Monday, 18 August 2008

You *Do* Believe The Government - Don't You?

According to the Telegraph, road pricing - following hotly on the heels of a Government denial of any further plans - is about to be trialled!

Full story

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that eight areas - Leeds, North Yorkshire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, south west London, Suffolk and Essex – have been selected for the trials.

Initially, in January 2010, one hundred cars in each area will trial the new technology – in many cases entailing placing black boxes to allow their movements to be tracked - but members of the public will be invited to join the pilots in June 2010.

The Government is close to signing contracts with four companies who will run the national trials, testing not only the technology which will be fitted to the cars, but also the bureaucracy needed to run a system including sending out bills.

In most cases, the trials will involve a satellite tracking a vehicle's movements. Motorists will then receive a monthly or weekly bill which will vary depending on when and where they drove.

Three more companies will be paid to double check the system, ensuring that the charging machinery is legal and that the trials are properly monitored.

Last night, the Conservatives condemned the Government plans and called on Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, to abandon the scheme.

The Treasury earmarked millions of pounds for the pilots in the budget and Chancellor Alistair Darling believes the scheme could be crucial in cutting congestion in the long-term.

However, the disclosure of the trials will raise fears that motorists are set to be hit with another increase in driving taxes, despite earlier assurances from the Government that

It is understood that there is greater enthusiasm in the Treasury than the Department for Transport for road pricing.

The Department for Transport insists that the pilots are designed "to inform thinking about motorway capacity".

When the scheme was first floated by the Blair administration 1.8 million people signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling on the Government to abandon the scheme.

Last night, Peter Roberts, who led the initial protests, said: "If the Government was true to its word and was kicking road pricing into the long grass, why is it running trials?

"Ministers have said that national road pricing is no longer on the agenda. So either they are wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money or they are not being honest with voters."

Earlier this year Ruth Kelly insisted that charging schemes would be limited to areas where congestion was greatest.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said the trials had been announced last year and did not mean road pricing was going ahead.

She said: "We have been absolutely clear that any proposal for national road pricing would need to address the legitimate concerns people have.

"We're a very long way from that which is why our priority now and over the next decade is on tackling congestion where it is experienced most - in our cities and on our motorways."


No comments: