Sunday, August 21, 2011

UK Toll Roads Need To Look Overseas Say Freight Haulage Groups

Petition Aims to Hold Government to Account
Shipping News Feature

UK – GERMANY – WORLDWIDE - Following the recent launch of an e petition to abolish charges for all users of the M25 Dartford Crossing, the only practical route for fording the River Thames for many freight haulage drivers as well as private motorists, comes news of a Meeting and Exhibition in Berlin next month which perhaps those who control ‘pay as you go’ road transport in the UK should attend.

Despite the organisation’s long pedigree, and hundreds of members from the America’s, Australia, South Africa and Europe, only one British fee collection authority, the Severn River Crossing plc, appears to be linked to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association for the owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve tolling which is holding its 79th annual meeting in the German capital the 11th and 14th September (details on our Events Page).

Toll road, bridge and tunnel authorities in other countries seem to have a more sensible and coordinated approach to toll collection management. On the New Jersey turnpike in the US, made famous internationally in Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 track ‘America’ for example, there is a whole spectrum of possibilities available for commuters and truck drivers. As well as installing the E-Z Pass system which is now valid at toll collection points countrywide, there are discounts for older drivers as well as greener private vehicles, discounts for regular freight customers etc.

With British government proposals to only allow free passage through the Dartford Tunnel and Queen Elizabeth ll bridge tolls when traffic congestion stretches a full 12 miles beyond the toll booths in either direction, plus fees to be increased at a rate far in excess of the inflation rate, now must surely be the time to heed the opinions of all stakeholders such as the Road Haulage Association (RHA), who were informed by Roads Minister Mike Penning at their 2010 awards lunch that he ‘stressed his commitment to reducing the bottleneck effect at Dartford as quickly as possible’.

Now various haulage and freight interests are suggesting that the authorities at least review all the latest payment technology around with a view to improving passage assuming they are once again to renege on the promises of many previous administrations by abandoning fees altogether. The government are holding to the line that they have to increase charges to reduce congestion, an argument described to us as ‘ludicrous’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘ an outrageous lie aimed at monetising misery’ by various road haulage interests in Essex and Kent, the areas likely to be most affected by the toll increases and the build up of queues.

Interested parties can sign the petition to abolish Thames crossing charges by clicking HERE.

Photo: New Jersey Turnpike Section.