25/08/09

In response to the Tories’ suggestion of tolls on new roads as a means of funding huge public borrowing, Robert Kingdom, head of marketing at fleet management company Masterlease, argues that UK businesses will end up carrying the cost.

Although at the time of opening the M6 toll road in 2003, the CBI stated that it would save UK businesses millions of pounds each year by reducing lost working time, reduce fuel usage and improve delivery times, the fact still remains that mainly haulage firms have eschewed the M6 toll because of the cost and as a result the M6 is often swamped with vehicles at rush hour.

Although David Cameron has made it clear that road tolls are purely a way of raising funds to offset our huge public borrowing, he isn’t trying to pretend that they are a ‘solve all’ solution to traffic congestion. However, the reality is that most of the income from toll roads will be paid by UK businesses, as company car drivers make up % of the nation’s road users.

It is unlikely, especially during a recession, that motorists will be keen to pay for toll roads, given the fact that 1.8 million drivers recently signed a Downing Street petition against exactly that. The Conservatives must be well aware of this, so it implies that as a means of generating profit they would be relying on company car drivers to fund the scheme.

Recent statistics on the M6 toll road show that only half of the motorists predicted to use the road when it opened in 2003 are using it now. Given the fact that there are roughly two million business car drivers on our roads today it would then follow that if the Tories get into power next year they will look to businesses to generate the cash.

Whatever happens, the fleet industry will need to be prepared and the current ‘head in the sand’ attitude is not sustainable. Road pricing could be inevitable as we strive towards the 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, which Ed Miliband has pledged.

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