back to article RAC prof: Road charges can end the ripoff of motorists

The head of the RAC Foundation - the RAC's independent roads research charity - says that the English highway system can no longer be run the way it now is, as a colossal money-spinner for the Treasury. He advocates a move to "pay as you go" road use. Stephen Glaister, a retired professor of transport and infrastructure, lays …


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  1. Pyromancer

    Roads make a loss overall.

    The idea that the taxes paid by drivers should only be spent on roads makes no sense - unless people also think that the taxes paid by drinkers should only be spent on building more pubs (or brewing better beer) or that the taxes paid by people buying computers should only be spent building datacentres. Though I imagine some of us here might be in favour of those ideas too! :-)

    Plus the "road ripoff" argument is an old and flawed one, in reality, once all the costs of the road network are factored in, including costs of policing and NHS costs dealing with the aftermath of the frequent accidents, plus the environmental costs, roads make a loss - taxes paid by non-drivers subsidise those who drive. Most voters drive however, so the government keeps things balanced in the favour of motorists.

    The real problem is the gross under-payment made by the HGV industry, but no-one really wants to tackle that as doing so would lead to a rise in prices of goods in the shops. Foreign trucks really should be made to pay for a viginette, as ours are in Europe.

    1. DavCrav


      Quotation from article: "...equal to something like the entire budget of the MoD, a third of the NHS, or a fifth of the DWP"

      The couple of thousand people who die every year aren't taking up a third of the NHS budget. For that sort of money there is only one group that does that: old people. See also the one fifth of the DWP (actually, it's a lot more than that).

      I'd like to see any (even a ridiculously biased) study that could massage the numbers so that the cost of the road network is four times the actual cost.

      (Oh, and if you are going to start including things like environmental costs, you should also factor in the MASSIVE drop in the economy should the road network be removed.)

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge


      We hear about 'road tax' all the time, yet there is no such thing. It's vehicle excise duty, a tax on how much you pollute.

      Winston Churchill abolished road tax as he knew that people paying road tax would incorrectly claim they owned the roads as they were paying for them.

      The money for road repairs come from local authority budgets, mostly council tax.

      Therefore car drivers have no basis to shout 'road tax' at cyclists when cyclists are more than likely contributing to the roads just as much and they're actually not wearing them out so much (unlike HGVs).

      In fact, if someone is commuting from quite a distance away and I'm just cycling a couple of miles to work, then they are actually contributing nothing to the roads I'm cycling on, roads I've funded through my council tax. Something I may point out to them next time they say i'm 'in their way'.

      1. blackworx
        Thumb Up

        @Giles Jones

        Thank you, you saved me from having to point that out.

        Interesting that you have generated so many downvotes for simply stating the truth.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          He got downvoted

          Because he's just as wrong as the people he's railing against.

          VED is not a tax on how polluting a vehicle is, that is in the fuel duty. VED is intended to finance building and maintenance of roads as well as the administrative work associated with running the road infrastructure. That's why HGVs, busses, etc. pay more VED; because they're heavier they damage the roads more.

          Responsibility for maintaining roads broadly lies in two places. The Highways Agency for major roads and local authorities for local roads.

          The *funding* comes from the DfT and the Treasury *and* the council tax. DfT funds maintenance of *all* roads, Treasury funds building of strategic major roads and local authorities for local ones. The exception to this is London where TfL does it all.

          This is for England only. Wales, Scotland and NI manage their own budgets.

          So, unless he's cycling on a local road built since council tax was introduced in the 1980's, then he's not paid for that road through his council tax and he's probably not paying for it's maintenance through his council tax either.


    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Aitor 1

      Road Rip-off

      I don't know the total costs break-down in UK, but I do know the cost in Spain.

      In Spain, it is a net win for the government, and I guess that it also is in UK.

      The "Seguridad Social", our equivalent to NHS, doesn't lose money because of traffic accidents: it happens to EARN money from them, as the costs are payed by insurance companies, i.e, the motorists.

      I guess the same applies to UK, but I really don't know.. my searches conclude that I am right.. google "Injury Costs Recovery Scheme"

      The enviromental costs are payed by the citizens, not the government..

      So yes, we are bein ripped.. if you buy an apple, you pay VAT and the company that sells you the apple pays "normal taxes". ¿Why should it be different for transport?

  2. Witty username

    Heres an idea

    Stop waging pointless wars (look up the MPG for a tank for example) and ill consider driving a smaller car.

    1. Allan George Dyer

      Circular argument

      The war is to win fuel for your big car!

      1. Witty username

        Dont you read the papers?

        its for liberation and the protection of freedom, remember?


      2. dpg21

        RE: circular argument

        Silly rabbit. The war was to win fuel for the oil companies, not for us.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          RE: circular argument

          So if they lose the pointless war he'll have to drive a smaller car?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    f*cking. way.

    Ministry of Transport = Ministry of Plenty?

  4. Steen Hive

    Fuel duty

    Why aren't all road taxation/costs/levies incorporated into it?

    1. JasonW


      Rollup VED & Hydrocarbon Tax into the price of a litre of fuel - if you drive zillions of miles in a gas guzzler at peak times, you'll use more fuel and you'll pay more. No need to track every mile every vehicle does... simples.

      Want to pay less, drive a more fuel-efficient car when it's not congested.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re : Exactly

        "Rollup VED & Hydrocarbon Tax into the price of a litre of fuel"

        But you forget that one of the purposes of the DVLA is to keep track of who uses each vehicle. A large measure of this is for government control. And no government will willingly relinquish any iota of control that it has over it's citizens.

        Anyway without the VED we'd have to have some other way of proving that our cars are (or were anyway) insured and have a current MOT certificate. And seeing the state of some of the cars on our roads and the way that a lot of people drive, I want cars to have both.

        Beer because you can't drink and drive. You might hit a bump and spill some.

        1. 0laf Silver badge

          What about

          What about the often mentioned insurance disk?

          Mind you they'll just charge £200 for the insurance disk and keep the extra tax too.

        2. Steen Hive
          Thumb Up

          @MOT etc

          "Anyway without the VED we'd have to have some other way of proving that our cars are (or were anyway) insured and have a current MOT certificate."

          Surely an MOT certificate is proof you have an MOT certificate? ;-)

          Here in Sweden they have just done away with tax discs (or rather, stickers) because they're all but useless anyway. A pig just types the reg into his gizmo and gets an instant answer on the status of the vehicle.

          It's not beyond the realms of the possible to include car insurance on fuel duty too - swipe your licence at the pump == the more miles you drive, the more insurance you pay - every driver is insured, your insurance rate is quoted in a cost per mile and no unlicenced drivers get fuel - sorted.

        3. JohnG

          No VED

          Why not simply display MOT and insurance discs instead of a tax disc?

          In some countries, insurers are obliged to tell the authorities when you cancel your vehicle policy, thereby triggering a check that the vehicle has been insured elsewhere or is off the road.

          The current UK system has not prevented large numbers of untaxed, untested and uninsured vehicles from being driven around so I am all for the migration of the DVLA to something cheaper.

        4. Dan delaMare-Lyon


          The WID - works for the Channel Islands. Insurer checks MOT coverage before issuing the WID. WID shows you are insured...

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The VED is passed its useful lifespan.

          The VED is passed its useful lifespan. Yes it used to be a way of checking that every vehicle was insured and MOT'd, but that's all on the national computers now. If you apply for a tax disc on line they can check your tax and MOT automatically. The police don't check your tax disc they check your number plate and their in-car computers pop up if you are missing Tax, MOT or Insurance .

          Scrap VED put up fuel duty to compensate for the loss of revenue and, scrap the part of the DVLA that administrates the VED to reduce the deficit.

      2. Ian Bush


        "Want to pay less, drive a more fuel-efficient car when it's not congested."

        The problem with this is that everybody will be driving when it's not congested ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because fuel prices fluctuate.

      You'd never know how much your x% was worth.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only thing that worries me... this.

    If we actually make the roads cheaper, then where is the money going to come from for the loss making parts? All the services have to be paid for anyway, so if we make road use effectively cheaper, then we'll get even more congestion.

    I would like to see tax transferred to fuel; there are large, modern powerful engines that do less damage than a badly looked after, ten year old banger.

    If I'm missing something please do let me know, but I still can't see road pricing as a means for charging. The more technology we introduce in to the loop, the more we are allowing people to mess it up. People are already using various tricks to circumvent the charging systems within London. More electronics for surveilance is one thing; when they start linking them to money ... that is when Joe Public will turn criminal.

  6. Richard Andrew Jefferies

    fuel tax is the most efficient way of charging/paying for the road infrastructure

    Surely fuel tax is the most efficient way of charging/paying for the road infrastructure. Fuel usage reflects the miles driven and the rate of fuel consumption. Higher fuel consumption vehicles are usually the highest polluters.

