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Local govt think tank slams road pricing plan

It's 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut'

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A new think tank report says government should drop the idea of a national road pricing scheme and allow councils to make decisions on local schemes.

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) has made the recommendation as part of a broad emphasis on local authorities dealing with traffic management.

In The Politics of Transport it says the national scheme to charge per-mile-travelled should be abandoned, describing it as "a sledgehammer to crack a nut". Instead, local authorities should be enabled to introduce congestion charging schemes where appropriate. But it adds that this is financially or politically viable when introduced as part of a package of integrated solutions.

It also says that if central government requisitions data, local authorities should be reimbursed for their efforts and investment in traffic data and analysis.

"With these tools, a real solution is possible," the report says. "However, it can only happen if local government steps up to bigger challenges.

"Local government traditional structures cannot deliver solutions where spatial strategy and economic development is integral to transport policy making. A corporate approach is therefore necessary."

Other recommendations include:

  • local government should manage the travel patterns of the public sector workforce by home working, smarter use of publicly owned assets and wireless IT. As part of annual transport strategy reports, all councils should publish how they intend to influence employee travel patterns;
  • councils should support the use of real time information and smart cards on public transport, and in so doing provide data to profile consumer information; and
  • the Local Government Association (LGA) should provide support in the forms of a trusted expert resource point for councils, and an analysis and data pool for transport intelligence.

NLGN director Chris Leslie said: "It is a nonsense in this day and age for unelected and barely visible traffic commissioners, who are currently appointed for life, to have powers to register and regulate local buses. Local communities across the country are crying out for better public transport, and these traffic commissioners cannot possibly have the local knowledge necessary to deliver the best results.

"Elected local government and council leaders should be where the buck stops, so passengers and residents know where to direct their concerns."

The report also advocates scrapping the £380m fule subsidy for bus operators, and making council leaders accountable to new passenger forums and allowing them to influence local employer behaviour, which could reduce peak time congestion.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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