AA president calls on the government to introduce road miles scheme
The president of one of the UK’s biggest motoring organisations has called on the government to introduce a “road miles” pricing system for drivers.
Edmund King called for “more radical thinking” from metropolitan and city leaders, saying the changes forced on the public by the crisis offered a huge opportunity to change the UK’s transport systems and behaviours and encourage more people to walk and cycle.
Speaking at a virtual conference organised by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, King said a car miles – or road miles – system could allow drivers to have the first 3,000 miles free, after which they would have to pay per journey. Those in rural areas would get an extra 1,000 miles free.
“It makes you think about the trip and if you have a cleaner greener vehicle you can pay less … We need some radical thinking and perhaps now the time is right for the Treasury and others to address these bigger issues that politically they have been quite wary of addressing before.”
King highlighted evidence from the AA’s own research that showed its members were ready to change their behaviour.
“Transport patterns won’t be the same in life after lockdown, according to drivers,” he said. “Half say they will walk more; four in 10 vow to drive less; a quarter will work from home more and one fifth will cycle more.”
The idea of a per-mile charging scheme based on the environmental impact of vehicle journeys has gained traction in recent years. In 2017 it was reported that London mayor Sadiq Khan was considering introducing a per-mile charging scheme in the capital and last year the Centre for London thinktank – backed by politicians and business groups – said it would be a more sophisticated approach to road charging and better reflect the true impact of each individual journey than London’s current ultra low emissions zone.
King’s call follows measures being rolled out in cities around the world to increase support and infrastructure for walking and cycling as clean alternatives to packed public transport – which is not compatible with the social distancing required by the coronavirus crisis.
King said people’s experience of cleaner air, quieter roads – and particularly mass home-working – had created an opportunity that should not be missed.
“I am optimistic that this lockdown is beginning to change the attitudes of drivers … If local authorities can put in well planned infrastructure to walk and to cycle – and public transport when that returns – I do feel that can have a credible difference.
He added: “The time is right at the moment because people are out there and they themselves had seen the benefits of walking and cycling and running … it is a real opportunity.”