    Equally road tolls would only be practical on major roads forcing traffic on unsuitable minor roads and rat runs through every residential area causing more problems than they solve. Abolish Road Tax and ensure a minimum percentage of fuel tax goes to road infrastructure maintenance and improvement which should include pedestrian, cyclist and even horse/pack animal needs.

    Fuel tax is a simple fair system for which we already have the structure set up.


    1. Alex Wells

      Couldn't agree more

      This makes perfect sense - fuel tax is the only way, surely the problem is that it's so damn unpopular, not only are you creating a very visible negative image to your voters, you are pissing off oil companies who do quite a lot business within your country?

      Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the surely this, which I agree is fair, would be so unpopular as to be un-votable?

      1. veti Silver badge

        This is how

        Announce you're abolishing VED completely. No more of this "sliding scale" nonsense, no discounts, no rebates - just scrap it. (Also saves the costs of collecting and enforcing it.) That's a tax cut of, on average, 125 to 205 quid per vehicle per annum for every vehicle owner.

        At the same time, you announce that this is the money you're loading into fuel tax. To cushion the blow further, you're not loading it in all at once - you're happy to phase it in gradually, at a rate of 5p per litre per year over the next 10 years. Of course by that time you'll have massively overshot the level of breaking even, but that's only fair, isn't it? - a tax cut up front, paid back later when the economy is in better shape...

  7. Lionel Baden

    ok lets do it

    and please whilst your at it, Explain where the FUCK the money is going to be comming from if not from the Road Tax

    I drive i get pissed off that its costing me almost double to fill my tank just a few years down the line. i also dont really want to see a pay as you go road system !! i like to know for a year i can drive no matter what !!! i can go where i like when i like.

    Pay as you go will be a even bigger money spinner than what we have now !

    1. Ben Raynes


      Most of the £46 billion quoted ALREADY comes from fuel duty. The %age from VED is (relatively) low. I suspect that a significant proportion of the money from VED goes in paying for the DVLA in the first place. Fuel duty is the big revenue earner.

      Remember also that VED in addition to all the social engineering that they now try to use it for is a simple way of making sure you're MOT'd/insured. Until we get insurance discs and MOT discs, it needs to stay. That doesn't mean it couldn't be made a notional sum, say £50, for the privilege of them checking you're complying with the law...

      And given how much my insurance companies seemingly wants to charge me this year, the insurance disc would, as someone else pointed out, probably just be another way for them to take you for a ride...

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    I can see, overall, motoring prices rising.

    Would it not, therefore, make more sense for the scavengers in Westmister to direct the Road Fund to, uh, the road maintenance?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold on!

    Aren't we already charged by the mile? It's called fuel duty. The problem is how it's spent. That doesn't mean you need to change how it is raised.

  10. Olly86

    I through we already were...

    After all we pay fuel duty which infect we only pay for the distance we drive, and the less efficient the car the more you pay for the distance travelled.

  11. Chris Miller

    Road charging?

    I'll confess to not having read all 100pp of the report, but ...

    I can't see the point of road charging, except for a few special circumstances such as city centres and for newly built, alternate routes like the M6 Toll. (NB I'm not saying that I agree with charging in these circumstances, just that I can see some point to it.)

    But charging extra for sitting on the M25 in the rush (several) hour(s)? I can assure you that if I'm sitting on a clogged M25, it's because I bl00dy well have to be there, not because I fancied a bit of a joy ride from which I might be deterred by a charge of a few extra quid. If you want to get me off the M25, please provide some viable alternative mode of transport that will get me where I want to go in a reasonable time at a reasonable price.

    We already have road usage charging, it's called fuel duty. It penalises those who choose to drive Range Rovers and Bentleys and provides an increased financial incentive to drive more economically.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Road charging?

      If we know when the roads are blocked maybe we can make compromises by planning our lives differently. Sure there are restrictions such as the school run (which itself could be managed differently) but if employers were more flexible and we had a culture of living nearer to where we worked, then less of us would feel penalised when there are changes made to how we pay for the roads that we destroy* by driving too much on them.

      We can't have our cake and eat it.

      *bicycles & trains** do not damage roads *at all*

      **or planes!

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Alternatives to cars

      Quite correct, Chris. I'm sick and tired of the argument that goes "We'll bring in this way of charging you for using the roads so that we can use that money to *eventually* provide you with an alternative to using the roads so you won't have to pay the charges". If efficient public transport is a good thing, then it should be put in place *before* road charging schemes. However, it isn't, and the powers that be know it - people are not going to be tempted out of their cars just because there is a good bus/train/blimp service to wherever they want to go (though I might be tempted by a blimp service into town!).

      Public transport always takes more time, costs more than my relatively fuel-thirsty car (especially if there is more than one of us to go anywhere), and means I have to spend time in the vicinity of people I would not usually have any inclination to be near (oh, the utter banality of conversations you can hear on our local bus ...).

      I'll keep paying for the speed, choice, and lack of chavs that comes with my car, thanks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        @Intractable Potsherd

        "I'll keep paying for the speed, choice, and lack of chavs that comes with my car, thanks."

        Yes, because life is all about *you* and *your* convenience. That attitude is a virus eating our society away.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I can agree entirely with the OP. My wife had to take ear-plugs on the bus in the morning in case someone with noisy kids got on, and although she tried to carefully chose her seat, there'd always be someone obnoxious that got on after. Then there are the smokers who have to inhale their last drag just before stepping on, stinking up the place almost as bad as if they lit up inside. I could go on...

          Ironic how it's probably the *lack* of consideration from the majority of the public that goes a long way towards ensuring that people stay car-bound and supposedly 'inconsiderate' of the wider green issues. This indeed goes right the way through society from the safety of children walking to school, to the pleasantness (or lack thereof) of public transport, and the car drivers who persistently piss on cyclists for no reason (admittedly some deserve it, but the majority don't, and simply want to live through their journey).

          Now my wife cycles, and this has arguably cost more, with the bike, servicing, clothing and so on, but the luxury of leaving when she wants, not waiting around in the cold, and not having to deal with too many people on the way has won her over. She just has the pot holes and idiot drivers to still deal with, and although she cycles carefully she's got a story to tell about some w*nker almost ever night. The best one was when she moved to the center of her lane to avoid a pot-hole, and the driver coming the *other way* then got annoyed that he couldn't overtake the cyclist in front of him at that precise moment, so he tooted at her!

          All power to those who want to stay in their cars, even as a keen cyclist myself, they have my complete sympathy.

  12. Circadian

    That's just... wrong

    That report is wrong on so many levels, it's just not funny.

    Let's see - oh, it'll be privacy invading, but don't worry because you're already given that up.

    Let's start taxing for travelling along roads, and then we will drop fuel duty (stop it, my ribs are killing me).

    He thinks third-party maintenance would be more cost effective. And then mentions PFI... <sigh> the government would still want as much revenue as now (if not more) - *and* the shareholders need to get paid too.

    I really am getting too old for this (what do you mean, did you have a birthday recently?)

  13. Jonathan 10

    Slightly cynical

    The problem is with this country,

    If this was introduced, the government would want us to pay tolls, road fund license and fuel duty.

    We probably wouldn't see a reduction in our overall 'road use' tax nor would the roads get better....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't believe the "money maker" crap

    Most estimates are that drivers pay for about a third or a half of the total cost of motoring through "road tax" and petrol duty. Maintaining the road surface is not a major component of the total cost. The major costs are: coping with all the people who are killed or maimed, policing the roads, pollution damage to human health and buildings, ... We're not even including here the cost of foreign wars fought to maintain US control of oil supplies.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Falwed arguement...

      Here is where your's and another posters arguements fail.

      1. An earlier poster said that non drivers subsidise? How. Bear in mind that car driver pay vehicle taxes ...+... the taxes non car drivers pay. (last time I looked, bicycles and footwear don't bring in billions of tax ponds). So car drivers pay twice.

      2. Public transport is subsidised. I'm all for car driver paying extra, if you willing to take an massive hike in public transport costs.

      3. Where do you think you goods in the shops come from? The local farms and factories all next door to you house? No, they arrive by road, from all across the UK.

      4. People have to drive due to the way the country's businesses work. I do have a choice, I can spend 40 - 50 minutes each day in my car, or 3 -4 hours on public transport, and that's using the train. It would be about 8 - 9 hours using a bus. No everyone lives and works in a city centre.

      So factor in the thousand of % increase that would be required to upgrade public transport, the 10'000's of lives that would be ruined by new rail links (look up the new high speed links between London and Birmingham for a taster).

      So once you factor in, the loss to business, the increased subsides for public transport, the shift of policing to public transport (btw how will the the emergency services respond if all the roads are fucked, by bus?), the displacement of people to put in extra rail links, the pollution caused by constant stop start buses that often run empty, the loss in peoples home life due to the extra time spent communting and on and on, you arguement looks a little faded.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Falwed arguement...

        "People have to drive due to the way the country's businesses work. I do have a choice, I can spend 40 - 50 minutes each day in my car, or 3 -4 hours on public transport, and that's using the train. It would be about 8 - 9 hours using a bus. No everyone lives and works in a city centre."

