Laurie Dealer's budget for road transport

Road transport needs a cut in fuel duty, private investment for roads, mileage tax and Euro-6 incentives to ensure it survives, says Laurie Dealer.  

Alright, it’s that time of year, the Red Briefcase gets dusted down and transported to the Commons from Number 11, probably not at a competitive rate or with a home delivery company. Usually there is 2p on a pint3p on spirits10p on fags and some conciliatory measure for pensioners to turn on the heating without fear of draining their hard-earned resources. This year, perhaps more than any year before, it is road transport that needs conciliation from the Chancellor.

Ignoring rumours and likely outcomes, Laurie Dealer has listed a please-can-we-have list that would help road transport and the wider economy alike.

First, make Corporation Tax more competitive. This alone can attract more companies to the UK and provide more opportunities for the British workforce, including manufacturing.

Second, speaking of which, manufacturing and the small and medium sized enterprises need an education system (including higher education) geared towards its needs and not designed specifically for the affluent. Get rid of loans altogether, and reintroduce grants and allow students to make up the shortfall in cash by getting part-time work so the transition from school to university to work is more seamless. And do not remove vocational degrees in favour of old-school English and History degrees. (Makes my blood boil, especially as all those who introduced loans received a free education…)

Third, reintroduce the 40p tax rate for people who earn more than £150,000 a year. History has taught us that we get more by taxing this group less. It was estimated that only 320,000 people in 2010 earned that much or more, so a better rate should let this number grow and they’ll pay more. Mind you, while we are at it, remove the 50% Council Tax rate for second homes.

Fourth, reduce fuel duty. There is a popular misconception in road transport that its only hauliers that are affect by high fuel prices. The truth is that everyone is hit by high fuel prices. The majority of hauliers pass on fuel costs to their customers, who in return pass on the cost to their customers, and that is the likes of you and I. High fuel prices affect the rural communities even more as they have further to travel, and perhaps the best example is the Scottish 5p-per-litre fuel discount scheme that excluded hauliers. Laurie Dealer believes he has the answer.

Fifth, replace the road tax system (and eventually fuel duty) with a mileage tax. This means those that do high mileage per annum would be charged more than someone who does low mileage. It echoes fuel duty, in so much that the more fuel you buy the more tax you pay.

By introducing this scheme you can layer it and target those who are wanton rather than have everyone on a level playing field. For example, a 1.1-litre petrol car doing 5,000 miles a year would be charged at a lower rate per mile than someone driving a 3.0-litre petrol car also doing 5,000 miles a year. You can exponentially charge for all sorts of vehicles by putting them in specific brackets and introducing mileage categories.

Commercial vehicles can be charged for the work they do and the same system can be applied for vehicles coming into the country from Europe. Give them a voucher on entry for 500 miles and make them pay fines if they exceed it. A proper road charging system would require proper capital investment to introduce but it would curb excessive mileage and make everyone pay their dues.

This can be monitored through the MoT network, and the system put on the same database as the Police use for insurance and road tax. Anyone caught abusing the system goes to jail.

Sixth, incentives for Euro-6 technology. This next emission level is set to be more expensive, heavier vehicles reducing payload and no better on fuel. It needs an incentive, any incentive, to make hauliers choose it because right now there is no reason what so ever.

Finally, private investment of road infrastructure. The Midlands Expressway isn’t a stand up example of how it should be done and how to charge, however, it does open the door. A new route from Birmingham to Manchester, a proper Manchester by-pass connecting east and west without junctions for local towns would do it, and alternative routes from London heading north and another heading west are also required. A two-lane motorway for commercial traffic with a few junctions taking traffic out of London supplanting them in the regions would suffice. And a lot of people would pay for such a route if it genuinely saved time and money.

Government to part-privatise UK road network

The government will reveal plans later today to sell off parts of the strategic road network.

Prime Minster David Cameron will announce a feasibility study during a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineers.

In a move aping the sale of the UK’s water and sewage supply, foreign companies would be invited to send long leases to run motorways and major A-roads.

While tolling would not be introduced on existing roads, the government would allow it for new projects, from lane widening up to large scale projects along the lines of the M6 toll road.

In a significant policy shift, investors would receive a cut of UK road-tax as reward.

In December the government was criticised for cutting road maintenance budgets.