Given the apparent public hostility to any suggestion of road user charging ITC has sought to uncover just what the public really think when presented with the facts and a range of possible solutions.
The headline findings include the following:
- When armed with the facts, there is less public support for maintaining the status quo than is commonly believed. Of those polled, 65% supported some new form of paying for road use in the light of declining revenue from fuel duty
- No options for reform of paying for road use are wholly rejected, including charging per mile and a new charge for using motorways as alternatives to fuel duty. There was also significant support by higher motorway mileage users (34% of drivers polled) for paying a congestion charge partly on the grounds that it would free up road space for those paying
- Citizens are much more willing to consider new forms of paying for road use when properly informed and when the full context is explained. They also have a preference for funding choices where they retain some control – such as peak hour only charges or different rates between local roads and motorways – rather than blanket measures such as area charging or general income tax increases
- Concerns about equity and fairness are clearly important issues for the public and need to be adequately addressed if any reform is to be widely welcomed. However, although measures to reduce carbon emissions were supported, this was not a strong influence on personal choices.
Steve Norris, former Transport Minister and chairman of the ITC Working Group, commented: "There is a potential black hole in the public finances as motoring taxes pay for more than our national roads. To a significant extent they also pay for schools and hospitals, so governments will shortly be facing the unpalatable political reality of either having to reduce public spending significantly or raising additional taxes elsewhere, unless they engage seriously with how the country pays for its roads and road use. As rapid progress in technology brings down the infrastructure costs of creating a charging regime and the use of travel information expands the traditional hurdles to road pricing on the national strategic road network decrease.”