Thursday, August 1, 2013

Freight Haulage Interests Criticise More Road Toll Increases

28% Rise in Charges is Unacceptable say Hauliers
Shipping News Feature

UK – Once again road tolls, in this case those charged for use of the Tyne tunnel, are the subject of controversy. We have written before about the bizarre way local and national politicians tend to bend the rules to suit themselves when trying to derive increased income from drivers, and usually the hardest hit are the road haulage and freight customers which have to use facilities such as the crossings of the Severn and Thames at Dartford.

Reading the report of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA) meeting last week one would first believe that its powers to increase charges through the Tyne tunnel are limited by linking to any increase in the retail price index. TWITA however say that because in 2007/8 they passed responsibility for charging to TT2 Ltd (a consortium comprising French group Bouygues Travaux Publics and elements of banks HSBC and Bank of Scotland), the change in system produced an ‘anomaly’. The payments to TT2 Ltd are calculated under what TWITA describes as ‘a complex calculation’ based on a ‘shadow toll’ multiplied by a figure of user journeys, in turn calculated based on traffic flows for any given month.

This anomaly concerns the way certain goods vehicles are identified now by the automatic camera recognition system used since the contract went to TT2. The cameras tend to pick up Luton vans and similar lighter (under 3.5 tonne), but high sided commercial vehicles as HGV’s, not the LGV’s they actually are; anything over three metres get charged as a class 3 truck. Now, subject to Government approval, charges for LGV’s with two or more axles that are more than three metres in height are planned to rise to £3.20, up from the current £2.50, a 28% increase, hardly the rise in the RPI.

Local hauliers have issued blistering criticisms of the increase saying that TWITA has simply moved the goalposts because of its own inability to sort the matter out when the system was agreed with TT2. With rates having been increased by 25% already in January this year, the TWITA proposal now has to be rubber stamped by government to enable the new charges to be imposed from the 1st January next year.