Monday, 18 August 2008

Coming soon: Pay-as-you-go road tax

By Sophie Borland
18th August 2008



Taxing: Could pay-as-you-go road tax be on the way?

Pay-as-you-drive road taxes moved a step closer last night after the Government confirmed it was launching the first ever trials of the scheme.

As part of several pilots taking place across parts of Britain, cars will be fitted with black boxes on their dashboard which can be tracked by satellites allowing their exact movements to be monitored

The Department of Transport said it is currently appointing companies to carry out these schemes.

Members of the public will be invited to take part in the trials which are likely to take place some time between now and 2010.

It is believed that the pilots will take place in between eight and 10 areas in Britain.

A Department of Transport spokesman said no areas had been agreed yet by the companies charged to carry out the scheme.

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

Up too 100 drivers in each area will voluntarily test the black box technology which will  allow their movements to be tracked.

New Labour has vacillated over starting a road pricing scheme which could see some drivers pay up to £1.30-a-mile.

When road pricing was first proposed while Tony Blair was Prime Minister some 1.8 million people signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling for the Government to abandon it. Last year, ministers indicated that they would not press ahead with a national pricing scheme.

The Conservatives last night warned that the 'spy in the sky' projects are will pave the way for a national road pricing programme.

Theresa Villiers, the shadow Transport Secretary, called on her opposite number Ruth Kelly to halt the trials.


Tolls: Parts of the motorway network have been earmarked

"It seems that Labour's unpopular plans for a national road pricing scheme are alive and well," she said.

"They are determined to press ahead with their untried and untested spy-in-the-sky national project even though it looks like an IT disaster waiting to happen.

"Ruth Kelly should start listening to drivers and scrap these pilots for a national road pricing scheme that is unnecessary and unwanted."  

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

A spokesman said: "The contract for the scheme has been put out to let and we are in the process of finalising which companies will oversee it.

'The pilots will be run purely on a voluntary basis with people applying to take part."

Last month the Government set out plans for pay-as-you-go lanes to beat motorway jams.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced proposals for dozens of motorway widening schemes that involve building an extra lane or getting drivers to use the hard shoulder.

Motorists would pay around £5 a time to queue-jump jams using American-style pay lanes.

Roads including M1 from the Home Counties to the North, the M6 around Birmingham, the M27 and M3 near Southampton, the motorway network around Manchester, and the M4 and M5 around Bristol have been earmarked for tolls.

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