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back to article RAC prof: Road charges can end the ripoff of motorists

The head of the RAC Foundation - the RAC's independent roads research charity - says that the English highway system can no longer be run the way it now is, as a colossal money-spinner for the Treasury. He advocates a move to "pay as you go" road use. Stephen Glaister, a retired professor of transport and infrastructure, lays …

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Flame

Heres an idea

Stop waging pointless wars (look up the MPG for a tank for example) and ill consider driving a smaller car.

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FAIL

Circular argument

The war is to win fuel for your big car!

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Grenade

Dont you read the papers?

its for liberation and the protection of freedom, remember?

:P

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Headmaster

RE: circular argument

Silly rabbit. The war was to win fuel for the oil companies, not for us.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: circular argument

So if they lose the pointless war he'll have to drive a smaller car?

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Flame

Roads make a loss overall.

The idea that the taxes paid by drivers should only be spent on roads makes no sense - unless people also think that the taxes paid by drinkers should only be spent on building more pubs (or brewing better beer) or that the taxes paid by people buying computers should only be spent building datacentres. Though I imagine some of us here might be in favour of those ideas too! :-)

Plus the "road ripoff" argument is an old and flawed one, in reality, once all the costs of the road network are factored in, including costs of policing and NHS costs dealing with the aftermath of the frequent accidents, plus the environmental costs, roads make a loss - taxes paid by non-drivers subsidise those who drive. Most voters drive however, so the government keeps things balanced in the favour of motorists.

The real problem is the gross under-payment made by the HGV industry, but no-one really wants to tackle that as doing so would lead to a rise in prices of goods in the shops. Foreign trucks really should be made to pay for a viginette, as ours are in Europe.

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No.

Quotation from article: "...equal to something like the entire budget of the MoD, a third of the NHS, or a fifth of the DWP"

The couple of thousand people who die every year aren't taking up a third of the NHS budget. For that sort of money there is only one group that does that: old people. See also the one fifth of the DWP (actually, it's a lot more than that).

I'd like to see any (even a ridiculously biased) study that could massage the numbers so that the cost of the road network is four times the actual cost.

(Oh, and if you are going to start including things like environmental costs, you should also factor in the MASSIVE drop in the economy should the road network be removed.)

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Indeed

We hear about 'road tax' all the time, yet there is no such thing. It's vehicle excise duty, a tax on how much you pollute.

Winston Churchill abolished road tax as he knew that people paying road tax would incorrectly claim they owned the roads as they were paying for them.

The money for road repairs come from local authority budgets, mostly council tax.

Therefore car drivers have no basis to shout 'road tax' at cyclists when cyclists are more than likely contributing to the roads just as much and they're actually not wearing them out so much (unlike HGVs).

In fact, if someone is commuting from quite a distance away and I'm just cycling a couple of miles to work, then they are actually contributing nothing to the roads I'm cycling on, roads I've funded through my council tax. Something I may point out to them next time they say i'm 'in their way'.

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@Giles Jones

Thank you, you saved me from having to point that out.

Interesting that you have generated so many downvotes for simply stating the truth.

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FAIL

He got downvoted

Because he's just as wrong as the people he's railing against.

VED is not a tax on how polluting a vehicle is, that is in the fuel duty. VED is intended to finance building and maintenance of roads as well as the administrative work associated with running the road infrastructure. That's why HGVs, busses, etc. pay more VED; because they're heavier they damage the roads more.

Responsibility for maintaining roads broadly lies in two places. The Highways Agency for major roads and local authorities for local roads.

The *funding* comes from the DfT and the Treasury *and* the council tax. DfT funds maintenance of *all* roads, Treasury funds building of strategic major roads and local authorities for local ones. The exception to this is London where TfL does it all.

This is for England only. Wales, Scotland and NI manage their own budgets.

So, unless he's cycling on a local road built since council tax was introduced in the 1980's, then he's not paid for that road through his council tax and he's probably not paying for it's maintenance through his council tax either.

Cycletard?

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FAIL

Vignette? Humph

There is no vignette payeable in most countries except Switzerland which is not in the EU. The toll prices in france are considered frequently too high, (I live here) and of course the UK is stupidly priced with the way that say the Severn Bridge is done, only UK cash, no cards etc. That was paid for by the british motorist and then paying again, ditto with the Thames crossing that we were told was to be free after it was paid for.

