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Road Toll Systems Tested In Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire Post | April 5 2005

MOTORISTS could have to pay a fee for every mile they travel if a scheme being tested in Yorkshire proves a success.

The Department of Transport has organised the research to establish the effectiveness of three different road charging systems and whether they could work on a practical level.

A group of 450 volunteers are involved in the trial, which will go on until the summer of next year.

When it is complete, Department of Transport experts will use the information they gather to assess how effective each system might be if introduced on the roads.

One is a simple London-style congestion charge, where a camera network is used to monitor vehicles entering a certain area.

The other two systems are more sophisticated and would involved drivers paying for every mile they travel.

One uses global positioning system technology, with satellites used to monitor the movements of vehicles on the road. Each vehicle would have to be fitted with a small electronic box which could be "seen" by the satellite above.

The third system uses microwave technology to produce a similar effect, so every vehicle on the road could be identified and charged appropriately.

The Government stresses that road charging is not a policy at present and the trial is being conducted just to establish what is available. It would be some years before a system could be introduced and estimates for charges range from 1p to £1.40 per mile, depending on the type of road and time of day. Heavily congested roads would attract the highest charges.

All three types of equipment are on gantries which have gone up on roads around Leeds. Signs alongside advise motorists they are tests, but only the 450 volunteers are affected by the equipment.

The London system has been regarded as a success, but has proved expensive to administer although the technology involved is relatively basic.
Edinburgh residents have recently voted against a similar system and there are no other towns or cities with active plans for congestion charging.

A Government spokeswoman said: "It is only the technology which is being tested, it is not Government policy to introduce road-user charging. It is purely a technical trial to see what the options are."

Traffic levels are predicted to continue rising and charging is regarded as one way of controlling that growth.

There are doubts about whether a national road pricing system would be economically or practically viable, however.

The head of roads policy with the AA Motoring Trust, Paul Watters, said: "For the higher technical specification schemes it is still some way away so I don't think people are immediately panicked but I think people know the Government has been playing with this idea for some time.

"Our latest research shows people are worried about a "big brother" system and don't want to be tracked. The Government will have to set out its stall and decide which system it wants to move forward with."

One option, he said, was to find a system that would attract road-users voluntarily, as water meters were introduced as a voluntary alternative to blanket water rates.

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