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30 April 2019

Report calls for per-mile road charging scheme in London

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to replace the city’s existing road charge schemes with a single system that charges drivers per mile.

Called City Move, the scheme would apply in areas of high demand and poor air quality. Rates would vary by vehicle emissions, local levels of congestion and pollution and availability of public transport alternatives – but would be set before the journey begins.

A report by thinktank Centre for London - Green Light: Next Generation of Road User Charging for a Healthier, More Liveable London - insists City Move would reflect the true level of vehicle usage and its contribution to congestion and pollution. It would also consider the impact of individual journeys in terms of road surface damage, economic costs and environmental damage.

Centre for London claims City Move has the following benefits:

•    Tackle city-wide air pollution – charging drivers on the most congested roads the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a bus ticket could reduce total emissions and air pollution levels across the whole of London by up to a fifth (over and above the anticipated impact of the current Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

•    Better experience on the roads – the scheme would reduce congestion and allow investment in roads maintenance, creating a better journey for all road users.

•    Better for business – the scheme could reduce traffic overall, thereby reducing delays and helping business to make efficiency savings.

Additionally, the report sets out plans for a multimodal platform integrated with the rest of the capital's transport system. Available as an app and website, it would allow users to compare, plan and pay for journeys using a range of travel options available. The solution would compare relative costs and impacts of taking the bus, tube, train, car-sharing, taxi hailing, bike hire, cycling or walking to help users make informed choices.

Looking ahead, the report recommends Sadiq Khan should ask Transport for London to develop options for a new approach to road user charging, with a view to introducing the first version by the end of the 2020-24 mayoral term.

According to Centre for London, this would include developing a customer platform, upgrading the required GPS and mobile network capacity and a trial to test the technology.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, says the report highlights the need for rules and regulations to be simple to understand and easy to plan for if they have any chance of working smoothly and attracting public support.

“One wonders whether this is the case in London – and increasingly in other towns and cities across the country – where drivers are confronted with an array of charges designed to do different things across different geographical areas,” he continues. “Many could be forgiven for confusing their CCs, CAZs and ULEZs.”

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat assembly member, says: “We need a radical overhaul of the growing number of road user charges and instead move to a single comprehensive system that directly tackles congestion and air pollution wherever it occurs in the capital.”

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