News that Alistair Darling has been looking into the idea of satellite charging road users came as no surprise. By fitting a satellite tag to every car they could log all journeys taken and feed back to central computer that would charge drivers varying amounts dependent on the distance traveled and the time of the day the journey took place. The intention is to ‘price` drivers out of traveling at peak times, hopefully encouraging them to seek other forms of transport or travel at times when traffic levels are lower.
Up to £1.20 per mile was mentioned for journeys at peak times in congested city areas. In exchange Mr. Darling said that the government would be prepared to reduce the duty paid via fuel tax and road fund license.
But under Mr. Darling`s proposal you`d be charged rate for completing a journey in a 500bhp BMW M5 as you would in a 1.0 litre Nissan Micra. Under the proposal the Vehicle Excise Duty (the tax disc in your screen) would also disappear, removing the incentive for smaller engines. The car companies and consumers alike have made huge steps to cut vehicle emission and drive greener cars yet the government now appears to be disregarding that strategy.
So what will happen if the pence/mile tax is introduced? We will start to see poorer road users forced to schedule journeys at awkward or inconvenient times so as to avoid heavy charges.
By reducing the duty on fuel (which in effect is a fair system of charging more to those who drive more miles in less economical cars) we will see people opting for larger, thirstier engines. If you don`t believe me take a trip to Los Angeles, home of the American green movement. They may have no smoking on the beach and caffeine free drinks in the fridge but take a look at the SUV`s and 4x4`s that cruise the streets because the petrol is cheap. After all if you are paying £15 a day to drive into work on a toll road you might just as well do it in something large, impressive and comfortable.
Unfortunately for drivers there is an assumption on behalf of the government that every journey we undertake is optional. That reps traveling 40,000 miles a year are doing so for fun. That lorry drivers` sit in traffic jams on sweltering hot days because they enjoy it and that parents are being decadent by taking there kids to school.
I`m all for making driving more less stressful and generally more enjoyable but I believe that the incentives must remain for people to drive more economical and environmentally friendly cars rather than focus on the huge numbers of us that are forced to use a car on a regular basis just to earn a living and grow the British economy.