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Implementing road pricing and charging

There is a range of pricing policy instruments that vary in specification and, potentially, performance. These include road user charging schemes and private parking charge schemes.

Photo by Joshua Kaufman

A national road pricing scheme and/or city and local area-based schemes could be important in helping to reduce the differential cost between car-based travel and public transport. Road charges can be based on time of day, location and type of road. Congestion and emissions could also be factored into a regime.

London congestion charge

Photo by Stephen McLaren

London congestion charge

The London congestion charge scheme is the most well known road pricing scheme in the UK and was introduced in 2003. Vehicles driving in the central London charging zone between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday pay an £8 daily charge.

There have been a number of benefits: traffic entering the original charging zone is 16 per cent lower than pre-charge levels in 2002 (70,000 fewer cars a day); there has been an eight per cent reduction in congestion, six per cent increase in bus passengers, an increase in cycle journeys and a 16% reduction in CO2 emissions. In financial terms, £137m was raised in 2007/08 and invested back into improving transport in London.

Read more about London congestion charge.

There are a number of other schemes that have been implemented internationally – including Germany and Austria where lorries are charged per kilometre travelled; a pollution charge in Milan; a controlled access scheme in Valletta, Malta; and cordon schemes in Bergen, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; and Singapore. Proposals in Edinburgh and Manchester have been dropped following public referendums, highlighting the political difficulties in implementing pricing schemes. The UK Commission for Integrated Transport has reviewed a number of the international schemes.

Pricing regimes are most effective when they are linked with a package of other measures to reduce car use and increase use of other forms of transport. The London congestion charge scheme was a high profile headline measure, introduced as part of a package of measures including an increased number and frequency of buses, more bus and cycle priority routes, smart ticketing (the Oyster Card) to make travel on public transport easier, and reduced parking. The introduction of the scheme was also effectively managed in terms of communicating and marketing the likely benefits to the public.

Pricing schemes are most likely to win public acceptance when they are aimed specifically at improving quality of life for residents through cleaner air, lower congestion, less noise, less accidents and reduced carbon emissions as well as more frequent public transport with better quality vehicles and lower ticket prices.

Priority: reduce car use and improve the carbon efficiency of vehicles
Tags: transport, regions and subregions, cities and towns, neighbourhoods

CABE and Urban Practitioners
with the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield