Road Pricing Solutions
Royal Institute of Navigation, Land Navigation and
13th April 2005
Each year the Land Navigation and Location Group (LNLG) of the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) organise a one day conference. This year the topic was road pricing. A very topical subject and so controversial that a possible government agency speaker was forbidden to speak as it was during the general election period. Amusing when the election manifestos all mention road pricing and it has been a topic of public debate for some time.
The conference was organised to cover the possible range of future technologies as well as current and imminent approaches. Legislation issues and technical issues were also discussed.
From the presentations it is clear that the reality is that worldwide road pricing schemes are coming into use. Whether it is as a charge for road use to force a limitation of road usage by increasing the cost to the motorist, or whether it is as a taxation system that gives the road user a fairer taxation than the current flat rate charges, the reality is that road usage will become something that has to be paid for when the road is used.
Nigel Wall of the Pinpoint Partnership presented an overview of the schemes both current and future worldwide. All of the technologies involve the road user in an initial cost to be able to use the roads at all. The technologies range from low equipment cost to the road user and high infrastructure overhead for the government to the opposite extreme. Raoul Schildís presentation gave an interesting analysis of the overall costs of such options and concluded that as the volume of users increased the combination of volume reducing the cost of the in-vehicle equipment to the road user together with the cost of the infra-structure overheads would favour the more complex equipment for the road user.
Martin OíHara presented the Trafficmaster SmartNav system and how it could be used to provide automatic road charging for the London Congestion Charge zone as well as any other similar scheme in the future. They have developed a flexible system that can provide this service as an addition to the main SmartNav feature of fully inter-active navigation and location.
Mike Farmer of the Road Haulage Association gave a passionate presentation about Lorry Road User Charging. He believes that this scheme is an attempt by the government to level the playing field of diesel prices for the UK haulage industry as continental fuel prices are significantly lower that UK ones. He explained that a continental driver coming to the UK with a full fuel tank could operate in the UK for a week without buying UK fuel and then return to the continent. Obviously an unfair situation for the UK industry. Personally as a diesel car owner I would just like to see UK diesel reduced in price, but perhaps this is too simple a solution.
Ian Catling (Ian Catling Consultancy) and Sarah Murray (Pinsents solicitors) both discussed the European interoperability directive. The requirement is laudable in that a road user will be required to have a unit in his vehicle that will work with any of the 3 specified systems anywhere in Europe. (Satellite positioning, GSM/GPRS, 5.8GHz microwave beacons). Interestingly neither pointed out that this could increase the cost of the unit to the motorist although cost indications presented ranged from a few hundred to over a thousand pounds. As Sarah pointed out, the legislation is not yet adequately defined for a manufacturer to design and produced, but this is expected shortly. The implication is clear, across of all of Europe road usage will incur a cost to the user.
Paul Russell of Midland Expressway gave a report on the progress of the M6 Toll road. Since his report last year usage had increased and the customers were generally pleased with the service. Interestingly the tag used for the M6 Toll road is compatible with other DSRC tags used in Europe and it could be possible to have some standardisation, but it has not yet occurred.
Steve Cater (as a RIN member) kept people awake after lunch with an account of his travels from London to Nigeria by road. He claimed it was lower cost for him to avoid the London Congestion zone by a longer journey round London outskirts, but at the cost of more pollution into the London atmosphere. His African experiences were those that suggested the border guards paid themselves by charging travellers for entry. This is certainly a low cost and low technology solution.
Colin Beatty (CBi Ltd and RIN) presented the technological problem of satellite (GPS) positioning systems at present, especially in the urban environment. Perhaps it is a short term relief to know that at present accurate location by satellite in an urban environment isnít at a good enough level. Colin focussed on the measurement techniques his company uses to check satellite system performance.
This is a brief overview of the presentations given. A full set of the presentations is available from www.rin.org.uk . A simple summary is that road pricing is coming and is already with us at a limited level.
This overview is by the chairman of LNLG, Terry Beadman of Dove House Associates limited, www.dovehouseassociates.ltd.uk . Terry can be contacted as firstname.lastname@example.org
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