Road pricing nationwide might be off the agenda following statements made by transport secretary Ruth Kelly last month, but those in the transport field fear it could still be adopted locally.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says that a number of essential conditions must be fulfilled before it can support any local road pricing scheme. At its Urban Logistics Conference last month it published a summary paper Road pricing schemes in England, which examined the 10 current prospective schemes which have been awarded grants from the government's Transport Innovation Fund to assess the viability of local road pricing or congestion schemes.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is far more strident in warning about the impact of local road pricing schemes on small businesses. While Shropshire County Council recently joined other authorities in rejecting 'congestion' charges, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) is planning to make drivers pay to enter the city, claims the FPB.
"The nationwide road charging plans, which amount to financial penalties for trading in or delivering to certain areas, appear to have been dropped, at least for the time being," said the FPB's policy representative, Matt Goodman. "But the government has yet to commit to scrapping the idea altogether and authorities are still being encouraged to experiment with charges locally."
The author of the FTA report, Stephen Kelly, FTA's head of urban access, said: "Commercial deliveries are essential services and while the transport industry does all that it can to provide those services competitively, increased transport costs must ultimately be reflected in the price which the end customer pays."
Kelly added: "Local road pricing schemes could, in some cases, bring benefits to commercial deliveries, and thus the consumer, but must never be viewed as a panacea to the problems of congestion. And there can be no doubt that any road pricing scheme will need to have been preceded by road infrastructure and public transport improvements, together with an open-minded attitude to the social aspects of personal travel, including school hours, flexible or home working and, for industry, night delivery opportunities."