The UK needs to invest in the infrastructure without road pricing and by bringing costs down.

The investment in the railways is a non starter, they are b dear compared to say Germany or France, inconvenient and frequently overloaded. The bus system is in bits.

A comprehensive sit down discussion is what is needed, the whole concept of getting around, the need to get around et ce la is of serious magnitude.

Examples, mothers driving kids to school, we dont have that here, people going to sign on having to drive, there being no bus, so they have to have an old banger to get around. Transport going around empty as there is no load co-ordination, Railways not being sensibly priced or the pricing badly constructed.

We moved out of the UK as we could see that the Labour government was going to run the whole thing into the buffers and that is what has happened. For a little thought and a few new roads a large percentage of traffic would not be a problem.

For example how do you get from Norwich to Swindon, with difficulty, how about to Portsmouth, even worse.

Get that traffic out of the way and you remove in excess of 30% of the M25 traffic!!! It could also be done without causing road widening jams.

In 1970 I along with others did a road survey on the A412 at Iver Heath at 01:00 on a sunday morning.

The traffic then needed a 7 lane road to bypass it, what happened, a 4 lane road called the NCP M25 was built.

But hang on, that traffic was heading west, so where is it heading now.

A northern bypass should have been built north of Tring at the bottom of the Chilterns linking A12, M11, M1, M41, M40, round to M4, and the M3. This would completey negate all widening on the M25.

I have not studied others but I guess they are the same.

Trains, try getting from Birmingham to Paris, you are better off driving, hence you have traffic on the road.

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Road Rip-off

I don't know the total costs break-down in UK, but I do know the cost in Spain.

In Spain, it is a net win for the government, and I guess that it also is in UK.

The "Seguridad Social", our equivalent to NHS, doesn't lose money because of traffic accidents: it happens to EARN money from them, as the costs are payed by insurance companies, i.e, the motorists.

I guess the same applies to UK, but I really don't know.. my searches conclude that I am right.. google "Injury Costs Recovery Scheme"

The enviromental costs are payed by the citizens, not the government..

So yes, we are bein ripped.. if you buy an apple, you pay VAT and the company that sells you the apple pays "normal taxes". ¿Why should it be different for transport?

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Alert

NO.

f*cking. way.

Ministry of Transport = Ministry of Plenty?

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Fuel duty

Why aren't all road taxation/costs/levies incorporated into it?

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Boffin

Exactly

Rollup VED & Hydrocarbon Tax into the price of a litre of fuel - if you drive zillions of miles in a gas guzzler at peak times, you'll use more fuel and you'll pay more. No need to track every mile every vehicle does... simples.

Want to pay less, drive a more fuel-efficient car when it's not congested.

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Re : Exactly

"Rollup VED & Hydrocarbon Tax into the price of a litre of fuel"

But you forget that one of the purposes of the DVLA is to keep track of who uses each vehicle. A large measure of this is for government control. And no government will willingly relinquish any iota of control that it has over it's citizens.

Anyway without the VED we'd have to have some other way of proving that our cars are (or were anyway) insured and have a current MOT certificate. And seeing the state of some of the cars on our roads and the way that a lot of people drive, I want cars to have both.

Beer because you can't drink and drive. You might hit a bump and spill some.

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Anonymous Coward

Because fuel prices fluctuate.

You'd never know how much your x% was worth.

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FAIL

What about

What about the often mentioned insurance disk?

Mind you they'll just charge £200 for the insurance disk and keep the extra tax too.

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@MOT etc

"Anyway without the VED we'd have to have some other way of proving that our cars are (or were anyway) insured and have a current MOT certificate."

Surely an MOT certificate is proof you have an MOT certificate? ;-)

Here in Sweden they have just done away with tax discs (or rather, stickers) because they're all but useless anyway. A pig just types the reg into his gizmo and gets an instant answer on the status of the vehicle.

It's not beyond the realms of the possible to include car insurance on fuel duty too - swipe your licence at the pump == the more miles you drive, the more insurance you pay - every driver is insured, your insurance rate is quoted in a cost per mile and no unlicenced drivers get fuel - sorted.

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No VED

Why not simply display MOT and insurance discs instead of a tax disc?

