The Government has confirmed that road tolling scheme trials will begin in early 2009. It is currently recruiting drivers to take part in its tests.
The trials could result in charges of up to £1.30 a mile to drive on the country’s most congested roads. The system being tested involves fitting a GPS tracking device to the vehicles of volunteer drivers.
This system will automatically deduct payments from a specified account, depending on when and where the cars travel. Drivers would be able to check their balance and statements online.
The trials will take place at four locations around the UK with BT, Trafficmaster and T-Systems – the German company responsible for collecting autobahn tolls – reportedly involved.
Previous Government statements suggested ministers had abandoned the controversial road tolling plans in the wake of the financial crisis and Gordon Brown’s unpopularity in opinion polls.
But yesterday Paul Clark, the Transport Minister, admitted the trials would proceed. “If we sit back and do nothing you can be sure that economic growth will lead to gridlock,” the minister insisted. Clark said the trials would help create a “tool” for local authorities to adopt.
In the short-term, the automatic tolling system would be used to collect existing road charges, including the London and possible Manchester congestion charge.. It could also be used for paying to drive in new express lanes on motorways and crossing toll bridges.
Further into the future, government-funded feasibility studies have recommended that the system be used to charge for using all roads at varying rates.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has appointed four companies to test the road-tolling systems, according to a report in the Times. The small-scale trials will cost £4 million.