The Freight Transport Association says that any localised road pricing scheme in the West Midlands following on to the 'Gridlock or Growth' report absolutely must be cost neutral with no more charges on road users than they are paying at present. Choices for the local distribution of goods are very limited – virtually all are restricted to delivery by road. Any regional road pricing scheme must recognise both the importance of freight to the regional economy and to the consumer, and the fact that goods cannot be moved by train or public transport – only by road.
FTA says that any attempt to reduce the movement of goods by imposing artificially high prices is a dead end policy – all that it would achieve would be to increase operating costs for industry and thus increase prices for consumers. Freight moves as a consequence of demand and the practical options for limiting that movement only apply to the time or day of delivery.
FTA's Head of Policy for the West Midlands, Stephen Kelly says, 'There can be no doubt that we need to carefully consider both the current realities of our road congestion problems and the way in which they are going to impact on the movement of people and goods in the coming years.
'But, as far as goods are concerned, reducing their movement by very much is almost impossible. Freight moves because someone, somewhere has a need for those goods to be delivered.
'FTA supports better demand management of road space by pricing. But this must be a variation on the current process and cost, certainly not additional taxation.
'Any future scheme must be able to operate alongside other similar regional schemes in a simple fashion – we really must have a joined-up construction of the different pilot schemes which are being floated. At the same time we must have a clear charge criteria which does not end up with an even higher cost than is being paid at present. Above all, the scheme must be fair. Any proposed scheme that fails to meet these criteria will be unacceptable.'
'Gridlock or Growth – Choices and Challenges for the Future' was published by seven local authorities in the West Midlands in September. The 12,000 member company Freight Transport Association has now submitted its formal response to the paper.