Road pricing is 'an idea whose time has come', former transport minister, Steven Norris, told transport industry technology group ITS(UK) this week.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding, who was previously director general of the Roads, Traffic and Local Group at the Department for Transport, added that he is not anticipating a Government announcement on the issue before the next General Election in 2020.
Mr Norris, who is the president of ITS (UK) highlighted, as the key driver for change, rising electric vehicle use and fuel duty revenues 'falling off the cliff' as conventional vehicle engines continue to become more efficient. The duty at present represents 30% of the Government's current account spending gap, he said.
He foresaw road pricing being used constructively to encourage drivers to use 'appropriate roads at appropriate times' and so optimise existing capacity.
Ministers, he said, would be nervous about taking any action too early; but their timetable had to be one of, if not now, then very soon. It was important to be ‘absolutely open’ with the driving public, who would be more comfortable if they felt they were being taken fully into the government's confidence.
Mr Gooding saw road pricing as an 'economically rational concept', but one that would need very careful attention in practice. He told Transport Network that he could see no prospect of a government push for councils to adopt the working parking levy, the alternative traffic demand strategy to road pricing offered under the 2005-2010 Transport Innovation Fund congestion-beating programme. The government, he said, would do no more than help to facilitate local implementations under its devolution strategy.
So far, only Nottingham City Council has introduced the levy, while Oxfordshire County Council is considering it following a recommendation by the Local Government Association.