Britain’s food and drink freight handlers are preparing for the introduction of regional road pricing schemes, even though plans for a national scheme have been frozen for now by government.
While the industry has welcomed plans for initiatives that ease congestion on the roads, speeding up deliveries and hence reducing costs, logistics providers are worried that some schemes might primarily be used to boost local public finances.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has published a guideto the 11 potential road pricing schemes that have been promoted by the Department for Transport and financed by the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF). These cover: Cambridge, Durham, East Midlands, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Norwich, Reading, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands and Shropshire. However, schemes for East Midlands, Norwich, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands and Shropshire are apparently not going ahead.
Some of these schemes are intended to be developed by local authorities for specific areas, and may be a pre-cursor to the creation of a national road pricing scheme in the longer term, even though transport secretary Ruth Kelly has abandoned plans for the time being.
The FTA is prepared to support road pricing schemes where they can be shown to produce a net benefit for business users. However, it has identified a number of conditions that must be fulfilled in order for any scheme to gain its support.
The FTA said any road pricing scheme should be part of a mix of policy actions to tackle congestion, including improved school transport, relaxation of delivery curfews, alternatives for journeys to work and discounts for the adoption of environmental best practice. Furthermore, their purpose must be to reduce congestion, not raise money.
The technology must also be inter-operable with other schemes in the UK and the rest of the EU, claimed the FTA. And a priority must be to establish how the costs and benefits to industry of a road pricing scheme can be measured.
Evaluation of schemes must include the impact on deliveries to businesses in the charged area and on the edge of the charging zone.
FTA’s head of urban access policy, Stephen Kelly said: “If road pricing schemes can reduce congestion, cut costs, speed deliveries and benefit users, then they may be welcome. If, by spending £5, a lorry operator can get £6 of benefits in saved time and a slicker delivery, then all well and good.
“But if a scheme fails to produce any benefits, places additional costs on vehicle operators and is merely used by a local authority to raise money, then it will most certainly not be acceptable.”