        This is because of the completely stupid way the Land of the Britards is planned, rule #1 of which seems to be "everyone must work in London if at all possible". Consequently, the bottom half of the country is filled up with people in ever increasing circles trying to commute to the damned place. Ask any foreign visitor about travel from one place to another within mere tens of miles in the vicinity of London and they'll tell you how shocked they were that it can often take hours.

        Yes, some people do live *and* work in other locations, but the way the country's infrastructure has been planned seems to involve neglect if a transport artery doesn't involve journeys from A to B where B is always London. Ask anyone who ever used the west coast rail link to Scotland, which presumably won't get any decent high speed rail treatment when hell actually does freeze over and the argument for fast trains wins out over "more cars and roads".

        And once again, the really flawed argument about how "all the road tax must be spent on roads and not on anything else" rears its ugly head. Yes, there are sometimes "constant stop start buses that often run empty", and more attention should be paid to optimising transport schedules, but then there are also loads of cars with only the driver inside, burning up and down the motorway for their long commutes every single working day of the year. All that causes health problems (as explained elsewhere) and those costs should be covered by the people causing them: there are people with respiratory conditions whose lives are made very difficult by exhaust fumes despite the hype about cleaner-burning engines on the shiny car advertisements.

        In general, the road network in Britain isn't that bad, anyway: compare the extent of reasonable quality roads in the countryside in, say, Scotland to what you get in, say, Iceland. It's only down in the crowded regions of England that continuous asphalting would seem to be the order of the day. What do people really expect? Gold-plated motorway maintenance? A serious dose of lifestyle re-evaluation would be more appropriate.

        Sadly, that involves a mindset change from the Leaders of the Britards that will never happen. Can't have people not praying towards London, can we?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why is road charging relevant to this?

    I hate to point out the obvious, but why is road charging required to stop the government from ripping off the motorist, and what's to say that the revenue generated by road charging would be used on the road infrastructure to any greater proportion than it already is? I agree that the public would be better served by a roads committee that was more distanced from the government, but what relevance does road charging have to that?

    Road charging (GPS tracking in particular) is unpopular because it is potentially a huge infringement on civil liberties, and, with a time/location based system, immensely difficult for individuals to be able to quantify how much they are being charged leading to immense insecurity about travelling. There's also the collosal public costs involved in setting up and legislating such a system.

    As it stands we already have a system that charges road users depending on their mileage, the traffic conditions they drive in and the efficiency of their vehicle. It's called fuel duty

  16. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Smoking something

    So the gent has worked out that the gov raises all this money as road fund license and fuel tax, and spends it on other stuff. He then says that this other stuff needs to be paid for.

    So what that means is that the money we already pay, we still need to pay (if not as road-fund-license, then as some other tax). If we get a new QUANGO to look after the roads and spend more money on them, the money to run the quango and provide road updates has to come from us, so we will PAY MORE.

    How he thinks introducing a new quango will save money is beyond me; I think he's been on the wacky backy. Although if I'm cynical (and it has been said), I'm sure he'll make lots of money as an advisor to the new quango...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    French and italian systems

    Most motorists (imo) believe that the government would just use road pricing as a means of stealing more tax money from a captive audience, They wouldn't reduce the road tax or fuel duty, we would just be paying twice (for nothing).

    As for the French or Italian systems as a model, I believe in France there is no separate road tax, but there is a levy on fuel so that is effectively PAYG. This being so one would expect the price of fuel to be astronomical, however this is not true as it is usually less than the UK price. However there is also a toll on motorway use.

    And the Italian system? well I live in Italy and believe me you don't want that in the UK. We pay tolls to go on the Autostrada, plus there is a separate road tax based on engine power or capacity, I have a 3 litre petrol car and to tax it here in Italy would cost (I estimate) about €800 per year. To top it off the cost of petrol is at least on a par with the UK. (Never let it be said that the Italian state doesn't know how to steal efficiently). Then of course there is the stupidly expensive insurance, although that is the fault of greedy insurance companies. It can cost over €1000 (3rd party) for a Fiat Punto or similar per year. There is no such thing as a no claims bonus here, the insurance is on the car not the driver.

  18. Outcast

    The real reason

    Is... we are having.. what is it ?... 2.1 kids instead of the 6 or 7 of yesteryear. Which is the same problem as the Pensions fund. (Apart from it being ripped off). ie: inverted pyramid. Except with driving.. Within the next 5 years a hefty chunk of those OAP's will be coming OFF the roads. Along with New Tech this will result in a serious drop in (Road) revenue. So the Bullshit Campaign starts picking up momentum.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I thought the RAC was supposed to be on the side of the motorist, well you live & learn.

    It is simply to stop the motorist being stung as a cash cow for the treasury, just needs the treasury to start behaving in a moral fashion and reduce the level of annual tax imposed. Not holding my breath. As for pay as you drive, we need no additional encouragement for the government to continue spying on us, where we go, etc.. None of the authorities damned business.

  20. John Robson Silver badge

    Road tax was abolished in 1936

    When Winston Churchill said:

    "it will be only a step from this for them (motorists) to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads"

    See The Motor Car and Politics in Britain by Willam Plowden for more information

    This is a return to the thought that road tax should only be spent on the roads, which the same great man derided as follows:

    "Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed; racehorses may be taxed; the possession of armorial bearings and man-servants may be taxed - and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the whole yield of the tax on motors devoted to roads. Obviously this is a nonsense. Whoever said that, whatever the yield of these taxes, and whatever the poverty of the country, we were to build roads, and nothing but roads, for this yield? We might have to cripple our Trade by increased taxation of income, we might even be unable to pay for the upkeep of our Fleet. But never mind, whatever happens, the whole yield of the taxes on motors must be spent on roads! Such contentions are absurd and constitute at once an outrage upon the sovereignty of Parliament and upon common sense."

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      Think of the time when he said this. Our infrastructure hasn't had anything spent on it in many years.

  21. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    The real obstacle here is trust

    Right at the moment we've just had 13 years of a Labour government, which never told the truth when a convenient lie would do, and seemed to do its level best to plumb whatever depths of sleaze, stupidity, incompetence and inefficiency were possible at any one time. Public trust in Government is therefore absolutely rock-bottom right now; nobody trusts the Government not to use any change in law to rip people off. That's why the Manchester Congestion Charge flopped so decisively and so completely; nobody in their right mind at that time would give a government of any sort the slightest opportunity to raise more taxes.

    The same is going to be true here; fuel duty is already iniquitously high, far in excess of even the wildest Greenie estimates of the damage the carbon dioxide it produces. The net effect is to exert a drag on transporting anything in the UK, except if you use a continental trucking firm running on cheap foreign diesel. The sad fact is that Government in the UK parasitises everything far, far too much and everyone knows it; proposing some new taxes is exactly the wrong thing to say right now.

    1. david wilson

      @Dr Dan Holdsworth

      >>"The net effect is to exert a drag on transporting anything in the UK, except if you use a continental trucking firm running on cheap foreign diesel."

      Could you expand on that?

      It seems to get suggested by someone every time fuel duty is mentioned, but it's not immediately obvious how a foreign trucking firm could manage to run on foreign diesel more easily than a UK firm could, assuming UK and foreign vehicles following identical schedules.

      I guess it must be down to some non-obvious fact[s] about the trucking business that people making the comments must know, and assume everyone else knows as well.

      Do foreign trucks get cheaper channel crossings than a UK firm?

      Do they get access to cheaper fuel if they fill up abroad than a UK trucker would get if filling up abroad?

      Are they allowed to have larger fuel tanks than UK trucks, allowing them to work over here on their foreign fuel for longer than a UK truck which hopped across the channel for a fill-up could get?

      Are they allowed to import cheap foreign diesel in bulk in tankers to run a trucking fleet over here, whereas a UK company couldn't?

      Or is it something else (please explain if so).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: "Could you expand on that?"

        it is quite simply a case of foreign haulage firms filling up across the channel (often they have more fuel tanks fitted for this purpose) and doing runs of the UK without having to fill up to escape fuel duty.

        Since they also do not pay road tax either, effectively that traffic causes wear and tear on the roads that we the British taxpayer pays for. (think about that next time you hit a pothole)

        "What is to stop UK truckers doing this?" I hear you ask.

        Well try to think of the viability of a UK transport company based in say the midlands (or worse the North or Scotland) having to travel out of his way to Calais to refule his fleet to compete with the foriegn haulier who refules on his way in and again when he leaves...

        Tolls may be unpopular, but they charge everyone fairly.

      2. MrT

        Not all trucks go abroad...

        .. and that's the point. Whereas if a UK company contracts a French, Czech or Spanish truck (which covers the last three I followed at the weekend) then they will have been outside the UK at some point.

