British drivers will be forced to pay road tolls within four years using a charge-card system, according to Department for Transport documents uncovered by Autocar.
The roll-out of tolls in late 2008 (hinted at last month by Transport minister Alistair Darling) looks like it will coincide with motorway widening schemes as well as a radical overhaul of company car taxation and road tax charges in a ‘big-bang’ re-alignment of motoring in the UK.
The first confirmation that mass road charging is now a done deal was found in an obscure Department for Transport document called ‘Open Minimum Interoperability Specification Suite’.
Issued in July this year, OMISS details the technical requirements for anybody building the electronic ‘on-board units’ (OBU) that will be mounted inside the car. The DfT says these OBUs have to be able to communicate with a standard overhead charging gantries, similar to those used on continental motorways.
It’s expected that the OBUs will accommodate a charge card that will have money deducted from it every time the vehicle passes a charging point.
The system also breaks down all UK vehicles into one of seven categories including three for goods vehicles, ‘small and large cars’ and motorcycles.
It’s also become clear that this is a pan-European scheme. An obscure group known as CESARE has already established a ‘common electronic fee collection system’ for future European road-tolling, making it possible to charge vehicles from one end of Europe to the other.
It’s thought that the DfT’s ‘tag-and-beacon’ system will be rolled out in London’s expanded congestion charge zone.