Road pricing best for congestion, say engineers


'Efficient road pricing offers the single best way to tackle road congestion', says the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Its first-ever ‘challenge paper’ looks at 20 possible policy and technology initiatives that can help reduce hold ups on road and rail transport by 2030, and assesses their value for money.

Road pricing, it says, is 'technically viable today' and, if properly designed, can be implemented in a 'cost effective and equitable way'.

But the Academy acknowledges that political and public concerns remain 'a serious barrier', and stresses that schemes would need to be carefully designed in order to attract popular support. Surplus revenues should replace vehicle ownership and fuel taxes, and also fund wider improvements in the transport network.

The Academy notes that smart motorways, incorporating variable speed limits and hard shoulder use, can reduce congestion outside cities, but are 'expensive to implement'. Within urban areas, parking controls, car sharing, better bus services and light rail also offer value for money in reducing road congestion, 'but to a lesser extent than road pricing'.

In the freight sector, the Academy points to the 'inefficiencies' of partially-loaded vehicles using city streets. It recommends re-timing commercial deliveries to off-peak periods and replacing private car shopping trips with increased home deliveries. But avoiding failures at first-time drops needs better communications between retailers and consumers.

More far-reachingly, it calls for those elements of competition law that block the introduction of integrated deliveries to be 'investigated, clarified and, if necessary, updated'.

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