Industry associations have given a cautious welcome to the government’s first steps towards introducing a national road pricing scheme.
The Department for Transport this week awarded seven local authorities a share of more than £7m to explore ways to tackle local congestion. It was revealed last month that no fewer than 29 councils had applied for grants (The Grocer, October 22, p10).
The areas awarded grants are Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Durham, Greater Manchester, Shrewsbury, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands. Each area has said that it will carry out detailed investigations into
various pricing schemes, with studies earmarked to take anything from six months to two years.
Both the Confederation of British Industries and the Freight Transport Association said that although pricing schemes had a role to play in tackling congestion, the government should ensure that there was consistency between the schemes to minimise administrative costs for users.
Geoff Dossetter, external affairs director at the FTA, said: “There needs to be conformity between each scheme because we could get into a situation where delivery vehicles would have to register every time they entered the schemes.”
The British Retail Consortium said its support of road user charging schemes would depend on whether they were targeted and developed with key stakeholders. A spokeswoman added: “The retail sector plays an important and growing role in local economies and communities, and this must not be jeopardised by the introduction of ill-conceived schemes developed in isolation from commercial reality.”
However, the Forum of Private Business was less welcoming. Chief executive Nick Goulding said: “The FPB is extremely uneasy about these proposals. It would be foolhardy to drive through these plans without full and comprehensive public debate and referenda.”
Beth Brooks