European road charging experts discuss funding options for emissions-free transport

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A group of Europe’s leading specialists in road user charging (RUC) are warning that shortfalls in fuel tax caused by a move to emissions-free vehicles mean current methods of funding the road network are not sustainable, and have called for new thinking to improve mobility options and improve productivity.

At a joint forum between ITS-UK’s Road User Charging Interest Group and ITS Ireland hosted by Aecom in Dublin, experts from seven European countries discussed “keeping the wheels turning” during economic and political change, and how declining revenues must be bridged by fair and equitable measures to fund increased demands for mobility. In order for the public to accept needed change, the forum, which included policy makers, toll operators, payment providers and highway users, agreed the need for a different taxation models. They said plans must be simply expressed and clearly communicated, while tackling the complexities of gaps in infrastructure funding, toxic emissions, and climate change.

The meeting examined case studies including the national program of highway charging in Hungary, and congestion charging in London, Stockholm and Gothenburg. In each it was clear that a flexible approach with continual improvement and adaptation had enhanced the quality of the transport network and its value to users. In agreeing that ‘doing nothing is not an option’, speakers pointed to a recent study by the UK National Infrastructure Commission which said that distance-based charging and congestion measures would bring more reliable journeys and improve national productivity.

They also focused on public-private cooperation, recognizing the need to share information, so that disruptive market developments can be integrated successfully alongside legacy schemes to deliver timely mobility improvements, while countering the risk of unintended negative consequences.

“Environmental objectives make emissions-free driving essential, but the demand for mobility will only increase,” noted Keith Mortimer (right), of Wyeval Consulting, chairman of the ITS-UK Road User Charging Group. “The transition to road pricing is under way, offering positive outcomes that respect the legitimate aspirations of all stakeholders. Effective governance will capitalize on innovation to enhance economic performance and social well-being.”

ITS-UK secretary general Jennie Martin added, “Working together, our specialists have identified key challenges facing transport and offered solutions and advice to help policymakers justify the necessary changes. Once again, our collective expertise has helped tackle a difficult issue, giving leadership to the industry.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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