The uptake of zero-emission vehicles could lead to a funding crisis for roads, says a report released today by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.
The organisation says that roads in England have seen four decades of under-investment, although the Government’s efforts to counter this – with the National Road Fund and Road Investment Strategy – over the last few years have been positive.
Changes to vehicle excise duty last year put an end to free road tax for all cars emitting less than 100g/km CO2 – with the Government saying too many cars now fit within this category.
However, unless further changes are made, a predicted boom in the popularity of zero-emission cars could lead to a shortfall in revenue from road tax for the Government.
To prevent this, the association behind the report suggests the Government should look at ‘dynamic road user pricing’. This means road users could be taxed depending on their location, how congested the roads they use are and the time of day they drive. It could even depend on the driver’s financial situation.
“One cannot stress enough the importance of roads to the success of the UK,” said ACE’s president and chief executive Dr Nelson Ogunshakin. “They play a critical role in moving goods and ensuring all of us are able to get to our destination. The consequences of not having a well-functioning road network are severe, both to our quality of life and the country’s economic performance.”
Although it accepts that this wouldn’t prove popular with everyone, with motorists fearing they may be forced off the roads, the organisation advises the Government to “start a public conversation” about how it would work in the UK.
It also suggests looking into the possibility of seeking private funding options for road projects, while also extending vehicle excise duty to include zero-emission vehicles.
Ogunshakin added: “We must ensure that our existing and future road networks are fit-for-purpose. With the UK Government focused on navigating the Brexit process in the short to medium term, and on rebalancing the economy in the longer term, now is the right time to critically review how our roads are funded and how we can create a more productive and sustainable road network long into the future.”
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