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Pay-per-mile road system under consideration for lorries in Britain

Autocar logo Autocar 02/01/2018 Sam Sheehan
Pay-per-mile road system under consideration for lorries in Britain © Autocar Pay-per-mile road system under consideration for lorries in Britain

The UK Government wants to introduce a pay-per-mile system for lorries in order to reduce traffic on Britain’s roads.

The system, proposed by the Department for Transport, would charge vehicles depending on their emissions.

Money raised from the levy would help fund road maintenance and repairs, which cost about £120 million per year.

Related: Five things you need to know about T-charge (Sky News)


The charge would also help offset a predicted reduction in fuel duty raised by the Treasury as sales of hybrid and electric car sales take off. Last year, £27.5 billion was raised from 57.95p per litre of diesel or petrol, but a 31% decline in diesel vehicle sales is causing that income to fall. Conversely, sales of alternatively fuelled cars have surged by a third in recent months.

The pay-per-mile proposal comes following complaints from British hauliers that they are unfairly hit by the UK’s fuel duty, which is higher than that of most European neighbours. Foreign lorries using Britain’s roads can fuel up abroad with lower rates, allowing them to use the UK network without directly contributing to its maintenance.

Such a system was considered for cars by the last Labour government, with former transport secretary Alistair Darling proposing a £1 per mile charge in a 2004 report. However, the plan was shelved following public backlash.

Current transport secretary Chris Grayling recently told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there was no concrete plan to introduce a pay-per-mile system for cars. He said: “Lots of people [are arguing] for this and a lot of people think it’s the right thing to do, [but] we are not preparing that as an alternative route to funding our roads or to bringing in tax.

“We already have a system in place that provides some limited contribution, but we’re now consulting the industry and saying if we were to move away from different types of tax on hauliers and move to a pay-per-use basis, so that everybody – British, international – contributes to the roads, do you think that’s a good idea?”

London mayor Sadiq Khan suggested a pay-per-mile charge for the capital that includes cars for London. In June 2017, Khan said: “We have to make not using your car the affordable, safest and most convenient option for Londoners going about their daily lives.”

The start of the M6 toll at the Coleshill Interchange in Warwickshire © PA The start of the M6 toll at the Coleshill Interchange in Warwickshire

Khan produced a study that was “considering whether road use should be paid for in a way that better accounts for the impact and context of individual journeys”. It said: “This would mean that some journeys would cost more (at busier times of day or in more congested areas or in more polluting vehicles), while others would cost less."

A pay-per-mile system is already in place on the M6 toll road in the West Midlands, charging users depending on how far they travel along the route. Cars using the full length of the road are charged £5.90, while lorries pay up to £11. This fee does not take into account the emissions of each vehicle.

London has introduced a T-Charge that requires drivers of higher-polluting vehicles to pay an additional £10 to travel into the centre of the city. The levy, enforced from October, is added to the existing £11.50 Congestion Charge, so some motorists could pay £21.50 to enter the capital.

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