        I have a friend who used to run his own truck (nice Renault Magnum setup) and he had fuel tanks on the tractor and additional tanks on the trailer which he used to fill up on his regular runs to Spain hauling various fruit and veg for Morrisons. When that business dried up, he struggled to meet the fuel bills using UK diesel and still remain competitive with trucks that regularly travelled to or through France. It doesn't matter that French diesel at the time wasn't as good quality (certain burnt with more soot), the cost of filling up in the UK was one of the major reasons he gave up his business.

        So, whilst the same opportunities exist for truck on the same schedule, route, whatever, no UK-based and UK-operating trucker will simply park on a ferry across to France to save money filling up the truck.

        1. david wilson

          @Not all trucks go abroad...

          So the unfairness doesn't come down to where a vehicle is *registered*, but down to some vehicles (UK or foreign-owned) effectively being fuel-subsidised for inside-UK work by having trips across the channel paid for(*)

          I guess that'd maybe make it easier for large UK and overseas (and particularly transnational) firms to benefit by being able to mix UK and international work more easily than an owner-operator might.

          Given owner-operators in Dover and Calais, the foreign one only seems to have an advantage if they can get cross-channel work more easily than the English one could.

          (*though presumably an avid free-marketeer would suggest that in such a situation, competition should cause hauliers to lower their fees for cross-channel work in order to reap the fuel rewards?)

          1. MrT

            Economy of scale

            Yeah, the factors always seemed to be against owner-operators and in favour of larger haulage companies who could offset costs etc. Also, larger companies with either their own fuel storage at depots, or a card agreement with major oil companies, would benefit from slightly cheaper fuel by buying in bulk. However, it's not as big a difference as might be expected because the bulk of the pump price is fuel duty and VAT.

            The price of fuel has risen in France, for example, so that it is nearer what we pay here in UK.

            The point about where the vehicle is registered may be a factor if the government goes ahead with a proposal that existed a few years back for having a tax disc for road freight similar to the Swiss/Austrian idea, where foreign-registered trucks would have to buy a UK 'pass', but I think this idea came to nothing in the end.

            1. david wilson

              @Mr T

              Some kind of charging for heavy overseas vehicles would be an idea, though if that happened, I guess it might cause people to wonder if UK-based heavy vehicles were paying enough to cover the wear and tear that they cause to roads (is it something like wear being proportional to the 4th power of axle weight)?

              Would there be competition-based limits on what it was legal to charge foreign vehicles compared to the overall charges levied on UK vehicles?

              The generally interesting thing to me is that the "It's easier for foreign truckers" argument seems to come up pretty much every time fuel duty is mentioned, but I've yet to see or hear a single journalist ask anyone making the claim to explain what they actually mean by it.

              One could almost be forgiven for thinking that *some* journalists are much more interested in finding people who are angry or who disagree with each other than with helping people actually understand how the world functions.

              1. MrT

                they'd probably have to create a new category for it

                VED couldn't be used on foreign-licenced vehicles, but a wear and tear/upkeep pass, or just a plain old ticket to use the major roads would be possible. Austria charge for two weeks, two months or a year (last time I passed through), and vehicles heavier than 3500 kg must instead purchase a GO-Box, a transponder which deducts tolls as the vehicles travel. Rates vary based on number of axles, with extra charges paid based on time of day and for certain roads. It'd be fairly easy for the UK to adopt a system like this, especially as it's already proven and thought through.

                Agree with the journo comment - why let a serious point get in the way of a good rant?!

  22. Graham Bartlett

    Extra traffic in the UK? Charge people who don't currently pay

    Namely, foreign truckers. They're getting all the benefit of our tax money, but they're putting absolutely no money in themselves. Trucks are also the cause of most accidents, most congestion and most damage to roads, so it makes sense to get more money out of them.

    Solution: a flat fee for every landing of every non-UK-registered truck. This is perfectly within EU rules - countries are required to allow free ovement of goods without applying duty on goods, but there's no rules against an entry tax for the vehicle carrying them.

    This has the side-effect of putting UK truckers on an even footing with their Continental counterparts, too. Either foreign trucking companies would register vehicles in the UK (and pay tax accordingly), or they'd pay per trip - either way, that levels the playing field.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Graham Bartlett

      "Solution: a flat fee for every landing of every non-UK-registered truck. This is perfectly within EU rules - countries are required to allow free movement of goods without applying duty on goods, but there's no rules against an entry tax for the vehicle carrying them."

      I like this. Not sure what the haul would be but sounds reasonable.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon


      Or they could also upgrade the railway links and put all that damn freight on trains.

      The road I live on has pretty much doubled in usage over the last 5 years, and $deity help me if I wake up in the night - the sound of thundering lorries drives me MAD. I have road rage before I even get up in the morning.

      1. Ben Raynes


        "Or they could also upgrade the railway links and put all that damn freight on trains.

        The road I live on has pretty much doubled in usage over the last 5 years, and $deity help me if I wake up in the night - the sound of thundering lorries drives me MAD. I have road rage before I even get up in the morning."

        Sounds like a brilliant idea - only problem is that since we had all our branch lines, sidings, track bed and whatever else ripped up and sold off after the Beeching Report in the 60s, we've not only got nowhere to put all these masses of freight trains, but nowhere to offload them that's convenient. The few places we do have would then require that freight was put onto lorries and moved from yard to destination by road anyway, most likely through city and town centres. It saves a bit on the motorways, but not much.

        The other problem then comes with oversized freight - these big boiler components and what-not you see being moved around with the abnormal load convoy. Can't easily get them on a train because of tunnel and bridge clearances and what-not. Admittedly, there aren't many of these though.

        It's not a bad idea per se, it's just not practical any more.

        Oh, and FYI, the one that pisses me off is when you see (and I *have* seen this) rail carriages and locomotives being moved around... on big 'kin trucks on the motorway!

        Really, guys? Seriously? Your thought process was "Let's move this 300ton locomotive from A to B... BY ROAD."???

    3. GrahamT

      Switzerland does something like this

      Any car using the motorways in Switzerland pays the annual road tax, even if only "passing through". For residents, it is very reasonable, (SFR40) for someone taking a short cut from Germany to Italy it is expensive, especially as trailers or caravans must pay the tax too. Trucks are charged a milage charge from entry to exit point.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      people have got used to their cheap consumer goods, food, etc. Increasing import costs won't go down very well.

    5. Chris Miller
      Thumb Down


      Really, guys? Seriously? Your thought process was "Let's move this 300ton locomotive from A to B... BY ROAD."???

      If you'd seen what Notwork* Rail charge in access fees to make an unscheduled rail movement across the country, you'd realise why (crazily) it works out much cheaper to move them by road 8(. Of course, in the days of BR, it would just have been coupled to the back of a freight heading in the right direction at a marginal cost of a few quid - but this is just the very least of the lunacies generated by our incredibly bureaucratic and generally unworkable 'privatised' rail system.

      * What, you thought those £600,000 bonuses generated themselves?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Road tax died in the 1930s. Its general tax

    I bought some beer last week, most of the money went on tax -yet when did the government ever build any breweries? That's right, it hasn't. Because beer tax, just like fuel taxes, are not "hypothecated", they go and pay for things like the NHS, schooling, wars abroad, etc.

    So can the RAC and the Register stop their whining about not getting value for money from the amount they spend on their cars. It's the drivers choice to drive a V8 range rover paying Group G car tax (not road tax) and lots of fuel duties. Buy a group A car and your VED band is 0, and you pay less on fuel.

    The nice thing about these taxes: no way to avoid them, and they ensure that polluter pays more. Whereas a road tax will make the Range Rover driver pay as much per mile as somone in a hybrid honda, which, from a pollution perspective makes no sense.

    If you want fair, give those of us who drink beer more of our tax back, everyone who lives within the M25 something useful for our money that doesn't involve the olympics

    1. MrT

      More tax groups now...

      I agree.

      Just for info, car tax is now up to Group M and some of the the cars in the lower bands get a free first year before paying a small amount - like a golden hello to owning a cleanish vehicle, perhaps acknowledging that some drivers can't live with something overpriced or microscopic just to sneak under the 100g/km value, so buy a new Volvo V50 1.6 diesel (for example) and you will pay a small VED from year 2, can enjoy way more mpg than a Prius without the niggle of battery warranties or 'legendary Toyota quality' whilst still having the space to move more things and people around than can fit in a Bluemotion Polo.

      It's a bit like the spread in car insurance, which in my time behind the wheel has gone from 9 groups to 50 groups - allows more accurate assessment of the risk or damage potential. It gives people p[lenty of information to make a choice that suits them.

  24. Tom 35

    Waste of time and money

    Fuel tax is already a use tax. The system to collect it is already in place.

    But lets build a new road use tax system. Think of all the new jobs (and fat contracts for the usual suspects). In the end it will collect just as much money or more, it will still be pored into general revenue, and less will be spent on the roads because now they have to pay to run the new road use spy system.

    Next I expect them to say that this will be self funding... :P

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Some points.

