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A world-wide review 1

Road pricing lessons –


the experience to date
Malcolm Buchanan MA, MSc, FIHT, MICE, MILT, Chairman, Colin Buchanan

When in 2005 the government announced the years later, as the government finds itself conurbations, it is timely to review world-wide
Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), it took confronted with massive bills for investments in experience of road pricing to date and to attempt
sometime before it became clear that the tram systems judged to be necessary to identify the characteristics of a good road user
“innovation” meant road pricing and had little to prerequisites for the introduction of a bewildering charging scheme and the conditions necessary
do with innovative public transport systems. Two range of road pricing schemes in the for successful implementation.

1843 Turnpike
Trust prices for
traffic categories

economist Dupuit in the 19th century in relation to the


SOME HISTORICAL BACKGROUND canal system. Dupuit formulated the theory that users
should be charged the full marginal cost of their journey and
Charging for the use of highways has a long history in Eu- that investments in infrastructure should be made up to the
rope. Users paid to travel along the turnpike roads and by point at which the marginal costs began to exceed the mar-
the early nineteenth century there were in the UK alone ginal revenues.
1,100 turnpike trusts administering 23,000 miles of road em- Road pricing, first as a means of paying for roads and sec-
ploying 20,000 pikemen. The Turnpike Trusts knew all about ond as a method of controlling traffic congestion, was cham-
charging: pioned after the war in both the UK and the US by many no-
• Collect the money as users pass table economists including William Vickrey, Denys Munby,
• Make sure the toll points cannot be avoided Gabriel Roth, Alan Walters (later to become Mrs Thatcher’s
• Vary the charge according to the type of road user. economic advisor), Michael Thompson and many others.
The Smeed Report, written by a committee chaired by Pro-
Today the UK’s road user charging system (fuel duties and fessor Ruben Smeed of University College London and com-
vehicle licences) yields revenues which far exceed the costs of missioned in 1964 by the Ministry of Transport, was proba-
maintaining and expanding the road network and have for bly the first European report to focus on road pricing as a
nearly 80 years been treated as part of the government’s gen- means of controlling traffic congestion. The Smeed Commit-
eral taxation revenue. The amounts of fuel duty paid by dri- tee concluded that ‘practical pricing methods could probably
vers do, of course, increase with the size of engine, the dis- be devised’ and that the ‘net gain to the community from the
tance travelled and both the amount of congestion on the higher speeds consequent on the reduction and reallocation
one hand and excessive speed on the other hand. In some of traffic would be about £100 - £150 million per year’ (in the
ways therefore such duties might seem to possess many of whole UK).
the characteristics required in a road user charging system.
The difficulty is that, on their own, fuel duties are too blunt
an instrument for tackling traffic congestion. They would
THE SINGAPORE EXPERIENCE
need to be far higher to reduce traffic at the times and loca-
tions where congestion is a problem and such high levels Background
would penalise those who depend on their cars, particularly The work of the transport economists first took root, not in
the inhabitants of rural areas. A more focussed pricing mech- Europe, but in Singapore. Singapore’s area licensing scheme
anism is therefore required. (ALS) was introduced late in 1975 and required vehicles to
display a special licence to enter the CBD during the morn-
Development of the economic theory ing peak periods. In 1989 the scheme was extended to cover
The economics of charging users to fund the capital costs of the evening peak and in 1994 to cover the whole day. It ini-
transport investments were first explored by the French tially applied to cars but was later extended to taxis, lorries,

