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Issue 469, 24 September 2001

Study gives green light to road charges

Most road users and rail passengers are not paying enough for their travel, according to a University study commissioned by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

On the road - report authors Professor Chris Nash (left) and Tom Samson

The research carried out by the Institute for Transport Studies looked at whether charges - such as fares and road freight charges - and taxes paid by transport users cover the environmental and social costs they cause, in terms of congestion, pollution, infrastructure maintenance and accidents.

Project director Professor Chris Nash, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said there was a strong case for charges on motorways and trunk roads into or close to conurbations.

"Costs for road use in congested areas can be up to ten times the charges, although any increase in charges would not need to be of that magnitude," he said, adding that city congestion charging, such as the scheme proposed by London mayor Ken Livingstone, was 'just the sort of measure which our study suggests would be efficient' and could reduce traffic by 10-15% making a 'substantial difference' to city centres.

He said: "If you simply put up fuel tax, that affects everyone, including people in rural areas where there's little congestion and where the extra traffic is not so damaging. What we need is something more differentiated, a way of charging in congested areas, both in most urban areas and on parts of the motorway and trunk road network."

The DTLR is now looking at ways to incorporate the analysis into policy planning.

The government has also commissioned a study by the Institute into the increasing number of accidents amongst older motorcyclists.

Since 1996 motorcycle accidents have risen by about 10% and most of these extra accidents are happening to riders between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-nine. Researchers will collect detailed information from motorcyclists over 30 on their riding levels, experience, vehicle characteristics, training and accidents, and also examine the differences in terms of attitudes to riding and risk, between riders of different ages.

Project leader Samantha Jamson said: "The number of accidents happening to older bikers is an issue of concern. The project aims to understand why this is happening and also to identify ways to tackle the problem."

Download the full version of the surface transport costs report

Download the executive summary of the surface transport costs report

Go the Institute for Transport Studies web pages

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