In some countries, insurers are obliged to tell the authorities when you cancel your vehicle policy, thereby triggering a check that the vehicle has been insured elsewhere or is off the road.

The current UK system has not prevented large numbers of untaxed, untested and uninsured vehicles from being driven around so I am all for the migration of the DVLA to something cheaper.

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Coat

Congestion

"Want to pay less, drive a more fuel-efficient car when it's not congested."

The problem with this is that everybody will be driving when it's not congested ...

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Solved!

The WID - works for the Channel Islands. Insurer checks MOT coverage before issuing the WID. WID shows you are insured...

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Anonymous Coward

The VED is passed its useful lifespan.

The VED is passed its useful lifespan. Yes it used to be a way of checking that every vehicle was insured and MOT'd, but that's all on the national computers now. If you apply for a tax disc on line they can check your tax and MOT automatically. The police don't check your tax disc they check your number plate and their in-car computers pop up if you are missing Tax, MOT or Insurance .

Scrap VED put up fuel duty to compensate for the loss of revenue and, scrap the part of the DVLA that administrates the VED to reduce the deficit.

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Anonymous Coward

The only thing that worries me...

...is this.

If we actually make the roads cheaper, then where is the money going to come from for the loss making parts? All the services have to be paid for anyway, so if we make road use effectively cheaper, then we'll get even more congestion.

I would like to see tax transferred to fuel; there are large, modern powerful engines that do less damage than a badly looked after, ten year old banger.

If I'm missing something please do let me know, but I still can't see road pricing as a means for charging. The more technology we introduce in to the loop, the more we are allowing people to mess it up. People are already using various tricks to circumvent the charging systems within London. More electronics for surveilance is one thing; when they start linking them to money ... that is when Joe Public will turn criminal.

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fuel tax is the most efficient way of charging/paying for the road infrastructure

Surely fuel tax is the most efficient way of charging/paying for the road infrastructure. Fuel usage reflects the miles driven and the rate of fuel consumption. Higher fuel consumption vehicles are usually the highest polluters.

Equally road tolls would only be practical on major roads forcing traffic on unsuitable minor roads and rat runs through every residential area causing more problems than they solve. Abolish Road Tax and ensure a minimum percentage of fuel tax goes to road infrastructure maintenance and improvement which should include pedestrian, cyclist and even horse/pack animal needs.

Fuel tax is a simple fair system for which we already have the structure set up.

Simples

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Couldn't agree more

This makes perfect sense - fuel tax is the only way, surely the problem is that it's so damn unpopular, not only are you creating a very visible negative image to your voters, you are pissing off oil companies who do quite a lot business within your country?

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the surely this, which I agree is fair, would be so unpopular as to be un-votable?

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Go

This is how

Announce you're abolishing VED completely. No more of this "sliding scale" nonsense, no discounts, no rebates - just scrap it. (Also saves the costs of collecting and enforcing it.) That's a tax cut of, on average, 125 to 205 quid per vehicle per annum for every vehicle owner.

At the same time, you announce that this is the money you're loading into fuel tax. To cushion the blow further, you're not loading it in all at once - you're happy to phase it in gradually, at a rate of 5p per litre per year over the next 10 years. Of course by that time you'll have massively overshot the level of breaking even, but that's only fair, isn't it? - a tax cut up front, paid back later when the economy is in better shape...

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WTF?

ok lets do it

and please whilst your at it, Explain where the FUCK the money is going to be comming from if not from the Road Tax

I drive i get pissed off that its costing me almost double to fill my tank just a few years down the line. i also dont really want to see a pay as you go road system !! i like to know for a year i can drive no matter what !!! i can go where i like when i like.

Pay as you go will be a even bigger money spinner than what we have now !

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Stop

Money

Most of the £46 billion quoted ALREADY comes from fuel duty. The %age from VED is (relatively) low. I suspect that a significant proportion of the money from VED goes in paying for the DVLA in the first place. Fuel duty is the big revenue earner.

Remember also that VED in addition to all the social engineering that they now try to use it for is a simple way of making sure you're MOT'd/insured. Until we get insurance discs and MOT discs, it needs to stay. That doesn't mean it couldn't be made a notional sum, say £50, for the privilege of them checking you're complying with the law...