www.tecmagazine.com tec MAY 2007


2 A world-wide review

buses and motorcycles. Car pools were exempt until 1989. fore these are sent to the banks for settlement. The number
The ALS was supplemented by a road pricing scheme (RPS), plates of vehicles passing beneath the gantries are also
applying to the expressways, in 1995. The high manpower processed at the control centre and, when required, letters
needs and the difficulties of varying and focussing the road are printed and sent out to non-payers. In addition to
pricing charges led to a switch to electronic road pricing launching a major programme before the start of ERP to
(ERP) in 1998. This is still operating today. complete the installation of 680,000 IVUs in eligible vehicles,
Singapore’s ERP scheme operates in parallel with the 130% great attention was also paid to publicity. The IVU fitting
tax on the price of new cars and the quota system which to- programme took 10 months and the publicity programme
gether control the number of cars in the country. Compared was in place for more than a year before the launch date of
to these two draconian means of controlling car ownership, ERP. Live tests at no charge were run before the ERP gantries
the impact of road pricing in Singapore must be relatively finally read ‘in operation’.
small. The fact that the car ownership restrictions mean that
only the wealthy have access to private cars further reduces Prices
any impact likely to arise from road pricing. The ERP charge for passing a gantry varies between c0.25 and
c1.2 and applies to all inbound trips beneath a gantry. This
Objectives was 10-50% less than the previous ALS scheme but applied to
The objectives of road pricing in Singapore have changed all trips rather than being a flat charge for the day. All the
over the years and gradually become focussed purely on the original concessions for car sharing, public transport, etc
control of traffic congestion. The original ideas of encourag- have now been removed and buses pay 3 times the cost of
ing car pooling and the use of public transport have been private cars, reflecting their greater use of roadspace.
gradually abandoned as a part of this process. By the same
logic the extent of the scheme has had to be expanded as Annual revenue and cost/g1 collected
congestion has become more widespread. Today road pric- The ERP scheme in Singapore now produces a revenue of
ing is used in Singapore to match the traffic speeds on the about c40 million and the collection cost is about 21 cents
major radial roads to pre-determined targets. The extent to per c1 raised.
which these targets are achieved is regularly reviewed and
the prices are adjusted accordingly. Enforcement
The gantries photograph cars with an insufficient cash bal-
Current Payment technology ance on their smart card or with no IVU. The photographs
The original road pricing schemes in Singapore, the ALS and are transmitted to the control centre where registration num-
the RPS, both relied on paper licences being displayed as the bers are read automatically using OCR. Vehicle owners are
vehicles passed through manned control points. The pay- then issued with letters requesting the payment and in cases
ment systems have gradually developed from the original where there is insufficient cash or no smart card in the IVU,
area licence, which entitled the driver to enter the restricted an administrative charge of c5 is added. A summons follows
part of the CBD, to today’s sophisticated and automated deb- if payment is not made within 28 days. This carries a penalty
iting of pre-paid cash cards as drivers pass beneath the entry of c35.
gantries between the hours of 0800 and 1900 on Mondays –
Fridays. Effect On congestion
Cars in Singapore wishing to pass through the ERP cordon Because the ERP system replaced the previous ALS/RPS
have to be fitted with an in-vehicle unit (IVU) and a stored schemes, it is difficult to estimate what the effects are com-
valued smart card. The IVU was produced specifically for the pared with having no road pricing. However, it is notable
ERP system and the smart cards were produced by a consor- that ERP essentially reduced the charge for 1 pass through a
tium of local banks and have multiple uses. Different IVUs gantry from c1.5 in peak periods and c2 in the interpeak to a
in different colours are produced for different classes of vehi- figure between c0.25 and c1.25 On the other hand ERP ap-
cle. The ERP gantries are fitted with antennae, vehicle detec- plied to every pass beneath the gantry whereas the ALS
tors and enforcement cameras. All these are linked to a con- scheme required one payment per day. Despite its cheaper
A Singapore ERP troller at each site and data is transmitted back to a control price the ERP scheme reduced traffic by 10-15% during its
charging point centre. hours of operation compared to the ALS scheme. This is
The control centre processes all financial transactions be- thought to have been because the lower charge applied to
more trips, a finding corroborated by the fact that significant
decreases in traffic were observed in the interpeak period.
Today the focus of the ERP scheme on controlling conges-
tion is maintained by periodically checking the actual speeds
against the targets set for each road and then adjusting the
charge rates. Charge rates are published so that drivers still
know what they have to pay.

Likely developments
Singapore has clearly learnt that the more it is possible to tai-
lor congestion charges to traffic conditions the easier it is to
effectively control traffic congestion. The managers of the
scheme now seem to see the future as involving expansions
of the charging system rather than even more sophistication
regarding the setting of the charges, though these are still
under constant review. Expansion, for example to an island-
wide system, might possibly justify a switch to GPS technol-
ogy rather than the present gantries, though the managers of
Singapore are still focussed on the control of congestion

tec MAY 2007 www.LocalGov.co.uk


3

rather than the raising of revenues or the institution of is-


land-wide road user charging for its own sake.

A positive Net Present Value?


