The Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that the success of UK industry is dependent upon its continuing ability to deliver goods on time and access to reliable networks for its vehicles. He said that road congestion is a very serious and growing threat to individual companies and to the whole UK economy. As such, the ultimate introduction of road pricing in order to manage the demand for road space is a necessity and an inevitability. However, road pricing should not be the first nor only action we should take.
Chief Executive Richard Turner made these remarks at the FTA Freight Summit 2007, held at The Institution of Civil Engineers in London today (Thursday 1 March).
Turner listed road building to ease congestion blackspots, motorway widening, night deliveries, changes in school hours, daylight saving, better public transport and home working amongst a range of both transport and social policy actions all required before the road pricing trigger should be pulled.
He rejected the suggestion made during the recent public debate that all vehicles would be paying up to £1.40 per mile on all roads. He said, 'If road pricing is introduced and we all end up paying the maximum rate because, in the absence of any alternative, we are all using the same road at the same time, then we might raise a lot of money but will have totally missed the target – the reduction of congestion.'
For business and industry the equation was simple. 'If you pay a £5 fee and get £6 of value from reduced journey time and more reliable deliveries, then industry will vote for road pricing. If, however, you pay a £5 fee and get just £4 of value then industry, and indeed all road users, will reject the plan.
'Road pricing, by itself, will not solve the congestion crisis. But if it is used sensibly and sensitively, after a whole range of positive investment and policy decisions on the operation of the roads network have been put into effect, then it can influence the behaviour of a key percentage of road users and convert a gridlocked motorway into a free-flowing, efficient road.'
Mr Turner said that roads congestion was a blight on British industry and our supply chains, wasting millions of man hours and billions of pounds every year. There was no single golden bullet to solve the problem but the current Government, and all future governments, owed it to industry and the economy to pursue a wide range of initiatives, including both more investment into the transport infrastructure in order to provide road and rail networks fit for the twenty-first century, and the development of demand management techniques.