'IN A democracy, it's important that voters are aware of the engineering and science behind policies, ' ICE president Doug Oakervee told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat annual conference last week Oakervee was joined by LibDem transport spokesman John Thurso and former ICE transport committee chairman Derek Turner to discuss congestion charging.
The meeting was a first for the ICE ahead of receptions at the Labour and Conservative conferences this week and next.
The event was co-hosted with the Association of Liberal Democrats, Engineers & Scientists (ALDES).
Thurso welcomed the ICE's interest in party politics, admitting that politicians needed to be better informed.
But he added that engineers needed politicians to put out plans for complicated schemes in more digestible forms.
'Take road pricing: You have to explain that it's not about tolls and not about spy satellites but about being charged on the basis of the distance travelled by car rather than just for owning a car, ' said Thurso.
His view was that some form of road pricing would be inevitable as roads were a scarce resource. He asked, 'Every other utility has a pricing mechanism: water, telephones. . . Why not roads too?
'This island has enough tarmac already and as few new roads as possible should be built.'
Turner agreed with Thurso saying that the key to selling congestion charging was to explain it in simple language.
'Everyone understands that traffic reduces in the school holidays, so we sold them [the public] the idea that the congestion charge would make road conditions like that every day of the year, ' said Turner.
London's congestion charge has now been operating for 18 months and has sustained a reduction in congestion of 16% in the past year, said Turner, beating initial predictions.
Turner was questioned on how suitable congestion charging would be in other cities.
He advised them that each conurbation would have to be assessed individually.
In some cases park and ride schemes on the outskirts of the city could be just as effective, he said.