No full economic evaluations of the Singapore ERP scheme
have been seen, but given its minimal impact on travel be-
haviour and its significant achievements in reducing traffic
congestion, it almost certainly performs well against trans-
port policy objectives.

THE NORWEGIAN EXPERIENCE

Bergen
Bergen, Norway was the first European city to introduce road
pricing. This was done in 1987 with a deliberate objective of
financing a bypass. Twenty percent of the revenue was used
to improve the city’s bus system. Tolls were initially c1.2 but
were doubled to c2.4 in 1999.

Trondheim Prices The location of


Trondheim followed Bergen’s example in 1988 and tolled a The current charge for passing through a toll booth in the the 18 toll
new road parallel to an old one. In 1991 the scheme was ex- Oslo area is about c1.5 per in-bound trip. There is no charge stations round
tended to cover the inner city and converted into an elec- for outbound travel or for buses. Oslo
tronic payment system.
Annual Revenue and cost/g1 collected
Oslo The Oslo toll ring system currently yields revenues of about
Oslo followed Trondheim in 1990 with a ring of eighteen toll c130 million per annum. This is produced very cheaply at a
stations of various sizes on the main roads approaching the cost of 10 cents per c1 collected. There are not thought to be
city through the outer suburbs. On the same day the Oslo any direct decongestion benefits or reductions in traffic as a
tunnel was opened beneath the city centre. The toll revenues direct result of the tolls. The Oslo scheme is therefore essen-
were used partly to pay off the tunnel debts, but also to fund tially for raising money for public expenditure and its value
improvements in public transport and the environment. thus depends on the cost effectiveness of this subsequent
public expenditure.
Objectives • Enforcement
In contrast with the objectives of road pricing in Singapore, • Enforcement of the Oslo system is by camera and MCR.
those in Oslo are purely to raise funds for investment in im- • Effect on congestion
proving the road network and providing better public trans-
port and environmental enhancements. In keeping with a long national tradition of levying tolls to
Since the introduction of Oslo’s toll ring in 1990 a succes- fund investment in new or better roads, the objective of the
sion of ‘packages’ of investments has had to be agreed every Oslo road pricing system is purely to raise capital. Because
few years. The current package, agreed in October 2006, in- this is its sole purpose, there has to be a continuously up-
cludes highway investments, capital investments on the rail dated an agreed package of investment schemes for which
commuter network and payments to help bridge the gap be- the toll revenues are destined. As already noted, the original
tween fares revenues and operating costs on the bus and rail toll ring opened on more or less the same day as a new tun-
systems. nelled ‘bypass’ beneath Oslo city centre and the revenues
Partly because the Oslo toll plazas are located so far out were immediately devoted to repaying the capital debts of
from the city centre, the toll charge has very little impact on that scheme. The new road itself had reduced traffic conges-
traffic congestion within the city, though the measures tion but only by 2-3%.
funded itself by the revenues may do so.
Likely developments
Current payment technology There are currently no plans to expand or remove the Oslo
The toll plazas are set up around Oslo to accommodate three toll system. A new package (package 3) of transport invest-
types of payment: ments has recently been agreed between the members of Ak-
• Credit card or cash at manned toll booths erhuis County Council and Oslo City Council. This contin-
• Credit card or cash at un-manned toll booths ues a planned division of expenditure between highway in-
• Pre-payment ‘coupon cards’ via DSRC. vestments, rail investments and public transport operational
subsidies. There is a school of thought to the effect that the
Over the years the emphasis has increasingly been placed plan to use some of the revenue to widen a major radial road
on use of the pre-paid tags and DSRC. These come on a could lead to more traffic and hence more congestion in the
stored charge card and it is possible to store about one year’s city centre.
worth of tags on one card. Thus there may be only one fi-
nancial transaction per annum for the payer. A typical toll A positive Net Present Value?
plaza now has one manual booth, two coin baskets and three Since the Oslo toll ring is designed purely to raise funds for
electronic tag booths all of which are automatic. The tags are investment in other transport schemes, its value depends on
for a number of trips through the booth rather than being the value of those schemes. An alternative way of looking at
cash cards. About 90 million cars pass through the toll the question would be to say that the value is the ‘shadow
booths each year. price’ of the revenues, net of the costs of collecting them.

