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Toll roads could be introduced to UK as electric car ownership surges

Sky News logo Sky News 22/03/2022 Alix Culbertson, political reporter

A network of toll roads across the UK is being discussed by ministers as they look at new ways to tax drivers.

Toll roads are common in Europe © Reuters Toll roads are common in Europe

Downing Street is concerned fuel tax, which raises about 1.2% of national income each year, will stop being a good source of government income as it continues on the road to net zero.

Electric car owners do not pay fuel tax as they do not use fuel © Other Electric car owners do not pay fuel tax as they do not use fuel

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to cut fuel duty for the first time in more than a decade during Wednesday's spring statement.

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Number 10 is looking at other means of income from road users as more electric cars are purchased, with owners not paying fuel tax and also exempt from car tax.

There were 380,552 purely electric cars on the UK's roads in 2021, an increase of 281,706 from 2019, according to the RAC.

Toll roads could be one way the government could tax all road users to make up for electric car owners not paying fuel tax.

Currently, the M6 toll road in the West Midlands is the only major road that users have to pay to use. It costs cars £7.10 on weekdays and £12.90 for HGVs.

A government spokesman told Sky News: "The government has previously committed to ensuring that motoring tax revenues keep pace with the changes brought about by the switch to electric vehicles, whilst keeping the transition affordable for consumers."

Toll roads are common in Europe, especially in France where 25% of the nations traffic uses them - although the high number of them is because the highways are operated by private companies whereas the UK government runs all public access roads.

One of the options the government is said to be looking at is introducing tolls on the motorway network in the medium term.

The cross-party Commons transport committee pitched another option last month in which technology would be used to charge drivers a fee based on the distance they have driven, the level of traffic and type of vehicle.

There are concerns within government of a backlash from the public and MPs if tolls were only placed on roads in towns and cities rather than just major routes.

In October 2021, the Treasury said the UK would probably have to introduce new taxes to compensate for the loss of revenue as it shifts away from fossil fuels.

Following Boris Johnson publishing his net zero plans, the Treasury said: "The largest impacts of the transition on the public finances will stem from permanent changes to behaviour that feed through to the tax system.

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"Primary among these is the loss of significant amounts of tax revenue as the economy shifts away from the use of fossil fuels."

Watch and follow the chancellor's spring statement on Wednesday from 12.30pm on Sky News

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