As if rising insurance costs, ballooning fuel bills and badly kept roads aren’t painful enough for motorists, the government is considering a pay as you drive tax that could cost you an extra £150 a year. You’re welcome.
The new report from Lord Deighton will outline plans to privatise certain UK roads as part of the Budget, with the companies in control able to charge drivers for the privilege of using major A-roads and motorways.
How much you pay will depend on how often you use the UK’s faster roads, the weight of your car or the amount of CO2 emissions your car puts out, the latter of which already used in dictating the amount of car tax you pay.
Although we’ve no information as to how the system would be implemented, critics have already lambasted a single- and two-tier approach to the new car tax, explaining that it would penalise drivers who have already ditched their old gas-guzzler in favour of something more economical. “A flat rate charge is not likely to work because there will be too many losers and it is politically unsaleable,” one anonymous source explained to the Daily Mail.
Edmund King, president of the AA, was similarly unimpressed with the logic behind what he labelled a ‘poll tax on wheels’, explaining that a tiered payment system would divide the nation. Less well-off road motorists would stick to smaller, local roads while the financially blessed would opt for motorways.
Paying a one-off lump sum on top of the price of a new car is one potential notion being discussed, as well as the use of number plate recognition cameras, the likes of which are used to enforceLondon’s congestion charge zone.
Like with the UK’s railways, private companies could have a lease or franchise on a road for between ten and 20 years, with the government in charge of deciding which company governs what. A third-party regulator, already dubbed the Office of Road Regulation or OffRoad for short, will be introduced to ensure fair play although it’s impossible to say whether a regulator could remain unbiased. It also raises the prospect of annual fair increases the government has no control over.
There is an argument to suggest this could be of benefit to motorists. Privatisation might mean less traffic on motorways and better maintained roads with fewer potholes. It would cost some £12.93 billion to fix the UK’s entire road network, it has been reported, and this could provide the cash injection required.
However drivers, eager to avoid being charged, will likely flood smaller roads, which would only add to congestion and pollution in villages and towns.
A similar system in the US is already in use and has been labelled ‘Lexus Lanes’ because only Lexus drivers can afford to use them.
Should we revolt and take to the streets in protest? Or should we swallow this particular pill? We’d love to hear your thoughts.