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4 A world-wide review

• To improve journey time reliability for car users


• To make the distribution of goods and services more effi-
cient

Other objectives implicit in the design of the scheme in-


clude the encouragement of energy efficient cars, cycles and
motorbikes, and the improvement of the environment and
of conditions for pedestrians.

Current payment technology


Payment may be made before or after the journey and by a
variety of means, eg by purchasing a day permit at a shop or
via the internet, but payment is not possible at ‘entry’ points.
Fines for late payment begin at midnight on the day of travel
and become increasingly severe if payment is delayed.

Prices
The original flat daily charge of c7.4 was raised to c11.9 in
Oslo toll plaza July 2005. There have always been 90% discounts for resi-
THE UK EXPERIENCE dents, concessions for clean vehicles, etc. and no charge for
buses, taxis or motorcycles. The charge increase of 60% is es-
DURHAM timated to have led to a reduction in traffic of only about 6%.
The first UK road pricing scheme was introduced in Durham This relatively small change casts some doubt on the London
in 2002. Its objective was to cut the 3,000 vehicles per day claim that revenue raising is not a fundamental purpose of
which were using Saddler Street to access and circulate the scheme.
around the Castle and Cathedral precinct above the city. Ac-
cess to the area remained open but those using vehicles were Annual revenue and cost/g1 collected
required to make a payment of c2.8 or produce a valid ex- Unambiguous data on costs and revenues is somewhat diffi-
emption permit at the bottom of the hill on leaving the area. cult to obtain. The 2006 Impacts Overview Report identifies a
The scheme immediately achieved an 85% reduction in ve- net annual revenue 2005/6 of c174m and other sources
hicular traffic and a 10% increase in pedestrian activity dur- (IBM) suggest a gross revenue of c270m. These figures suggest
ing its operating hours of 10am to 4pm. There was a 48% re- a cost of collecting c1 at 35 cents. TfL’s own figure in 2004/5
duction in the number of delivery vehicles entering the street was 48 cents per c1 collected. (The higher charge will have
and the scheme was supported by 70% of people inter- reduced this figure.)
viewed.
Enforcement
LONDON The London enforcement arrangements involve cross-check-
Background ing the lists of payers against the lists of observed number
The London congestion charging (CC) scheme was intro- plates from the cameras and ANPR. Both these lists inevitably
duced on 17 February 2003 in the central area of London. It contain inaccuracies. Heavy fines are levied on offenders
comprised a flat charge for travel on any weekday into or and new mobile enforcement units were established in 2005
within 22 square km of central London. Payment may be in to catch persistent offenders. These measures have led to a
advance or after the trip, and fines are levied if payment has steady decline in the number of penalty notices issued.
not been received by midnight on the day of travel. Payers’
number plates are cross-checked against lists of those of vehi- Effects on congestion
cles observed entering or driving within the CC area. The introduction of congestion charging immediately re-
duced traffic volumes entering the charge area by 18% (cars
Objectives by 35%). This figure has remained quite stable since 2003,
Congestion charging in London was introduced with multi- the year the scheme was introduced. Congestion delays re-
ple objectives including: duced by 30% within the charging zone, typically by about
• To reduce traffic congestion 1.8 minutes per km. Bus speeds within the charged area im-
• To make radical improvements to the bus services proved markedly and passenger waiting times reduced, indi-
cating better reliability but also reflecting the enhanced fre-
quencies resulting from the addition of 200 buses on services
passing through the charge area.
No serious adverse effects on traffic were recorded outside
the charged area or on the roads surrounding it. Some of the
road capacity released by the congestion charge is now being
used to provide easier road crossings for pedestrians.

Likely developments
Proposals to roughly double the CC area by extending in
westwards into Kensington have now been implemented.
The very large discounts given to residents are forecast to
mean that though this will cut congestion in the newly
charged area, it will increase it in the existing area. The pro-
Durham exit posal is therefore controversial and includes a charge free
charge point north-south through route between the two areas.

tec MAY 2007 www.LocalGov.co.uk


5

Loss of trade
The London scheme has suffered persistent rumours that the
high charge has caused a loss of trade within the charged
area. This quickly became a political issue and professor Mike
Bell of Imperial college was commissioned to investigate. He
concluded that it was relatively minor.

A positive Net Present Value?