    A number of issues here:

    1) All the costs associated with driving that hurt are fixed yearly costs: road tax, insurance and MOT. The fuel tax which links tax to usage is hardly felt at all in comparison. It is the wrong way round. By getting hurt (usually all at the same time) by the above 3 fixed costs, the incentive is to use the vehicle as much as possible to justify them. Whether you use it a little or a lot, it makes no difference to those costs, you still need to pay them.

    I say scrap the road tax and add the cost to petrol. However, that would make very little difference to the cost of fuel - you wouldn't notice the rise at all. The road tax is also a good legal vehicle for checking MOT and insurance which has its use. However, you would lose the fixed "hurt".

    The problem with this financial situation is that for many people, a car is the only option for certain trips. I use public transport for work and the kids walk to school, but the car gets used for ferrying round the kids to their various activities, shopping and holidays. We could get a taxi or hire a car for holidays, but we like the convenience. The use is low, so the costs should be as well.

    2) For a lot of people, there is no practical alternative to the car for getting to work. Since the train system was destroyed by that bastard Beeching, rural commuting has become a de facto car journey. Given the public transport options that I have, I would NEVER consider driving to work: being able to relax and read rather than getting stuck in traffic is a no-brainer. If only most people had those options.

    3) Talk about hiking the price of fuel by taxation is always unpopular and will continue to do so unless the fixed costs are also tackled. For a lot of people, mostly low users like myself, I would likely be better off if my fixed costs could be reduced and my variable costs increased. Sorry, I don't have any good answers here: MOT is a good idea and insurance is unavoidable (although a 95% no claims bonus would be nice: I've never in my 23 years of driving had an accident).

    4) Years ago I used to drive a lot on the M62 during peak time. The vast majority of what I would consider blocking traffic was trucks ferrying stuff between Hull and Liverpool. That freight should be on rail. I understand that lorry drivers need to earn a living, but it just doesn't make modern sense for all that freight to be on the road. Question is, why isn't it?

    1. DavCrav

      Don't blame Beeching

      He said:

      1) Close a lot of rail routes.

      2) Open a load of different ones.

      Gov did 1), not 2). Who's to blame?

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon


      Regarding your point 1) - I currently fork out around £400 a month on fuel, most of which is tax.

      Two months of fuel tax more than equals my yearly VED/Insurance/MOT costs.

      For those that would recommend I live closer to work - I am part of the mobile work-force, working contracts where I can get them. If I could get them 10 minutes down the road, believe me I would.

    3. frank ly

      @skelband re. some points

      "...The road tax is also a good legal vehicle for checking MOT and insurance which has its use..."

      There are obvious alternatives: Display an MoT disc on your vehicle. Have issuance of an insurance certificate conditional on your having an MoT disc. The details of vehicle MoT and personal carrying of insurance are already held on a central database. Any police officer can make a radio call and find out if your vehicle has an MoT certificate and if you are insured.

      The tax disc tells a police officer that a car had an MoT and that the registered owner had insurance *at the time it was issued*. It does not prove that the car has an MoT at the moment or that the car is insured at the moment for the person who is driving it.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some points.

      "Years ago I used to drive a lot on the M62 during peak time. The vast majority of what I would consider blocking traffic was trucks ferrying stuff between Hull and Liverpool. That freight should be on rail. I understand that lorry drivers need to earn a living, but it just doesn't make modern sense for all that freight to be on the road. Question is, why isn't it?"

      Because London is not between Hull and Liverpool. The First Commandment of the Rulers of the Britards says this: "Everyone prostrate yourself in front of Your Capital, London Town!"

  26. Chad H.

    "loss making parts of the government?"

    So will this prof be willing to pay for the ambulance after a crash on a payg basis? How about the police to trace the theft of his car, user pays?

    1. Nuffnuff


      Interesting you make that comment - ambulances here have been user pays for some time now, meaning if you don't have insurance and require ambulanceable treatment or transportation, the onus is on you to fork out not insignificant amounts of dosh. Seems to work though. Check out the costs below:

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some more points

    > I say scrap the road tax and add the cost to petrol. However, that would make very little difference to the cost of fuel - you wouldn't notice the rise at all

    It would be ~10% rise for me. I'd notice, but not mind.

    > The road tax is also a good legal vehicle for checking MOT and insurance

    Not really - as this is all done online now. So they could do an annual check anyway and just mail you a sticker for free.

    1. EvilGav 1

      Not quite ~10%

      If we assume an average driver does 12,000 miles per year (some do more, some do less) and that the average car does around 30mpg, a tax of around 5p per litre (around 4%) would yield broadly the same as the amount currently raised by the VED.

      The reality is, that it *should* be an increase on the price of fuel and nothing else that replaces the vast amount of VED. This would ensure that the highest users pay, the highest polluters pay, those that drive in a fuel efficient manner pay less and so on. It would require a couple of changes - e.g. replacing the tax disk with an insurance disk and an MOT disk or some-such.

      The gains go further, though, as there is no longer the need for the infrastructure currently required to police the VED system - the means for collecting duty at the pump already exists.

  28. Andrew Garrard

    Sitting in traffic

    A few opinions.

    1) I'm among those who disagree with road charging mostly from the civil liberty perspective. It is, nonetheless, a pain to have to have cash available when using the Dartford or Severn Crossing, or when using the M6 - taking it out of fuel duty is more convenient.

    2) Toll roads work when there's an alternative. There are alternative routes into Wales. When it's not broken, the Blackwall Tunnel is a (circuitous) alternative to Dartford. The M6 toll is a short cut with less traffic than the other motorway routes. The Congestion Charge zone works because central London has a functioning public transport network (unlike most of the rest of the country - if I take the train to work outside London, I spend longer walking to and from stations than I do driving the whole journey, which negates the "working on the train rather than driving" argument) and deliveries can avoid it (by time) or at least amortise it. There aren't many places where a toll wouldn't involve drivers using rat-runs to avoid it.

    3) Some Councils have a really funny idea about what traffic does. Cambridge did a particularly fine job of routing all the local traffic into the traffic jams that form around shopping centres, rather than keeping them separate and flowing. There are rumours that this to make the traffic system so congested that a congestion charge can be justified. We're watching you.

    4) Most of the problems on the roads are caused by roadworks. Most of the problems caused by roadworks are there because the lowest bidder does them - meaning that they can put two people on the job and take six months over it, while simultaneously working on five other projects in the area - and there's limited communication between the areas. Typically, this blocks every possible alternative route at the same time, or delays the same journey repeatedly*. If the government factored the wasted productivity (and petrol) into the way roadworks could be done, I'm convinced it would be cheaper to the economy to pay the contractors twice as much and get the work done in a fraction of the time. The mythical man month isn't always mythical - it *is* possible to repair a road more quickly by putting more people on it and paying them to work for longer. Make some guarantees about maintenance of the road network and I might be happy to pay more for it.

    * As of a few weeks ago, my route from Bracknell to Cambridge consists of M4 (roadworks), then more M4 (roadworks) to the M25 or A404 (roadworks), then M25 (roadworks for about ten miles), then A1 (roadworks) to the A505 or M25 (roadworks) to the M11. This was not funny - it was almost quicker to go via the A322 and M3 and around the south of London, which is twice as far. Or would have been, if the A322 and M3 didn't have roadworks on them...

    My $.02.

  29. Tonik

    Fuel tax is just not good enough...

    ...if (when) we all switch to electric cars. There is no way to distinguish house electricity and car electricity. Fuel tax must be replaced by something else and that's what they are trying to sell.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Sorry to be so blunt. But you're wrong.

      If/when we change to electric cars, we'll still need to "fill them up" with electric. Which means petrol stations will start supplying 3-phase alongside V-power. Electricity from these 3-phase supplies will be taxed highly, but for that tax you'll get a good, quick charge time / battery swap / shot of ethanol for a fuel cell / however these things are powered.

      Of course they'll not be able to stop you charging your own car from the mains, but then 12 hours with a cable hanging out of a third floor flat isn't really practical, is it? Installing a 3-phase supply would be bloody expensive, too, so that's out for most users.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    Middle-ages here we come!!!

    Jebus f**king wept, are the numb-nuts determined to send up screaming back to the middle-ages , when most people simply weren't allowed to travel very far a) tied to the land as serfs or b) "here there be dragons" mentality?

    More likely, is it simply that anyone remotely tied to Westminster seems intent on bending everyone over in the country and exacting their pound of flesh for a few more pieces of silver?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Serfing the Internet

      The serfs who could not leave their manor were never a majority and the fear of dragons in England at least was never terribly high either.

  31. Cunningly Linguistic

    You may well laugh at the concept

    But how about the roads are brought up to spec using existing road taxes and once the roads are in the condition they should be then, and only then, should the excess taxes be used for other purposes.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Road charging will create a two tier system. The haves get to drive on freeflowing roads, the have nots have to stay at home.

    Fuck right off buster.

    1. Chad H.

      As Opposed...

      As Opposed to the Current system, where the Have Nots still have to stay home?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        As Opposed...

        As opposed to currently when the Have Nots drive around without Mot, VED or Insurance and cost the rest of us more.

