Forget all the green issues and congestion issues, road pricing is going to happen for one reason and one reason only and that’s to continue the revenue stream that government currently get from motorists.
At the moment, we all pay tax on the fuel we use to run our cars and it’s around £3.25 a gallon. There are 33 million vehicles of all types on our roads, so it does not take much thought to imagine the phenomenally huge sum of money the exchequer gets every day from the vehicle movements across the UK.
Now, just imagine for one moment that we all begin to use vehicles that are all electric (such as Nissan’s electric, zero emission “leaf” due out in late 2010). It means we won’t be buying fuel at the pumps and it means we won’t therefore be giving the chancellor £3.25 for every 30 or 40 miles we do in our cars.
With zero emissions and not using fossil fuel, these cars also are not subject to any road tax charges either, so that’s another blow to the chancellor.
So where is the government going to get the lost revenue?
It’s from road pricing, or road charging.
So how could it work? Well those that know are suggesting that each car will be fitted with an electronic GPS style device which will track and monitor every movement of your vehicle. A bit like being “tagged” for someone serving an ASBO.
The device will know when you move your car, know what roads you travel on, what distance you travel and even what time of the day you travel, making it possible to charge you for each mile on a “chargeable” road and indeed, making it possible to charge you a premium for traveling on those roads at certain peak times.
Whilst I don’t want to present an “Orwellian” nightmare here, the equipment, could also be used for monitoring your speed, as it will know exactly how fast you went on each road, so it’s wholly possible that the first time you know you’ve broken the speed limit is when you get a fine in the post. This would avoid the need for speed cameras, as no one would ever be able to speed without the authorities knowing.
Taking this all a bit further, it costs a fortune to set up a congestion charge zone like they have in London, but with the potential in your little black box, all the authorities would have to do is put up signs to warn you of the zone, it wouldn’t need complicated expensive cameras, for as soon as you entered the zone, the authorities would know, so could charge you. The equipment would also make it possible to create much smaller congestion charge zones, even in small towns and of course, flexible congestion charging zones that only operate in certain hours.
Its said that much more can be built into the equipment, even extending to parking, as again, where ever you stop and for how long you stop, the authorities will know, so its easy then to send you a bill for legitimate parking in car parks etc and of course, send you a fine when you park in a restricted area.
It’s said the mapping database would include details of every vehicle, and who owns it and will know if it’s taxed, insured and if its got an MOT, or perhaps being illegally used after swearing a SORN, so if any vehicle less than 100% correct ever moved, again the authorities would know instantly and the owner fined.
None of us like our personal freedom to be infringed or interfered with but the potential of this system sits big brother in the car right beside you. Remember all the fuss over identity cards and that was just that we were being asked to carry something that in fact, we may never be asked to show.
Unlike identity cards though, this one isn’t going away, and when it comes to arguing it out, there are valid reasons (I guess) for as we pay for most consumables as we use them, so why not pay for the roads as we use them. There is the argument that those that use the roads most should pay the most and that’s difficult to disagree with and because of these strong sensible arguments, and because of the governments need to maintain its revenue stream, road pricing will happen.
OK, it’s not going to happen over night and it will be brought in gradually, gently and with sensitivity. Charges will be low and there will be politicians outlining what good value they are and of course, all the nastier potential of the system, wont be spoken about or implemented or even mentioned as government just want the broader concept accepted, its only later that the full extent of what can be monitored this way dawns on us all.
It is however the only way forward in our “green hungry” society, and it transcends all political parties even if it does mean giving up our privacy to achieve it……..well its worth it, isn’t it?