In its Impacts Monitoring Report of April 2004, TfL estimated
the annual costs of Congestion Charging at c186m and the
benefits at c257m and therefore concluded the scheme had a
net annual benefit of ca c71m and hence a healthy NPV. A
revised analysis in the June 2006 monitoring report gives an
annual net benefit of c128m from the c7 charge (ie before it
was raised) and hence a continuing positive NPV.

THE STOCKHOLM EXPERIENCE

Background
Stockholm’s road pricing scheme was introduced on a trial day and direction. There are concessions to iron out local London
basis in August 2005 with extended bus services (200 extra anomalies for those whose only route to the rest of the re- Congestion
buses) and additional P&R sites/services. The congestion gion is through the charged area. No charges are made for Charging
charging started later on 3 January 2006 and was ended on visitors from other states/countries. The totals for each vehi-
31 July. cle are totalled at the end of the day.
The Stockholm scheme charged vehicles 1 – 2c at 18 two-
way, toll points, located on roads crossing the inner city Annual revenue and cost/g1 collected
boundary and enclosing an area of about 48 square km (in- The annual revenue that would have been collected by the
cluding water and undeveloped land). The maximum accu- scheme is estimated at c85m. The cost of collecting 1 euro
mulated daily charge is limited to 6c per day. has been calculated at 21 cents.
After the Stockholm experiment was concluded, a referen-
dum was held with somewhat confusing results. Citizens of Enforcement
Stockholm City voted 52%:46% in favour of keeping the Enforcement of the Stockholm scheme was designed to be by
scheme (2% of papers were spoiled). Those living outside the means of camera and ANPR. This has proved so accurate that
city, in the 14 (of 24) municipalities that decided to hold a it is now also the most significant means of collecting the
referendum, voted roughly 60:40 against. It has subsequently revenue and has probably rendered the OBUs almost redun-
been decided to reintroduce the scheme and negotiations are dant. There have also been very few challenges to the pay-
in hand to decide on the date and the capital investments to ments required. In May 2006 less than one tenth of one per-
be funded with the revenues. cent of the payments were queried and only 5% of these were
appealed.
Objectives The efficiency of these arrangements may be partly ex-
The objectives of the Stockholm scheme were: plained by the decision not to charge those visiting the City
• To reduce traffic volumes from outside the Region, including cars arriving at the cen-
• To improve the flow of traffic on streets and roads tral ferry terminals.
• To reduce emissions of pollutants harmful to human
health Effects on congestion
• To improve public transport The Stockholm Congestion Charge scheme cut traffic across
• To improve the urban environment the boundary by about 22% and by somewhat less within the
boundary. Traffic on the ring road outside the boundary in-
In order to improve the public transport services some 200 creased by up to 10%.
additional buses were introduced operating 16 new bus ser- Congestion within the boundary reduced and the environ-
vices. In addition 2800 new P&R spaces were provided, bring- ment was improved. Outside the charged area the position is
ing the total to 13800. These measures were implemented less clear. Plots comparing journey times in April 2005 with
well before the charges started. those well after the scheme was implemented in April 2006
indicate increases of 0-15%. This has the appearance of a
Current payment technology clear negative impact, compatible with the observed in-
Because the charge varies according to the time of day and a creases in traffic. However, other changes were taking place
cap is set on the total daily charge, the payment due cannot at the time and the Expert Group, established to monitor the
be calculated until the end of the day. This post event pay- effects of the Stockholm scheme, concluded that ‘there is a
ment also ensures compliance with Sweden’s tax laws (since great deal here that is not the result of the Stockholm trial’.
the payment is treated as a tax and not a charge). Payments The Expert Group also noted a reduction of 5-10% in the
can be made by direct debit via an electronic on board unit number of injury accidents within the charged area. But the
(OBU), by bank giro or at 7/11 shops and there is flexibility as trial was probably too short to be certain of the long term
to when they are made. scale of this effect.

Prices A positive Net Present Value?