        1. david wilson

          @AC 11:16

          >>"As opposed to currently when the Have Nots drive around without Mot, VED or Insurance and cost the rest of us more."

          Wouldn't some kinds of road pricing (such as via loads of ANPR cameras) at least go some way towards catching *them*?

  33. Paul Frankheimer

    Using bad stats is always nice...


    This has led to a serious lack of capacity. Of the top 27 countries considered by the World Economic Forum, the UK ranks 24th for its roads (20th for rail). Considered against an average of the top 5 EU nations plus the USA, Canada and Japan, UK roads carry two and a half times as many people and twice as much freight.

    Ok, compare like with like. England has a population density of 1000 people per square mile. Naturally roads will be more congested when they are linking bigger populations and you don't have lots of country roads that aren't used as much. A valid comparison would be the Netherlands, which has roughly the same population density. And then, the usage figures are suddenly different.

    1. david wilson


      Indeed - I'd wonder where roads would be supposed to be built in the UK in order to drop vehicle density down by a factor of 2-2.5?

  34. John Dougald McCallum


    4) Years ago I used to drive a lot on the M62 during peak time. The vast majority of what I would consider blocking traffic was trucks ferrying stuff between Hull and Liverpool. That freight should be on rail. I understand that lorry drivers need to earn a living, but it just doesn't make modern sense for all that freight to be on the road. Question is, why isn't it?

    The M62 was built specifically to connect the ports of Hull and Liverpool. Unfortunately most of these trucks not only go to Hull they are also going on to the A1 and M1.Your argument about putting more freight on to rail would have made more sense if we had a more connected rail system but we do not we have " main lines going north/south and a few going east/west and a lot of space in between that is not on a rail route nor any where near one with a goods yard (most goods yards were sold for housing/industry a long time ago).In order to get more goods on to the system the government will have to spend on more track.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Except of course we used to have more rail lines which were closed down. Take for example the transpennine line at Woodhead. It would be ideal for getting freight away from the M62 except for the fact that much of the line is now a cycle path and the tunnels seem to have been converted into a duct for power cables. There's sensible.

  35. Livinglegend

    The predictable future

    Who would be the head of this independent 'government funded' committee, perhaps a 'retired professor of transport and infrastructure' who would be paid several times the PM's salary.

    How many Billions would it cost to set up and guess who would be paying for it? Anyone who believes that the costs of use would also be low or stay the same, needs to look at the high tolls on the loss making M6 Toll propped up by under the table funding from the DofT.

    The poor and middle classes would soon be priced off the roads to keep them clear for the politicians and 'retired professors' using their free passes on exclusive 'Zil Roads'. All motorways and major roads would be reclassified as Zil One or Zil Two. Zil Two would be quickly cleared for the junior politician's motorcades and their mates/WAGs as appropriate. Zil One would be for our senior political masters only.

    Would we be screwed? You had better believe it, if you let them!

  36. Richard Porter

    The problem with road pricing

    is that most of the money collected will go on collecting the money. The cost of equipment will have to be borne by the vehicle owner and taxpayer. Increasing fuel duty costs nothing, but fuel prices need to be kept roughly the same across national borders.

    Road pricing isn't going to solve congestion unless it is so swingeing that it cripples the economy at the same time. Poorer people who don't live where they work just won't be able to afford to have jobs.

  37. Anonymous Coward


    So the tax burden is shifted from the motorist to the general population.

    So we the people (who drive) still pay the same amount of tax (almost - the burden is shared with non-drivers) but the cost of road use drops.

    That doesn't really benefit people, but it does benefit the freight companies.

    I smell a rat in the research.

  38. Jusme

    Papers please...

    When will people realise that road pricing is not about revenue (fuel tax covers that just fine) or congestion (which is self-limiting), but is about tracking and restriction of free movement.

    1. david wilson


      >>"When will people realise that road pricing is not about revenue (fuel tax covers that just fine) or congestion (which is self-limiting), but is about tracking and restriction of free movement."

      Even given a database of pretty fine-grained data about vehicle movements, how many people would be likely to *become* of interest to the authorities simply as a result of where they drive, given that most people spend most of their journeys on driving to/from work, driving to go shopping, driving kids to school, etc.

      I don't see road pricing as being likely to affect where I drive for privacy reasons, even if (like fuel tax) it might affect my economic choices.

      What kinds of legitimate activities (including lawful dissent) would the information coming from road pricing be likely to impinge on, and how does that balance against the potential usefulness of the information for legitimate state functions such as non-oppressive law enforcement?

  39. Jay 3

    Fsck it move to Canada...suffer....

    and get stuck in traffic...... because we have no idea how to build roads let alone efficient ones.

  40. Anonymous Coward


    This article is a fail because it is just recycles RAC press-release, but mainly because it equates road user = motorist, which it certainly doesn't. It also cleverly omits the associated cost to society of cars; sedentary illness , death and injury on the roads, pollution, foreign policy needed to rake in the vast amounts of fuel required for each individual to travel in their own car and administration of traffic law (such as it is), to name just a few.

    Of course roads are funded out of general taxation, otherwise motorists would end up with the false impression that they alone paid for, and thus own the roads. Oh wait a minute, most of them do...

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Didn't we go to war in Iraq for cheap petrol?

    It still seems to be around double what we were paying before the war.

    Remind me again. Who won?

  42. Ku...

    Its irrelivant

    So road charging means as a motorist I'll pay 60-65% less road tax and fuel duty. Unless the government proposes to stop having an NHS, Welfare State and a military service they will just have to raise that money through other taxation, perhaps 25% VAT, higher income tax, etc.

    If you want to pay less tax your government has to spend less.

    If you spend less, you get less.

    What does the government currently do which it should stop doing? And this will have to be big, significant changes...

  43. annodomini2

    Pulls a pistol

    Stand and deliver!

  44. GrahamT
    Thumb Down

    Privatised road pricing

    So you take the money out of the general exchequer (NHS, Education, Pensions and Benefits) and give it to shareholders (usually financial institutions) - how does that help the population?

    By the way; France used to have low fuel duty, no road tax, but high (private) road tolls. Theoretically, once the road was paid for, it went back into public ownership, and the toll was dropped. It didn't happen. France still has swingeing tolls (it costs me about €60 to go 500km) AND fuel duty comparable to the UK. (road tax for private drivers abolished in 2001) and most of the private autoroutes are only two lane. At least they ban certain HGVs from the roads during busy weekends.

    The RAC is a "gentleman's" club on Pall Mall, masquerading as a motoring organisation; take no notice of them, they only say it to annoy the plebs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Skye Road Bridge

      Compare the French situation with what happened with the Skye road bridge and then consider what would happen with toll roads in this country.

  45. Sean O'Connor 1

    Scrap stamp duty

    Stamp duty is a tax that discourages people from moving closer to where they work. I reckon moving house should be made as cheap and easy as possible so when you move job it's easy to move closer and cut down on commuting. Or maybe you should only pay a (higher) rate on the difference in price of the house you are buying compared to the house you're selling so people moving for convenience rather than because they're loaded don't pay tax.

    Why tax/penalise people who just want to cut down on their commute?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      Well said that man,

      It is currently costing me around £20k in stamp duty, estate agent fees and other fees just to move, that's before I have to stump up a big wedge of cash to make up the LTV ratio that banks require now that they are 'poor'.


  46. Ken Darling

    Cost of me using the road - ZERO

    smart cdi - road tax= £0.

    make my own bio diesel, cost per litre = £0.40 approx.

    fuel duty paid = £0 (can make 2500 litres p/a without paying duty)

    Road pricing is a good idea. I'm all for it. Make me pay my fair share for using the roads.

    1. MrT

      You still need to pay fuel duty...

      "You must notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of your intention to produce biodiesel. For details please contact the Excise and Customs Helpline on Tel 0845 010 9000 (+44 2920 501 261 outside UK).

      It is the responsibility of producers to show HMRC that their product meets all aspects of the legal definition and sufficient tests must be carried out to prove that the specification is met. If a product does not meet all aspects of the definition it is a fuel substitute and will attract a higher rate of duty.

      Biodiesel that can be shown to meet the full definition will attract a duty rate of 20 pence per litre lower than the sulphur-free diesel rate."

      It's the same for using vegetable oil etc.

      1. A J Stiles

        Not quite

        You can make 2500 litres of biodiesel for your own use per year without paying any duty.

        If your biodiesel-making equipment is obviously portable, then you can probably add to that an extra 2500 litres for each petrol car driver in your street (but the sum of these unused allowances is shared between all biodiesel users in the street).

        1. MrT

          Right you are...

          I'd missed the date where the 2500l personal allowance was introduced... relying more on Dick Strawbridge than own experience.

          Not exactly a cheap option though - over £2500 ready made for the smaller machine, with a year's payback only if the waste oil is scrounged for free. However, if portable includes 'mounted in a Transit van' then process away. 2500l should be enough for a couple of vehicles at average mileage, which would extend the payback period if not all is produced (I guess it can't be stored for ages without degrading).