And given how much my insurance companies seemingly wants to charge me this year, the insurance disc would, as someone else pointed out, probably just be another way for them to take you for a ride...

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WTF?

Road charging?

I'll confess to not having read all 100pp of the report, but ...

I can't see the point of road charging, except for a few special circumstances such as city centres and for newly built, alternate routes like the M6 Toll. (NB I'm not saying that I agree with charging in these circumstances, just that I can see some point to it.)

But charging extra for sitting on the M25 in the rush (several) hour(s)? I can assure you that if I'm sitting on a clogged M25, it's because I bl00dy well have to be there, not because I fancied a bit of a joy ride from which I might be deterred by a charge of a few extra quid. If you want to get me off the M25, please provide some viable alternative mode of transport that will get me where I want to go in a reasonable time at a reasonable price.

We already have road usage charging, it's called fuel duty. It penalises those who choose to drive Range Rovers and Bentleys and provides an increased financial incentive to drive more economically.

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Re: Road charging?

If we know when the roads are blocked maybe we can make compromises by planning our lives differently. Sure there are restrictions such as the school run (which itself could be managed differently) but if employers were more flexible and we had a culture of living nearer to where we worked, then less of us would feel penalised when there are changes made to how we pay for the roads that we destroy* by driving too much on them.

We can't have our cake and eat it.

*bicycles & trains** do not damage roads *at all*

**or planes!

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Alternatives to cars

Quite correct, Chris. I'm sick and tired of the argument that goes "We'll bring in this way of charging you for using the roads so that we can use that money to *eventually* provide you with an alternative to using the roads so you won't have to pay the charges". If efficient public transport is a good thing, then it should be put in place *before* road charging schemes. However, it isn't, and the powers that be know it - people are not going to be tempted out of their cars just because there is a good bus/train/blimp service to wherever they want to go (though I might be tempted by a blimp service into town!).

Public transport always takes more time, costs more than my relatively fuel-thirsty car (especially if there is more than one of us to go anywhere), and means I have to spend time in the vicinity of people I would not usually have any inclination to be near (oh, the utter banality of conversations you can hear on our local bus ...).

I'll keep paying for the speed, choice, and lack of chavs that comes with my car, thanks.

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@Intractable Potsherd

"I'll keep paying for the speed, choice, and lack of chavs that comes with my car, thanks."

Yes, because life is all about *you* and *your* convenience. That attitude is a virus eating our society away.

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Anonymous Coward

@WilliamLondon

I can agree entirely with the OP. My wife had to take ear-plugs on the bus in the morning in case someone with noisy kids got on, and although she tried to carefully chose her seat, there'd always be someone obnoxious that got on after. Then there are the smokers who have to inhale their last drag just before stepping on, stinking up the place almost as bad as if they lit up inside. I could go on...

Ironic how it's probably the *lack* of consideration from the majority of the public that goes a long way towards ensuring that people stay car-bound and supposedly 'inconsiderate' of the wider green issues. This indeed goes right the way through society from the safety of children walking to school, to the pleasantness (or lack thereof) of public transport, and the car drivers who persistently piss on cyclists for no reason (admittedly some deserve it, but the majority don't, and simply want to live through their journey).

Now my wife cycles, and this has arguably cost more, with the bike, servicing, clothing and so on, but the luxury of leaving when she wants, not waiting around in the cold, and not having to deal with too many people on the way has won her over. She just has the pot holes and idiot drivers to still deal with, and although she cycles carefully she's got a story to tell about some w*nker almost ever night. The best one was when she moved to the center of her lane to avoid a pot-hole, and the driver coming the *other way* then got annoyed that he couldn't overtake the cyclist in front of him at that precise moment, so he tooted at her!

All power to those who want to stay in their cars, even as a keen cyclist myself, they have my complete sympathy.

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Grenade

I through we already were...

After all we pay fuel duty which infect we only pay for the distance we drive, and the less efficient the car the more you pay for the distance travelled.

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Silver badge

I can see, overall, motoring prices rising.

Would it not, therefore, make more sense for the scavengers in Westmister to direct the Road Fund to, uh, the road maintenance?

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Anonymous Coward

Hold on!

Aren't we already charged by the mile? It's called fuel duty. The problem is how it's spent. That doesn't mean you need to change how it is raised.

