Shoppers show caution on road pricing scheme

Almost a third of shoppers would drive to a different town or city centre to shop if congestion charging were introduced, a survey by the RAC Foundation revealed this week.

Shoppers are very cautious about road pricing pilots being considered by several towns and cities as part of the government's transport innovation fund, the foundation claims. However, 27 per cent of respondents said they would travel by another means to avoid a charge.

The research follows a government-commissioned report backing road pricing.

Former British Airways chairman Rod Eddington called road pricing an "economic no-brainer". Congestion could be cut by 50 per cent from what it would otherwise be in 2025 and the benefits to the nation could be worth up to £28 billion a year by 2025, he found.

"While firm estimates of the costs are not developed at this stage, they would have to be extremely high to outweigh the benefits of this scale," said Eddington. Some road building would still be needed, he concluded, but national road pricing would reduce the need for this by up to 80 per cent.

Environmental campaigners urged the government to rethink its road building policies. Road Block co-ordinator Rebecca Lush maintained: "Most of the roads programme would not be needed, especially destructive rural schemes. We call on ministers to end the sprawling £12 billion roads programme now."

Transport 2000 director Stephen Joseph advised the government to develop clear measures to bring in road pricing, invest in alternative transport and review its road programme, much of which he called "unnecessary or outdated".

Eddington's study dismisses calls for a high-speed rail line. "Transport policy needs to avoid wasting time and money pursuing alluring new super high-speed motorway or rail networks or pursuing grand projects with speculative returns," he insisted.

High-speed rail would not significantly change economic connectivity between most parts of the country, he added. Capacity increases in the capital and other urban areas brought about by high-speed rail could be achieved by other means. The energy consumption of rail and carbon emissions increase with speed, eroding rail's environmental advantage over air, he held.

Institution of Civil Engineers transport board chairman Alan Stilwell commented: "When the UK is seeking to reduce carbon emissions, it is disheartening for business and the public alike not to have an environmental alternative to domestic air travel."

Eddington said he is in favour of air passengers paying the full environmental cost of their journeys. But he added that there is still a "strong economic case" for additional runway capacity.

The RTPI suggested that managing demand for air travel should be a priority and insisted that the UK must work to tackle the effects of air travel at the European level.

The Eddington Transport Study is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.

EDDINGTON REVIEW: RECOMMENDATIONS

- Improve the capacity and performance of the existing transport network rather than pursuing "grand projects" that offer speculative returns.

- Target growth-focused investment on growing urban catchments, key inter-urban corridors, and key international gateways.

- Deploy a policy mix of pricing, better use and investment.

- Enshrine a systematic and transparent approach to policy-making and funding.

- Sub-national bodies must be given the correct responsibilities and scope to support local and regional transport needs.

- An independent transport planning commission should take decisions on major transport schemes (see page 1).


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