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A new NLGN report calls for the Government to step back from any national road pricing approaches and instead pursue a permissive approach where local authorities are put more firmly in the driving seat. While the DfT says it has made ‘no decision’ yet on national pricing, NLGN is urging Ministers not to head in that direction. Instead, councils should lead approaches to reduce congestion and consider locality-based charging if merited by local circumstances. The report argues that a series of radical measures are required to stop congestion on Britain’s roads rising by a predicted 30% by 2025, including:
- scrapping the current £380 million fuel subsidy the Government gives to bus operators, and instead allowing this same resource to be allocated by local authorities to incentivise improved local bus routing and timetabling;
- removing the local transport regulatory powers from England’s six unelected and appointed-for-life Traffic Commissioners, instead devolving their powers to elected local council leaders;
- making Council Leaders accountable to new Passenger Forums and allowing them scope to influence local employer behaviour, which could dramatically reduce peak time congestion; and
- the sanctioning of locally-defined congestion charging or local road pricing schemes should rest with the elected local authority and tailored to local circumstances rather than see all traffic affected by a blanket national road pricing regime.
“It is 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 study also argues that there is huge potential for new technology to improve the experience on public transport and to map the needs of local communities. Through these opportunities, local authorities can bring about behavioural change and tackle congestion in their communities.