Prices range from c1-2 per cordon crossing in each direction Economic evaluation of the Stockholm scheme suggests that,
between the hours of 0630-1830. The price varies by time of judged on its own, the six month trial scheme, involving

www.tecmagazine.com tec MAY 2007


6 A world-wide review

heavy capital investment, was a waste of money and had a road user charging schemes, with a focus on public sector ex-
negative NPV. This was obviously to be expected. penditure/revenues
Estimates of the value of keeping the scheme running
showed a positive annual net benefit of c76m and hence a In practice the promoters of road pricing schemes like to
positive NPV. claim a mix of objectives and the Singapore scheme is the no-
The lost value, caused by the pause for the referendum, has table exception where the objective has been gradually
to be judged against the value of the change in public opin- honed down to the control and reduction of traffic conges-
ion and the resulting stream of net benefits which it enabled. tion. This is the sole objective of ERP. No concessions are of-
fered, buses pay three times the charge for cars (since they oc-
cupy three times the road capacity) and revenues go straight
LESSONS FROM THE EXPERIENCE TO into the government’s coffers. Achieved speeds are regularly
DATE reviewed and ERP charges are adjusted accordingly.
Both London and Stockholm claim that their objectives
The necessary conditions are primarily the direct reduction of traffic congestion in the
Although some pricing/traffic limitation schemes have been city centres: but both also claim subsidiary objectives of im-
rushed into place, for example the odd/even number plate proving the public transport alternatives to the car. Partly to
scheme in Athens and the permit schemes in Milan and further this objective both schemes devote a significant part
Rome, there are certain conditions essential to the success of of the road pricing revenues to improving public transport
a road pricing scheme: services (extra buses in London and extra buses and P&R in
• Severe, persistent and widespread congestion Stockholm). This is claimed to be in order to have sufficient
• Accurate, computer-based, vehicle ownership and regis- capacity to carry those no longer using cars, obviously a con-
tration marks records cern in the early days of a new road pricing regime. No calcu-
• Other policies (parking control, traffic management, etc) lations have been seen in either city of the extent to which
already in place these extra buses are actually required by the mode switchers
• Reasonable public transport alternatives available or fea- and the extent to which they are really just public transport
sible. improvements, which themselves contribute to the mode
switching.
Getting the objectives clear Both London and Stockholm also claim environmental
Road pricing is essentially a transport policy and, like any improvements as an objective.
other transport policy, should therefore be designed and
judged in terms of its overall performance against the general The fund raising objective
transport policy objectives. A good, comprehensive and dis- All road pricing schemes inevitably raise funds, which may
crete set of transport objectives is: themselves create opportunities for further investment. Only
• Increase personal accessibility (time and cost) to jobs, in Singapore are such funds transferred, like fuel taxes in the
shops, schools, etc. UK, directly into government coffers. The opposite is true in
• Improve efficiency of freight movement Norway, where fundraising is the sole purpose of the road
• Support the economy tolling around Oslo and where the funds are earmarked for
• Reduce accidents highway, public transport and environmental improve-
• Improve the environment ments.
• Support planning objectives/developments
• Be ‘progressive’ (help the poor/mobility impaired where Making road pricing acceptable, selling the idea and se-
the choice arises) curing the political will
• Achieve all this at minimum cost to public sector. If road user charging is the successful policy it has been
Stockholm Roads painted, there should be little difficulty in getting it accepted.
These imply a cost/benefit approach to the evaluation of That this may well be true is demonstrated by Singapore’s
single-mindedness in setting the objective of deploying road
pricing to control traffic congestion and sticking to this aim
without being diverted onto matters such as improving pub-
lic transport or reducing vehicle emissions. However, it must
be remembered that Singapore’s car users are wealthy and
privileged.
On the other hand Norway, with a tradition of imposing
and collecting tolls in order to build by-passes or otherwise
advance highway improvements, has also made the jump to
road pricing quite effortlessly and without the need for trials,
referendums, etc. But to achieve this Oslo had to commit it-
self to splitting its road pricing revenues roughly equally be-
tween:
• New road tunnels
• Improvements to public transport
• Environmental improvements

London and Stockholm fall between these extremes: both


have offered sweeteners including:
• Substantial discounts to residents of the affected areas
• No charges to particular vehicles such as buses, taxis,
‘clean’ cars, etc.
• Charge-free travel through the area to ‘captive’ car users

tec MAY 2007 www.LocalGov.co.uk


7

• More buses
One advantage of
• P&R satellite
• Improvements to rail services technology would
be the
The contrast between London and Stockholm is that the elimination of the
former got road pricing as a result of having a mayor, who requirement for
recognised congestion as a problem, realised that most other massive overhead
short term solutions had been tried and needed something gantries.
new and radical. The Stockholm alternative of not commit-
ting fully to the road pricing scheme until after it was in
place and then giving the public the opportunity to vote it
out appears to be a masterful way of reducing the political
risks and allowing democracy to solve the problem. Public
opinion, which was initially opposed to the scheme, (just)
swung behind it after its trial. This contrasts with the experi-
ence of Edinburgh, where the alternative of holding referen-
dums on a succession of alternative schemes, before any was
introduced, led to a rising tide of opposition and to the aban-
donment of the scheme without a trial.