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FAIL

Smoking something

So the gent has worked out that the gov raises all this money as road fund license and fuel tax, and spends it on other stuff. He then says that this other stuff needs to be paid for.

So what that means is that the money we already pay, we still need to pay (if not as road-fund-license, then as some other tax). If we get a new QUANGO to look after the roads and spend more money on them, the money to run the quango and provide road updates has to come from us, so we will PAY MORE.

How he thinks introducing a new quango will save money is beyond me; I think he's been on the wacky backy. Although if I'm cynical (and it has been said), I'm sure he'll make lots of money as an advisor to the new quango...

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Anonymous Coward

Don't believe the "money maker" crap

Most estimates are that drivers pay for about a third or a half of the total cost of motoring through "road tax" and petrol duty. Maintaining the road surface is not a major component of the total cost. The major costs are: coping with all the people who are killed or maimed, policing the roads, pollution damage to human health and buildings, ... We're not even including here the cost of foreign wars fought to maintain US control of oil supplies.

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WTF?

Falwed arguement...

Here is where your's and another posters arguements fail.

1. An earlier poster said that non drivers subsidise? How. Bear in mind that car driver pay vehicle taxes ...+... the taxes non car drivers pay. (last time I looked, bicycles and footwear don't bring in billions of tax ponds). So car drivers pay twice.

2. Public transport is subsidised. I'm all for car driver paying extra, if you willing to take an massive hike in public transport costs.

3. Where do you think you goods in the shops come from? The local farms and factories all next door to you house? No, they arrive by road, from all across the UK.

4. People have to drive due to the way the country's businesses work. I do have a choice, I can spend 40 - 50 minutes each day in my car, or 3 -4 hours on public transport, and that's using the train. It would be about 8 - 9 hours using a bus. No everyone lives and works in a city centre.

So factor in the thousand of % increase that would be required to upgrade public transport, the 10'000's of lives that would be ruined by new rail links (look up the new high speed links between London and Birmingham for a taster).

So once you factor in, the loss to business, the increased subsides for public transport, the shift of policing to public transport (btw how will the the emergency services respond if all the roads are fucked, by bus?), the displacement of people to put in extra rail links, the pollution caused by constant stop start buses that often run empty, the loss in peoples home life due to the extra time spent communting and on and on, you arguement looks a little faded.

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Badgers

Re: Falwed arguement...

"People have to drive due to the way the country's businesses work. I do have a choice, I can spend 40 - 50 minutes each day in my car, or 3 -4 hours on public transport, and that's using the train. It would be about 8 - 9 hours using a bus. No everyone lives and works in a city centre."

This is because of the completely stupid way the Land of the Britards is planned, rule #1 of which seems to be "everyone must work in London if at all possible". Consequently, the bottom half of the country is filled up with people in ever increasing circles trying to commute to the damned place. Ask any foreign visitor about travel from one place to another within mere tens of miles in the vicinity of London and they'll tell you how shocked they were that it can often take hours.

Yes, some people do live *and* work in other locations, but the way the country's infrastructure has been planned seems to involve neglect if a transport artery doesn't involve journeys from A to B where B is always London. Ask anyone who ever used the west coast rail link to Scotland, which presumably won't get any decent high speed rail treatment when hell actually does freeze over and the argument for fast trains wins out over "more cars and roads".

And once again, the really flawed argument about how "all the road tax must be spent on roads and not on anything else" rears its ugly head. Yes, there are sometimes "constant stop start buses that often run empty", and more attention should be paid to optimising transport schedules, but then there are also loads of cars with only the driver inside, burning up and down the motorway for their long commutes every single working day of the year. All that causes health problems (as explained elsewhere) and those costs should be covered by the people causing them: there are people with respiratory conditions whose lives are made very difficult by exhaust fumes despite the hype about cleaner-burning engines on the shiny car advertisements.

In general, the road network in Britain isn't that bad, anyway: compare the extent of reasonable quality roads in the countryside in, say, Scotland to what you get in, say, Iceland. It's only down in the crowded regions of England that continuous asphalting would seem to be the order of the day. What do people really expect? Gold-plated motorway maintenance? A serious dose of lifestyle re-evaluation would be more appropriate.

Sadly, that involves a mindset change from the Leaders of the Britards that will never happen. Can't have people not praying towards London, can we?

