Deserted motorways, no rush hour, roadwork induced holdups a thing of the past and city centres free of traffic. In short, the Covid-19 lockdown has, in one fell swoop, decongested the UK’s roads. Most of the nation’s private vehicles are parked up and lorry drivers delivering essential supplies can enjoy quieter roads.
But as soon as restrictions are lifted, one thing is for sure, it won’t take our roads long to get back to their congestion as usual state. And congestion is one of two reasons why the Government’s Transport Committee is bringing road pricing back into the national conversation.
As MP and Transport Committee member Lilian Greenwood explains: “It’s been almost ten years since the last real road pricing discussions. In that time, we’ve become much more aware of the dangers of air pollution and congestion. Tackling these issues requires a serious response including a reconsideration of how we manage our road network.”
The second reason behind the rethink is a potential £28bn hole in Government finances caused by the gradual move to electric vehicles. That figure is the annual take from fuel duty – and you can add a further £5bn lost in VAT on sales.
With Government already committed to a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars from 2030 and carbon free transport by 2050 they’ve got to find some way of filling the financial gap. Road pricing would be a neat way of achieving this – and might not be totally unpopular. A survey of the fleet industry showed 51% were in favour of such a move.