Having the powers available


Those who promote road pricing schemes can be sure of one
thing – that any legal loopholes will be systematically ex-
ploited and used to discredit the whole scheme. Having the
necessary legal powers available and being able to deploy and gramme aimed at improving its revenue collection and en-
enforce them effectively are thus critical to successful imple- forcement systems, reducing their costs and increasing their
mentation. The arguments in both Stockholm and London, flexibility. Recently published results from this work chal-
as to whether road pricing is a payment for a service or a tax, lenge the view that satellite tracking systems will soon make
are amongst the few loopholes which have so far appeared. it possible to charge all vehicles according to the location,
time of day and distances which they travel on the charged
Charge levels and the form of charge road network. The work by TfL indicates that notwithstand-
London’s initial charge levels were applauded for having ing the fact that the approach is already being used for insur-
achieved about the maximum possible benefits, but its high ance purposes by the Norwich Union, and for goods vehicles
charge of c12 for one crossing of the boundary (or for as using the German autobahn network, satellite (GPS) tracking
many as are needed in one day) contrasts with the much is insufficiently accurate as a basis for urban congestion
cheaper and more subtle charges in the other cities (eg c1-2 charging and will remain insufficiently accurate even when
per crossing and a daily cap of c6 in Stockholm). In addition the new Galileo satellites come into service. TfL’s research is
the fact that the much lower Stockholm charge has appar- thus concentrating on tag and beacon systems which can
ently achieved a greater reduction in traffic suggests scope for certainly identify the vehicle and make a charge against its
more subtlety in the levels and types of charge and the account but could also, as in Singapore, directly debit the
means of revenue collection and enforcement. The London money from a charge card, like an Oyster Card, in the wind-
system looks to be an increasingly blunt instrument and it is screen.
known that new approaches and technologies are now under Given the advances in technology being researched in Eu-
development. rope and already in use in Singapore, it is clear that urban
road pricing schemes no longer need to be constructed as
The costs of revenue collection and enforcement ‘watertight’ cordons or areas within which fixed charges
Despite its much higher charges, one euro collected in Lon- apply. A much more loosely structured system of tolling
don costs 35-48 cents to collect. The equivalent prices are 22 points, focussed on particular congestion problems and with
cents in Stockholm, 21 cents in Singapore, 10 cents in Oslo charging rates that vary according to their severity, is now
and 5 cents in Bergen. London’s high costs are hardly sur- possible and might be far more effective and acceptable.
prising given the requirement to daily cross-check two large Once again Europe may need to look to Singapore and its res-
and inevitably imperfect data sets containing the number olute focus on the purpose of congestion charging being to
plates of those who have visited the area and those who have reduce congestion.
paid. The costs of pursuing non-payers and of catching pay- On the other hand if satellite tracking technology can be
ment dodgers are also significant. made sufficiently accurate in urban areas and if the Big
Stockholm’s cheaper revenue collection costs may be ex- Brother fears can be allayed, it may come into its own if and
plained partly by its simpler system of posting the charges in- when charging is extended across whole metropolitan areas.
curred directly onto the accounts of those whose number
plates have been identified by the automatic number plate Gantrification
recognition (ANPR) cameras. Legal disputes as to whether the One advantage of satellite technology, were it feasible, would
Stockholm system is a charge for a service or a tax have been be the elimination of the requirement for massive overhead
resolved in the favour of the latter, so it now seems possible gantries of the types seen in Singapore and Stockholm or the
that when its scheme reopens, Stockholm will not need the even more intrusive toll gates of Oslo. Such structures would
tag and beacon system. undoubtedly be most unwelcome in central London and
likely to generate serious opposition to any scheme exten-
New and alternative technologies? sions. London has therefore been researching the gantry
The technology of vehicle tracking and charging is currently which looks like a streetlight and seems to be on the way to
developing rapidly and TfL has in hand an impressive pro- achieving an acceptable compromise.

www.tecmagazine.com tec MAY 2007