Amey graduate transport modeller Gergely Raccuja has beaten off stiff competition to win the prestigious £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize, which this year focused on revolutionising how road projects are funded.
This year the question posed to entrants was ‘How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?’.
Raccuja proposed a system which would see the existing fuel duty tax scrapped, in favour of a ‘pay per mile’ road tax, collected through the existing insurance system.
“The tax would be composed of three factors, the mileage that one does, then the kind of vehicle they have which is split into two factors, the weight of the vehicle and the emissions, not just CO2, but a more holistic approach,” he said. “You could have high insurance, but low road tax because it’s a car and you only drive it on the weekends say.”
The scheme means that when a driver pays their insurance, they would also pay a ‘road bill’. For the government it means increasing revenue as both the number of vehicles on the road and total vehicle mileage is projected to grow. At the moment the Treasury is estimated to be losing £2.3M per day from falling fuel duty.
The 27-year-old said that at the moment the system was skewed to those who had fuel efficient cars, but not towards how much they were used.
“With this, it would be a factor, but this would give you a fair baseline to pay for road use,” he said.
Judge Bridget Rosewell said the reason why the panel had picked the winner was the mix of attributes it had.
“First, it had a real sense of what’s practical, what would actually work in the world in which we live, that was really important,” she said. “Secondly it clearly articulated the difference between distance and charging for congestion, they are not the same.
“Thirdly, he had the idea of doing this through the insurance companies and that seems very practical and deliverable and cheap. Nothing is going to be as cheap as collecting fuel duty as far as the Treasury is concerned because they get that at source, but given that’s on a declining scale, now you can think about what this means for actual roads.”
The idea, along with the other ideas from the shortlisted entries will now be taken to the Treasury and the Department for Transport to see if it can be implemented.
“The National Infrastructure Commission will be reviewing the Wolfson prize results and thinking about how these results can be incorporated into a longer term view which is the role of the national infrastructure assessment which will look 30 years forward,” said Rosewell.
As part of the run up to the event, a poll commissioned by the Wolfson Prize for Economics, found that 69% of road users said the state of Britain’s roads was not good enough.
Of the 2000 adults surveyed, 80% were very concerned about potholes, 79% thought traffic was getting worse and 67% were very concerned about pollution from traffic. Only 50% thought that the current system of road funding was fair.