          However, most high-pressure common-rail cars need a significant amount of work on the fuel system to prevent any problems, and changes in the way the car is used. Here's what one SMART For2 CDI owner has to say:

          "I have an eberspacher engine preheater which heats fuel filter, fuel rail and the engine block which in turn heats all the injectors and injection pump. This process takes ten minutes, and allows startup on the mixed 50/50veg to diesel without any smoke. It also reduces wear. The engine is a direct injection common rail unit, and is therefore prone to problems related to cold oil."

          So that's a 10-minute warm-up before driving off. This driver reports 'all fine' but then says that only 1000 miles out of the car's 50k has been driven on this. One driver of another car says his was fine on a 50/50 mix of bio with regular, but the fuel pump gave up after a mile on 100% biodiesel, which sounds like an expensive way to find out how to deal with using it.

          Thanks for the heads-up

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lies damned lies...

    The thing about sparsely populated countries is that they still suffer congestion in the densely populated areas. It's just that this congestion is obfuscated by the miles and miles of clear roads linking the densley populated areas. So the statistics on which the whole report is based are totally pointless.

  48. Bernard M. Orwell
    Big Brother

    Some thoughts...

    "more would be charged at peak times, for instance, encouraging drivers to time their journeys when the roads are little used and so spreading traffic out more across the day or week"

    Yeah, like my employer will understand my need to be late from work or to leave early so I can avoid increased traffic and higher charges. Imagine them being so progressive!

    ...and now for the Tin-Foil Hat News.....

    Signs of a rise in fascism:

    1) Mandatory requirement to carry identification (NID, NIR etc. etc.)

    2) Decrease in civil liberties (Curtailing of the right to protest, s44, anti-terrorism laws)

    3) Increase in surveilance (Cameras everywhere, GCHQ plans to tap phones & internet comms)

    4) Increase in covert policing (Kettling, police officers disguising identity, FIT)

    5) Clampdown on freedom of information (Photographers, Bloggers, Public Speakers)

    6) Monitoring of movement/restriction of freedom to travel (See this article)

    How many more signs do we need?

    1. david wilson


      >>"3) Increase in surveilance (Cameras everywhere, GCHQ plans to tap phones & internet comms)"

      You mean they're not *already* doing it to people they consider of interest?

      What have we been paying them to do for the last 65 years?

      >>"4) Increase in covert policing (Kettling, police officers disguising identity, FIT)"

      I'm not sure I'd count ketting and covering up numbers as 'covert' in the strictest sense.

      >>"6) Monitoring of movement/restriction of freedom to travel (See this article)"

      How does charging people to drive restrict their freedom to travel any more than charging them to get on a plane/train/bus does?

  49. Perpetual Cyclist

    We will all drive less in the future.

    The RAC are completely out of touch with reality. Congestion is falling, because we are driving less. We are driving less because we have had the worst recession in 80 years and UK fuel prices are at an all time record high. These factors are directly linked.

    Global oil supplies can no longer keep up with exponentially growing world demand. Even before the US stopped deep water drilling. When the financial bubble was at maximum inflation in 2008 oil production was stalled at 86M barrels/day, and the price just kept going up until the Western World's debt bubble burst. We are now stoney broke, and being systematically outbid for soon to be declining oil supplies by China and the developing world. We are simply going to have to consume less, and drive less, year after year. The supply is limited and we cannot afford it.

    So, it will be electric cars, biofuels or nothing. Mostly it will be nothing. If it takes double double dip, triple dip or permanent recession, then that is what will happen. We will be consuming a lot less oil in future.

  50. Chris Hunt

    Road charging and peak hours

    I've never understood this whole "discourage people from driving at peak times by introducing road charges" thing.

    I'm already discouraged from driving at peak times by the fact that the roads are busy. It's much nicer to drive at times when they are emptier. However, I'm not on the road at rush hour for my own amusement - I'm there because I have to be at work on time. Road charging wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to peak hour congestion, except to make it more expenive to Joe Public. The citizens of Manchester and other places had the sense to realise this - it's just the politicians who are stuck in a jam.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A complete non-issue

    Governments (read politicians) across the globe are essentially the same : totally inept at organizing a piss up in a brewery, refusing to accept responability for the misery they inflict upon their constituants, and only interested in maximzing llegislation that lines their own pockets.

    That being said, we can conclude that, however much is being stolen from the people they govern by means of taxes, levies, fines and other exises and VATS, they will always end up short.

    Therefor, reducing the income from road taxes by whatever means, will automatically lead to an increase in taxes somewhere else.

    THEY will NOT squander less, so YOU will have to pay more.

    The professor is of course right. Reducing road taxes is however an exercise in futility.

  52. JohnG

    Transport: UK vs. Germany

    I have lived in Germany for about 10 years now and still find the differences in transport strange.

    The equivalent of VED is about the same here in Germany (about 100 euros per annum for my car). The petrol is now about the same price (the exchange rate made it cheaper in the UK for a while). Insurance is about 400 Euros a year and is probably a bit cheaper than I would pay in the UK.

    I drive to work - it takes about 10 minutes as there is not much congestion. I park for free in the company car park. I could take the tram - it stops 400m from my house and little bit further away from my work.

    Public transport is far more frequent than in the UK and my impression is that it is generally cheaper.

    Given the tax burden in the UK and Germany is about the same, why the hell is the public transport in the UK so poor? All the UK governments and local authorities ever do is increase taxes but never deliver a viable public transport system or even adequate parking. Where does all the money go in the UK? Germany has a welfare state, schools, etc. but still manages to build and maintain viable public transport without the need to continually extort more money from motorists. WTF is going on in the UK?

    1. GrahamT

      I wonder...

      Is public transport in Germany State/Council owned or private? In the UK rail and buses were privatised in the 80's, so apart from subsidies, which go to pay dividends to shareholders, and rail infrastructure, Government money doesn't finance public transport.

  53. John Munyard

    Glaister is missing the point

    For all his cleverness Prof Glaister is missing the point. I recall that a lot of the public outrage that led to the famously supported Downing Street petition was not because of road pricing per se, it was anger at the suggestion that the Government (or any other Agency) wanted to install spying devices in people's cars that would track thier every movement.

    And it doesn't actually matter whether those were to be owned and operated by the Government, MI5, the RAC or Bobo the Clown - there was *huge* resistance to the concept of being tracked everywhere.

    Now many would argue (correctly) that in ANPR we have such a system anyway by the back door, but there is a threshold of personal space which I still believe motorists are not willing to accept and these GPS tracking devices are where the line is. It's like putting CCTV in people's homes.

    Prof Glaister seems to have spent all his research looking at spreadsheets and doing calculations. He can't possibly have spoken to any road users before proposing this flawed piece of drivel. In addition did anyone at the RAC actually check the document? They boast about about looking for completely new and different solutions to congestion, and then just trot out the same old (rejected) tax proposals.

  54. Iain 4

    Flat road charging could be fun!

    There's one big advantage of taking the cost off fuel duty and onto a road usage tax. I could ditch my dull 1.6L 4-pot and replace it with a hulk of V8 Mustang, for little to no increase in running costs. Hardly ideal as an environmental policy, but the numpty that wrote this report doesn't seem to care.

    1. david wilson

      @Iain 4

      >>"I could ditch my dull 1.6L 4-pot and replace it with a hulk of V8 Mustang, for little to no increase in running costs. "

      You're confident that charging would be a single rate for all types of car?

  55. Adam 10

    In New Zealand...

    In New Zealand they even stick 3rd party insurance onto the cost of petrol. Result? Very few hit-and-runs, because everybody automatically has insurance to cover any prangs they created. You can still be done for dangerous driving, so it's not carte blanche to play bumper cars on the public highway though...

    As someone who drives a fuel efficient car a less-than-average distance each year, I welcome a sensible approach to road charging. Perhaps they could include some sort of tax on fuel, so people who use more of it pay more, and people who use less, pay less? Oh, they do that already do they?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It seems we have more proof that Winston didn't always get things right. Didn't anyone at the time point out the flaws ? Or is it the case we pay no ring fenced demands to date ? Some areas of tax/expenditure clearly fits hypothecation. You need x done, and you don't think it should be funded from the general kitty; then you charge those who need x to raise enough money, and no more.

    When one group of society is unfairly targeted it isn't honourable to approve of it, nor to claim that if one allowed oneself to be manipulated by those who are meant to serve, it could be avoided.

  57. blackworx

    Motorists as persecuted group?

    Get a fucking grip.

    Everywhere I walk in this city I am assaulted by constant fumes and noise pollution, I see other pedestrians scattered by inconsiderate drivers and the pavements are all cracked and potholed from twunts parking on them. Then I see the ignorant self-centred moaning drivel being spouted by some people on here and it makes my fucking blood boil.

  58. Simon Walker

    The very definition of a bad tax

    Costs a huge amount to implement, administer and maintain, is likely to confuse a lot of people, and a massive black market for ways to circumvent the system will spring up overnight.

