At the lorry road user charging procurement outset it has been claimed there are no plans to toll private vehicles, and the project would focus on leveling freight transportation terms for UK hauliers, who currently face higher fuel duties than their continental peers. Then it was announced, that after its introduction for lorries, the system would be eventually extended for private vehicles, so that the issue of road congestion would be managed. Now the ongoing lorry road user charging procurement has been dropped altogether; instead municipalities and their consultants are given support to focus exclusively on congestion management through electronic tolling.
Transport Secretary Alastair Darling has invited councils in England to bid for £18 million of “pump priming” funds to finance local road pricing pilots.
The funding will be set aside over the next three years to support work on local schemes to tackle congestion “where pricing is a major element”, he said on 5 July.
The large-scale pilots are intended to test approaches for a national road-use pricing system, announced by Mr Darling last month.
In a statement to Parliament, the Transport Secretary said: “If road pricing is to be developed, we need to pilot a scheme covering one or more local authority areas or, for example, a passenger transport executive, in which congestion is already a problem and the local authorities want to do something about it.”
The pump-priming funds for developing local schemes will be allocated to the successful bidders in November, with £3m earmarked for 2005/6, £5m in 2006/7 and £10m the following year.
According to the Department for Transport, this initial funding is a “precursor” to the Government’s Transport Innovation Fund, which will become available from 2008-09.
The Transport Secretary said that up to £200m of this could go to support local pilots. “If more good schemes emerge, more can be made available”, he told MPs.
However, Mr Darling also slipped into his statement an announcement that the Government had abandoned plans to introduce a lorry road user charging (LRUC) scheme in its current form.
HM Customs & Excise had taken forward work to develop an IT infrastructure behind a major project to charge heavy goods vehicles for the use of UK roads, which would have been introduced in 2007 or 2008.
“It is right for us to take forward the plans for distance-based lorry charging as part of the wider work on national road pricing — to develop a single, comprehensive, cost-effective system”, said the Transport Secretary.
“Although, therefore, the current procurement for lorry road user charging will not continue, we will continue to work with the industry and to ensure that we carry the full experience gained from the project into the wider work to develop a national road pricing system for cars and lorries.”
The shortlist of companies competing to deliver the three service packages of the LRUC scheme was announced in March, with the contracts set to be awarded by the end of this year.
Serco, Siemens and T-Systems international were vying for the charging data services contract, Autostrade, Serco and TraCS Consortium were bidding to deliver enforcement services, while Capita, IBM and Siemens were competing for the central services contract.
Source: eGov Monitor