Opinion Former Article

Quarmby calls for road pricing

Road user charging must be taken forward alongside the introduction of driverless vehicles, the respected transport economist David Quarmby told the CIHT Annual Luncheon on Friday.

He said that developments in transport technology as well as a predicted loss of fuel duty make the need to introduce a per mile charge for road users even more pressing. “The imperative will be to price the use of driverless transport to manage demand and to protect our networks from even worse congestion.”

David Quarmby said he recognises that road pricing has been a tricky issue for the public, but asked: “Will it be this need to manage driverless vehicles that brings a variable user charge to reality?”

CIHT as an institution and professionals gathered at the Luncheon have “an important contribution to make” to a new debate around charging for road use, David Quarmby continued.

He reminded the audience that the way road use is paid for and road infrastructure is funded are changing. “In a little over two years’ time Strategic Roads and some Major Road Network enhancements will be funded by a new National Road Fund fed by vehicle excise duty, recreating for road users a customer-supplier relationship not seen for decades,” he said.

Meanwhile, he added, the steady erosion of fuel duty yield is well known, as vehicle fuel efficiency improves and hybrid, electric and other vehicle technologies achieve significant market penetration. It would be fairer, he went on, to ensure that all drivers contribute towards road costs through a general per mile charge – offset initially by a commensurate reduction in fuel duty.

David Quarmby also told the Luncheon that never have we needed a vision for our future infrastructure more than we do now, and welcomed the National Infrastructure Commission’s consultation on its first National Infrastructure Assessment. But he said turning the vision into a reality will be a big challenge.

As well as the need for a debate around road user charging, he remarked that a national infrastructure plan must reflect the emerging new city and regional governance arrangements such as sub national transport bodies.

David Quarmby also said the Major Road Network proposals – put forward by himself and Phil Carey a year ago, and since adopted as policy by Government – must be part of the national infrastructure picture too.

He welcomed the introduction of combined authorities, particularly those with metro mayors who are “best placed to join transport plans with economic development and land use strategies; they can do it better than Whitehall.”

David Quarmby addressed the Luncheon immediately after receiving the CIHT’s Institution Award from President Andreas Markides.

A full report on the Annual Luncheon will feature in the January 2018 edition of Transportation Professional.

More Articles by Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) ...

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