The Freight Transport Association says that a number of essential conditions must be fulfilled before it can support any local road pricing scheme. At its Urban Logistics Conference held in London today (11 March) FTA published a summary paper Road pricing schemes in England, which examined the ten current prospective schemes which have been awarded grants from the Government's Transport Innovation Fund in order to assess the viability of local road pricing or congestion schemes.
Last week (4 March) the Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly effectively ruled out the prospect of any national road pricing scheme in the foreseeable future but suggested that local schemes under present consideration by local authorities, in conjunction with new investment in public transport, should go ahead.
The author of the report, Stephen Kelly, FTA's Head of Urban Access said, 'Commercial deliveries are essential services and while the transport industry does all that it can to provide those services competitively, increased transport costs must ultimately be reflected in the price which the end customer pays. Local road pricing schemes could, in some cases, bring benefits to commercial deliveries, and thus the consumer, but must never be viewed as a panacea to the problems of congestion. And there can be no doubt that any road pricing scheme will need to have been preceded by road infrastructure and public transport improvements, together with an open-minded attitude to the social aspects of personal travel, including school hours, flexible or home working, and, for industry, night delivery opportunities.'
FTA has identified a number of essential conditions which must be fulfilled by schemes in order to gain its support:
A road pricing scheme must be a part of a mix of actions to tackle congestion, including improved school transport, relaxation of delivery curfews, alternatives for journeys to work, discounts and incentives for the adoption of environmental good practice.
The purpose of any road pricing scheme must be to reduce congestion, not to raise revenue. Any scheme proposed must demonstrate the benefits of reduced congestion to be at least equal to the costs of the scheme to business.
The technology used must be inter-operable with any other scheme implemented in the UK and the rest of the EU.
There must be the ability to measure the costs and benefits.
Evaluation of local schemes should include the impact on deliveries to businesses in the charged area and the consequential impact on the periphery of the charging zone.
Kelly said, 'Commercial vehicle operation is fundamental to the daily life of the entire population of the UK. We all rely on daily deliveries to shops, offices, schools, restaurants, homes and virtually every other location. It is in the best interests of us all that such operations are carried out efficiently and economically. Any future road pricing scheme must recognise that reality and seek to provide for the needs of commercial vehicles, rather than to unreasonably restrict or inhibit them.'
The paper assesses proposals from Cambridge, Durham, East Midlands, Bristol, Manchester, Norwich, Reading, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands and Shropshire.
The Freight Transport Association represents the transport interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. FTA members operate over 220,000 goods vehicles – almost half the UK fleet. In addition they consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight.