretary, said: “It’s been almost ten years since the last real discussion of national road pricing. In that time, we have become much more aware of the dangers of air pollution and congestion. Parliament declared a climate emergency in May, and local councils have begun to do the same. This requires a serious response, including rethinking how we manage our road network.
“We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole. We need to ask how we will pay for roads in the future, and in answering that question, we have an opportunity for a much wider debate about our use of road space, cutting carbon emissions, tackling congestion, modal shift and how we prioritise active travel.”
Greenwood insisted that the prospect of pay-per-mile road charging isn't “about pricing drivers off the road,” adding: “It’s about making sure that as many people as possible have a say in future plans so that we can manage the changes to come. The Transport Committee wants to kick-start this conversation.”