PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pricing policy"

E-petition: Response from the Prime Minister
The e-petition asking the Prime Minister to "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy" has now closed. This is a response from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website.

This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network.

It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer. One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.

That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance. This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this email as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing. Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so. We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas.

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government.

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.

Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997, spending £2.5 billion this year on buses and over £4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over £140 billion of investment planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse. So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion. This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion.

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity.

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes. If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as £30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail.

That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been. But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS, so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.

Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. But those are decisions for the future. At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses. If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

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Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

Big Tone also sent me this highly personal response.

Not that I'm suggesting he should have responded to each of the 1,799,987 people who signed the petition individually mind you.

Although I would have expected that he do more than tell us that rather than a national scheme he will be allowing local councils to bring in their own ill-conceived, short sighted schemes instead!!

Given that approximately 26 million people voted last time out that represents 7% of voters signing a petition (assuming everyone who signed is a voter, surely they must be if they feel strongly enough to sign a petition?)! I don't know the stats on whether that is a lot of people to sign a petition or not but it seems to be a strong representation to me!

Thus he achieves the original, unpopular aim but in a different guise and without the national Labour party at Westminster being tarred with the blame! Very clever Mr Blair. You should invest in a white Persian lap cat and a chunky gold ring for your stroking hand.

Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

Yes. I had the same e-mail from the Blair-meister too.

I don't know about you though... but I found that it had been spun so much, I could hardly focus on it!

Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

The abridged version;

"Dear Voter,

Me again. Thank you for taking the time to express your opinion. However I feel I must remind you that I'll do what I want, when I want under the guise of whatver it says on my mood of the day toilet paper.

Yours smugly,

Chairman To-Ny"

Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

No doubt it will be introduced immediately after the next General Election when there is no danger of "ole Tone" losing any votes over it.

Anyone fancy migrating to Poland? The roads are empty over there, as most Polish cars are in the UK. Mostly uninsured.

Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

This response to Tony's e-mail was posted on Pistonheads not long after the e-mail came out...

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Frankly I resent the tone your reply has taken.

I do not need to be spoon fed, and am more than capable of learning about issues myself.
I am well aware of the facts and the potential for road pricing.

However using congestion to beat the motorist when it is the governments’ inability to effectively pull together a cohesive transport system

(Encompassing both private and public transport) and the monumental error in using traffic calming measures to slow down traffic and increase journey times
even in non sensitive are smacks of a total lack of common sense.

Talking about improving public transport has not managed to improve it for the last 30 years,
I very much doubt it will help now or in the next 10.

Surely anyone with some semblance of common sense would be able to work out that the best way to encourage people not to use their vehicles would be to provide
a viable efficient alternative.

This is something that you have singularly failed to do despite the vast sums of money extracted each year from the motorist

Spending some of that money to improve roads and alternative forms of transport is the solution
Charging people for a basic freedom is not.

The petition highlighted the governments’ policy proposal and the publics’ objection to it.

You would do well to take note before stronger measures are taken.

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Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

Right there with him (her) until the very last line - oh dear, arguement over now you just sound like a nutter.

Re: PM's response "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking + road pri

maybe he could borrow one of you chunky gold rings tobe?

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