A majority of the public are open to various forms of road user charging, a transport think tank has claimed.
The Independent Transport Commission (ITC) said its research found that 65% of people polled supported some new form of paying for road use ‘in the light of declining revenue from fuel duty’ - however the figure includes the 11% who expressed a preference for an increase in general tax.
The research invited people to choose from a range of funding options, including various forms of road charging (54%), no change (25%), an increase in basic tax (11%) and higher fuel duty (10%).
People were surprised that more than half of the revenue from motoring went into general expenditure, ITC claimed, and two thirds thought the Government should spend more of this revenue on transport, with an element of ring-fencing.
The ITC also pointed out that the current £32bn a year raised from fuel duty, which also funds police, schools and hospitals, is ‘fast diminishing’ as more fuel-efficient vehicles enter the market, adding that people were ‘much more willing to consider new forms of paying for road use when properly informed and when the full context is explained’.
It found that people prefer funding options that are seen to give some control over choices: ‘Thus peak charges or choices between local roads and motorways are more popular than blanket measures such as area charging or income tax increases.’
Steve Norris, former transport minister and chairman of the ITC working group on paying for road use, said: '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.’