Transport Minister Norman Baker’s prediction that road tax will be replaced by pay-as-you drive tolls is not what fleet managers with vans protected by commercial vehicle insurance want to hear as it means they will have to pay much more each year for doing their jobs.
Mr Baker feels that a projected fall in treasury fuel revenues as well as the growth in electric vehicles means a new road pricing system is inevitable. The scrapping of excise duty and a cut in fuel taxes will be evened out by a new charge monitored by a black box in every vehicle on the road. Those who use the motorway will pay more than those using A and B roads, but those on short trips will be the winners if the tolls get the go-ahead nationwide. Tolls are common in both Europe and the USA, but in the UK, only the M6 bypass and a small number of bridges and tunnels charge motorists for using them.
The Liberal Democrat Minister’s announcement ahead of the party conference in Brighton this week has been greeted as hugely significant by transport campaigners. Mr Baker said: “All parties will have to act to make up for the billions expected to be lost through carbon tax revenues. Every government of every colour will get there, whatever parties say now. The Exchequer is not just going to say oh, we’ve lost some money. They are going to do something about it. So I think we should actually face up to that now in a mature way as a society and address how we’re going to deal with that.”
The Minister has produced graphs which show that revenues from fuel duty will almost halve by 2030. Receipts will fall from 1.8% as a share of GDP in 2010 to 1% by 2030 meaning a system of charging drivers per mile and axing road tax will have to be discussed at some point. This is one of those political realities that no one has so far been prepared to talk about and many give credit to Norman Baker for bringing it to the attention of the UK.