    Contrast to just having a simple tax on fuel, which is a pretty good proxy for the amount that people drive, and even takes in to account how polluting you are/how much scarce resource you are using.

  59. Bernard M. Orwell
    Big Brother

    @David Wilson

    >> ">>"6) Monitoring of movement/restriction of freedom to travel (See this article)"

    How does charging people to drive restrict their freedom to travel any more than charging them to get on a plane/train/bus does?


    By installing GPS monitoring equipment in your vehicle to determine the charges for road-use that will apply to you. Thus, someBODY will have a nice complete record of your movements. No doubt it'll be handily stored next to your phone & email logs, and your DNA records.

    Done nothing wrong? You don't need to have. With this level of information those in power will be able to fabricate whatever they like about your activities. Watch carefully, I predict that over the next few years it will become strangely 'unfashionable' to openly criticise government policies too.

    1. david wilson


      >>"By installing GPS monitoring equipment in your vehicle to determine the charges for road-use that will apply to you. Thus, someBODY will have a nice complete record of your movements. No doubt it'll be handily stored next to your phone & email logs, and your DNA records."

      That might impinge on your privacy (or at least your car's privacy) but it doesn't necessarily impinge on your freedom to travel,

      If you're planning on going somewhere (for legal, dubious or illegal activities) which is so sensitive that merely parking close to your destination could arouse suspicion, then even now you'd probably be better advised to walk the last bit of the journey.

      Secretly plotting to overthrow or embarrass the government? Probably best not all drive to the house of your cell leader.

      Visiting your mistress (or your Mistress)? Might be an idea to park a street or two away.

      Were anyone to get flagged up as someone whose driving records were of interest, likely their movements could be followed fairly well from their mobile records, who they have talked to could be found out from phone and email records, etc.

      It seems like the people who would have reasonable reasons not to have their movements possibly traceable would also have to be careful to avoid leaving trails by any other methods.

      If they were going to bother being that careful, then they could probably manage to get to suspicious locations other than by driving straight to them.

      >>"Done nothing wrong? You don't need to have. With this level of information those in power will be able to fabricate whatever they like about your activities."

      Why would they bother?

      Aren't there enough people they are concerned about?

      If The Powers That Be really wanted to frame me for something, they could easily do it already by planting a little bit of forensic evidence, just as they could easily have done in the past by getting police to make up a confession.

      Vehicle movement records alone wouldn't necessarily be much use - if someone could find out my car had been driven from Bristol to Ipswich and back on given dates, that would be useless information for someone trying to frame me for a crime in Ipswich unless they also knew I was in the car, and that I didn't have an alibi for the time they wanted to frame me for.

      For all they knew, I could have driven to Ipswich and then immediately got a lift to Edinburgh with 4 impeccable witnesses.

      If they'd need to have had contemporary surveillance to be sure where I was and what I was doing, how would the vehicle records actually help them?

      Honestly, the feeling I get is that some people have a pretty inflated idea of their own importance.

      Given how easy it was for the government to pretty much ignore all the Iraq protests, on the scale *they* were on, I'm wondering which people think their own opinion (and their presentation of that opinion) is so universally convincing and so threatening to the Establishment that a massive state conspiracy will frame them if they even think about speaking their mind?

      If such people actually do exist, what is their past history of actually doing anything meaningful?

      To frame a critic in order to silence any others only seems likely to really work when people widely suspect that charges were trumped-up.

      Try doing it a few times and it gets pretty hard to get anyone to believe that the charges are actually correct.

      That's the kind of thing you can only really get away with when you already have a seriously oppressive state, and as such, it's more a symptom than a cause of loss of freedom.

  60. Matt Hawkins


    "It's vehicle excise duty, a tax on how much you pollute."

    No it isn't. It is a tax on the emissions per mile at the point the car was manufactured.

    How much car tax you pay has got nothing to do with how much you actually pollute.

    You think that someone that pays £400 pollutes more than someone that pays £100? Possibly. It depends on how much they actually drive. That is why the tax system is a cash cow and has got nothing to do with pollution.

    I pay a high rate for my car but I guarantee you I pollute less than plenty of people driving little "green" cars.

    As for "pay as you go" .. its a stupid idea. We already have a system of charging by use and it's called fuel duty. Increasing fuel duty is free. Pay-as-you-go is going to require millions (if not billions) of pounds to be spent on technology. Just put up fuel duty. The more you burn the more you pay. If you drive a better car you can drive a few extra miles for your money. It's simple.

    But a nationwide network of spy cameras would be a nice earner for the companies that get their brown envelopes in first.

  61. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Road charging...

    ...all that will happen is that road charging is added, there will be no drop in VED or tax on fuel and everybody will wind up paying more.

    The comment about paying for the roads already through the usage of fuel is a good, but as noted, damn unpopular one.

    Also, comparing the UK other countries by way of simple metrics when it comes to road building just isn't possible / sensible. The UK has a much higher population density than most other countries in the "top road" list therefore the stresses on the road network and the availability of land to build roads on is very different.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    I think somebody already mentioned this, but: there is no need for the tax disc anymore, it needs to be got rid of and instead put on fuel duty, so you only pay for what you use. There is no need for black box recorders / GPS / ANPR tracking which is just an excuse to spy on drivers.

    I own a number of cars, but I can only drive one at a time, so why do I have to pay for road tax on all of them when they are not parked on the road, you can SORN but that's not all that convenient.

    1. david wilson


      >>"There is no need for black box recorders / GPS / ANPR tracking which is just an excuse to spy on drivers."

      That'd be 'spy on people driving on public roads', I guess?

      Would you have a problem with black box data being used in accident investigation?

      For example, if someone was doing 70 in a 30 zone just before they were involved in a serious accident, do you think it's unfair for data from their vehicle to be used against them, and if so, why is it unfair?

      Some people might see a car as an extension of their personal space, but unless they're driving it around on their own property, how that little bubble of personal space moves around does affect other people in all kinds of ways.

      >>"I own a number of cars, but I can only drive one at a time, so why do I have to pay for road tax on all of them when they are not parked on the road, you can SORN but that's not all that convenient."

      If I owned a load of houses, I'd still have to pay council tax on them all, even if I only lived in one at once.

      If there was going to be some kind of discount for multiple vehicle ownership, that'd be fine if everyone played by the rules, but it'd be pretty certain that some people would start to take the piss, and register as the keeper for multiple vehicles that ended up being driven by other people.

      Unless, of course, there was an automated way to make sure that only the registered keeper drove their vehicles, or that multiple vehicles weren't being driven at the same time, but that'd probably be getting too 1984-ish for some people....

  63. Martin Usher

    He hasn't thought this through...

    So the Treasury makes a serious profit by taxing road users. Ending the direct tax on road users isn't going to stop the Treasury making a serious profit, they'll just get the money from somewhere else.

    Like VED, fuel tax and mileage charges....(after all, the VED and fuel tax infrastructures are already in place). Now you all know that after a new tax is introduced the old tax might be reduced a tad but it will creep back up. (Remember VAT? It replaced purchase tax but because it was on everything it initially collected a lot of extra money. That was back when it was 7% or less.....remind me....what it is now?)

    ...and, of course, the mileage charge infrastructure will need paying for.....(good eatin' for the well connected)

    1. david wilson

      @Martin Usher

      >>"(Remember VAT? It replaced purchase tax but because it was on everything it initially collected a lot of extra money. That was back when it was 7% or less.....remind me....what it is now?)"

      Didn't old Maggie put VAT up so she could make a big noise about lowering income tax?

  64. mark l 2 Silver badge


    I agree with other postings on here that HGVs are a big contributor to the congestion on the roads and to how many repairs need to be done to the roads so something needs to be done to solve the problem, On a recent journey down the M6 during the day after rush hour every time the motorway became congested and slowed down it was because of some inconsiderate truck driver who had tried to overtake another truck while on a hill so slowed the flow of traffic down from 70 to 40 while everyone had to file round his truck to get past him.

    An easy solution to this would be to charge the HGVs more to use the motorways during the daytime and hopefully then that would encourage them to travel overnight when the roads are quieter or take 1000s of trucks off the road by putting the good onto the railways which is what our Victorian ancestors designed the railways for in the first place. Sure this may mean a loss of jobs in the haulage industry but and increase of jobs in the railways.

  65. Anonymous Coward

    road charges

    What a load of backward thinking twaddle,no wonder the people that run Great Britain PLC have a problem if this is all a "great mind " can come up with.

    Its simple.

    Abolish all road charges and road tax.

    Just tax fuel !

    That way all users both great and small will pay every time they start their vehicles.

    The Tax collection system is already in place when you buy fuel, no one escapes, its impossible to fiddle and even visitors to the UK will then be paying to use the roads.

    Benefits include clearing out a whole swath of civil servants and tax disc distributors at the the DVLC offices and reduce the cost of computers and system maintenance.

    Saving tax payers a lot of money all round.

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