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The Road Ahead – Paved with gold??

November 7, 2011


Montrose, Scotland – There are some things that simple will not go away…

Yes folks road charging and tolling is back on the agenda. Actually its never gone away simple been on gardening leave since the concept was kicked into touch by the Labour Government in March 2010.

Oh how we cheered, proposals for urban congestion charging dropped and plans for a pay-as-you-drive national road pricing scheme abandoned. Happy days are here again Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) i.e. road tax rules ok!

Then only weeks after the May 2010 UK General Election the downer. With the Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition in power and their respective leaders, Nick ‘Romeo’ Clegg and David ‘The Boy’ Cameron, doing a buddy buddy act we got an inkling of what is to come. The Liberal Democrats: “we will implement a road pricing scheme within 10 years of taking office”. The Conservatives: “we will back specific tolls for new roads”.

Step forward Roads Minister, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mike “The Bike” Penning MP. Who only a couple of weeks ago urged road construction “people” attending an event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the completion of the M25 motorway to: “think outside the box to get more roads schemes off the ground”.

So what did Mike mean? Is it a coincidence that only a few days after Mike spoke a new road advocacy group emerges?

Welcome to The Road Ahead Group. Well actually welcome to Interel Consulting UK and the Director of Road Ahead, Mr Brian Wadsworth, formerly Director of Strategic Roads, Planning and National Networks at the UK Department of Transport.

So what’s going on? Well the Freight Transport Association, May Gurney Integrated Services plc, Vinci plc, Ringway/Eurovia Group Ltd, Midland Expressway Ltd and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP have got together to form a pressure group advocating a “new approach to investment in the strategic road network”.  A “new approach to investment in the strategic road network” is that PR speak for road pricing and tolling?

Of course the Road Ahead Group have produced a report, as ever an essential “tool” in an advocacy campaign. In this case its called “Moving On: Fairer Motoring Taxes and Investment for Growth and Jobs”.

The report advocates:-

A new deal for motorists would give drivers who travel off-peak and on less congested roads a discount off their next vehicle excise duty payment.

Rural and off-peak motorists would qualify for the maximum discount when they renew their annual tax disc. Driving occasionally at peak times on congested sections would mean a lower discount, while frequent users of peak capacity would use up their discount entitlements and pay the full rate of duty.

All drivers would still be able to go anywhere, any time – the decision would be up to them.

The discount entitlements used for peak travel would be paid directly into a new “network capacity fund”, to be used solely for investment to improve Britain’s overcrowded road network.

The new system would be monitored by a linked system of cameras, as used for the central London congestion charge.

In a nutshell and in plain speak. When you buy your VED you will be given a number of “discount points” these have a monetary value. You can choose to drive on non congested roads where you don’t have  spend your “discount points” in which case the next time you buy your VED you will receive a discount on the cost to the value of your “discount points”. If you chose to drive on congested roads you will have to pay, using your “discount points”, in which case you will not receive a discount on your next VED. The value of “discount points” used on congested roads will be paid by the Government into the “network capacity fund” which will be used to build more roads.

So is this:-

a) All about  reducing congestion, improving road capacity and rewarding users for smarter use of the roads network. Plus ensuring a nice little income for Road Ahead supporters.


b) A disguised attempt to get all the road side infrastructure and back office support set up to introduce road charging and tolling by the back door. Thus ensuring a nice little income for Road Ahead supporters.

You choose.

Safe riding.


© Back Roads Rider 2011

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    November 8, 2011 8:32 am

    Brilliant, a new way to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Either go on the main roads and use up your discount vouchers or go the long way round and use more fuel, either way the govt get your cash.

    How about we stop developing new roads, we stop trying to manage capacity and we let people sit in traffic for hours on end until they come to the conclusion that driving everywhere isn’t the best idea? Yes, it might take a decade or two but then so do most major network schemes. And in the mean time all the sensible people on bikes will just carry on as normal, demonstrating quietly and efficiently that two wheels are the best choice.

  2. Teapot permalink
    November 12, 2011 7:27 pm

    We can be efficient and keep moving in congestion, but let’s not kid ourselves that we are unaffected. Riding through congestion is slow, more dangerous than in the normal traffic flow and takes a lot of concentration, which is tiring and stressful. Where we score highly is in urban situations, which is not what the road building programmeis about. I don’t believe that there is any real solution to the problem (apart from my often stated one of shooting every third motorist), but I object to what is essentially financial rationing, designed to get poor people out of the way of all those overpaid bankers and finance workers.

    Mmmm, maybe someone should look into taking my solution seriously 😉


  1. El Camino – The Road

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