Public support for road pricing could rise from 19% to 47% if the full details are explained, an RAC Foundation-commissioned survey has found.
The public were surveyed on whether they supported a pay as you go, pay-per-mile firstly on principle, and secondly as a fully explained package with road tax abolished and fuel duty reduced.
Some 65% said they opposed the former but only 35% opposed the latter, suggesting that the public could be won over to road pricing. Meanwhile, 17% had neutral opinions on the full road pricing package.
“When the details are explained and they realise the benefits then the opposition falls away dramatically.”
Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation
The figures come after Conservative MP Tim Yeo published a book last week calling for road pricing on motorways to incentivise the use of more low carbon modes of transport.
In Green Gold: The Case for Raising our Game on Climate Change, Yeo said: “So far most politicians have been reluctant to embrace the huge potential which a truly radical road pricing system offers.
“Since it could also pay for a cut in fuel duty the upshot would be a cut in the cost of driving for drivers who make little use of motorways.”
RAC Foundation director Stephen Glaister said the survey results show motorists could welcome such a scheme. “Most people are instinctively opposed to road user charging when they think it is an extra tax,” he said. “But when the details are explained and they realise the benefits then the opposition falls away dramatically.
“People are very familiar with the principle of ‘pay as you go’. For example we are already charged for gas and electricity on the basis of how much we use.
“If politicians shy away from making difficult choices then so be it, but it will be the next generation which has to live with the consequences.”
“So far most politicians have been reluctant to embrace the huge potential which a truly radical road pricing system offers.”
Tim Yeo, Conservative Party
The survey found that the highest support for such a package was in the North West and South West of the UK. Londoners – who already experience a congestion charge – were the least opposed to the principle of road pricing.
The East of England was found to be the only region where net support for the scheme remained negative even after the details and benefits were explained. This could be a reflection of local contempt for tolls on the Dartford Crossing.
That issue came to a head this week when Tory MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson met with transport secretary Phillip Hammond to discuss congestion on the bridge. The Department for Transport said it will review the possibility of lifting the toll booths during times of severe congestion to ease delays. Licence plate recognition for free-flow charging will also be considered.