The number of electric cars currently in operation in this country is expected to explode to around 25 million by 2035. While this eco transition will help the Government achieve its lofty climate change ambitions, not having to pay for fuel to put into vehicles will likely see congestion surge. Now a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, founded by the former Prime Minister, wants the Government to make a move to road pricing, which could see drivers charged according to when, where and how far they drive.
Experts from the think tank believe congestion on Britain’s roads will be such a big problem by 2040, the average amount of time drivers could spend in traffic will more than triple 32 hours compared to the nine hours today.
It is also estimated the move to electric cars could see the Treasury miss out on as much as £260 billion in fuel duty and vehicle tax.
Authors of the new report believe the huge sums the Government will lose through the non-sale of petrol and diesel will force up income tax by six percent in the pound to make up the difference.
The researchers have put forward a proposal that suggests drivers could be charged a flat rate for every mile they travel, with all motorists each allocated an undetermined number of free miles each year.
But this is unlikely to be introduced, the report warned, as it would not have the desired impact on heavy traffic congestion.
The report also proposes the introduction of charges based on geography, much like what has been seen over recent years with the congestion zone on some of London’s busiest roads.
Alternatively, a sliding scale of cost based on how long each journey takes could be implemented.
A fourth proposal suggests a system similar to one used in Singapore could be fast-tracked, where higher costs are applied to the most congested routes at the busiest times of day.
The report’s authors say: “The key common factor with all road-pricing models is that they come with significant design issues and trade-offs, which means that – as things stand – none are politically attractive.
“The collective challenge we face is to work out how to deal with these challenges, or risk sleepwalking into all the downsides of a ‘do nothing’ scenario.”
But while making the proposals, the report warns any move change the way car journeys are costed could be “perceived as an attack on motorists”.
However, the authors continue: “The Government should take action now to signal its direction of travel; that it intends to introduce a form of road pricing in the near future to compensate for the loss of fuel duty; that it will use that opportunity to reduce the external costs of driving, delivering benefits both to motorists and to society at large; and that it will set out proposals on how to do so in the next 12 months.”
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The AA said the report still falls into the “road pricing” trap, a subject which the car breakdown service’s president had discussed with Mr Blair 15 years ago.
Edmund King said: “This report, although well-intentioned, in not wanting to alienate drivers, still falls into the ‘road pricing’ trap.
“Even referring to it as ‘road pricing’ means it is likely to backfire with the public.
“History has shown that the straight concept of ‘road pricing’ will never be popular with drivers and is often described as a ‘poll tax on wheels’.
“I discussed this with Tony Blair in Downing Street in 2006.”