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FAIL

That's just... wrong

That report is wrong on so many levels, it's just not funny.

Let's see - oh, it'll be privacy invading, but don't worry because you're already given that up.

Let's start taxing for travelling along roads, and then we will drop fuel duty (stop it, my ribs are killing me).

He thinks third-party maintenance would be more cost effective. And then mentions PFI... <sigh> the government would still want as much revenue as now (if not more) - *and* the shareholders need to get paid too.

I really am getting too old for this (what do you mean, did you have a birthday recently?)

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Stop

Slightly cynical

The problem is with this country,

If this was introduced, the government would want us to pay tolls, road fund license and fuel duty.

We probably wouldn't see a reduction in our overall 'road use' tax nor would the roads get better....

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Why is road charging relevant to this?

I hate to point out the obvious, but why is road charging required to stop the government from ripping off the motorist, and what's to say that the revenue generated by road charging would be used on the road infrastructure to any greater proportion than it already is? I agree that the public would be better served by a roads committee that was more distanced from the government, but what relevance does road charging have to that?

Road charging (GPS tracking in particular) is unpopular because it is potentially a huge infringement on civil liberties, and, with a time/location based system, immensely difficult for individuals to be able to quantify how much they are being charged leading to immense insecurity about travelling. There's also the collosal public costs involved in setting up and legislating such a system.

As it stands we already have a system that charges road users depending on their mileage, the traffic conditions they drive in and the efficiency of their vehicle. It's called fuel duty

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Anonymous Coward

French and italian systems

Most motorists (imo) believe that the government would just use road pricing as a means of stealing more tax money from a captive audience, They wouldn't reduce the road tax or fuel duty, we would just be paying twice (for nothing).

As for the French or Italian systems as a model, I believe in France there is no separate road tax, but there is a levy on fuel so that is effectively PAYG. This being so one would expect the price of fuel to be astronomical, however this is not true as it is usually less than the UK price. However there is also a toll on motorway use.

And the Italian system? well I live in Italy and believe me you don't want that in the UK. We pay tolls to go on the Autostrada, plus there is a separate road tax based on engine power or capacity, I have a 3 litre petrol car and to tax it here in Italy would cost (I estimate) about €800 per year. To top it off the cost of petrol is at least on a par with the UK. (Never let it be said that the Italian state doesn't know how to steal efficiently). Then of course there is the stupidly expensive insurance, although that is the fault of greedy insurance companies. It can cost over €1000 (3rd party) for a Fiat Punto or similar per year. There is no such thing as a no claims bonus here, the insurance is on the car not the driver.

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Extra traffic in the UK? Charge people who don't currently pay

Namely, foreign truckers. They're getting all the benefit of our tax money, but they're putting absolutely no money in themselves. Trucks are also the cause of most accidents, most congestion and most damage to roads, so it makes sense to get more money out of them.

Solution: a flat fee for every landing of every non-UK-registered truck. This is perfectly within EU rules - countries are required to allow free ovement of goods without applying duty on goods, but there's no rules against an entry tax for the vehicle carrying them.

This has the side-effect of putting UK truckers on an even footing with their Continental counterparts, too. Either foreign trucking companies would register vehicles in the UK (and pay tax accordingly), or they'd pay per trip - either way, that levels the playing field.

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@Graham Bartlett

"Solution: a flat fee for every landing of every non-UK-registered truck. This is perfectly within EU rules - countries are required to allow free movement of goods without applying duty on goods, but there's no rules against an entry tax for the vehicle carrying them."

I like this. Not sure what the haul would be but sounds reasonable.

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Sir

Or they could also upgrade the railway links and put all that damn freight on trains.

The road I live on has pretty much doubled in usage over the last 5 years, and $deity help me if I wake up in the night - the sound of thundering lorries drives me MAD. I have road rage before I even get up in the morning.

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Boffin

Switzerland does something like this

Any car using the motorways in Switzerland pays the annual road tax, even if only "passing through". For residents, it is very reasonable, (SFR40) for someone taking a short cut from Germany to Italy it is expensive, especially as trailers or caravans must pay the tax too. Trucks are charged a milage charge from entry to exit point.

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Anonymous Coward

Unfortunately,

people have got used to their cheap consumer goods, food, etc. Increasing import costs won't go down very well.

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