The notion of charging to use public roads has long been a contentious subject in the UK, with substantial political opposition. This much has been demonstrated by such recent developments as the controversy surrounding London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) – which was a major topic of discussion during the London Mayoral election – and the now-abandoned plans for a congestion charge in Cambridge. 

On the subject of the UK capital city, the London Assembly Transport Committee published a report on Future Road User Charging in London in March. This report set out a series of recommendations for the Mayor and the government, focusing on the practicalities around the potential introduction of a future new, smarter road-user charging scheme in the city. 

However, the question of what mobility pricing could look like during the 2020s has also been much talked about beyond the UK’s borders. Authorities in California, for instance, have recently initiated a pilot program, proposing that drivers could be charged based on the miles they travel. This comes on a backdrop of declining traditional fuel tax revenues and the increasingly widespread use of electric vehicles (EVs). 

A new CIHT white paper puts forward potent arguments on mobility pricing 

Events like those cited above, and the associated intense debate on the merits of different forms of road-use charging, make a recent intervention into the issue by the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) all the timelier. 

Specifically, the charity and membership body has – in partnership with Bentley Systems – launched a white paper, entitled Charging for Road Use – What is the Future of Mobility Pricing? 

The white paper looks at the various ways in which motorists are paying directly to use roads in different parts of the world, and how this contributes to such transport policy goals as the reduction of congestion, the improvement of air quality, and the minimisation of carbon emissions. 

According to the white paper, an important lesson emerges from the previous difficulties in trying to implement road-use charging schemes. It asserts the importance of the transportation profession and the fact that a new charging scheme must be able to answer the following three interlinked sets of questions:

  • Policy: what is the rationale for putting in place road-use charging, what problems is it meant to help solve, and what other policies need to be implemented so that these objectives can be realised? 
  • Practical: what will be the scheme’s design, what type of business model will it operate under, and what data will be required? Moreover, how will this data be collected? 
  • Political: what will give the proposal viability in its particular political and legal context? Leading on from this analysis, what communications and public engagement requirements become apparent? 

In the words of the paper’s co-author, Bentley Systems’ Mark Coates: “Advances in technology and data are opening up exciting new opportunities to use charging to solve out transport problems, but the profession needs to step up and make the case in a way that makes sense to politicians and the public.” 

Enquire to our transport consultants for planning and infrastructure advice 

Whatever forms future mobility pricing schemes take, the new CIHT white paper will doubtless make intriguing and insightful reading for many transport consultants and their clients. 

To learn more about how our transport consultants could support the success of your own projects, please feel free to contact your closest Transport Planning Associates (TPA) office.