AA/Populus Panel

Is it the end of the road for road pricing?

9 December 2008

Motorists would not use "Lexus lanes" according to AA poll

Opposition to Congestion Charge grows in the North West

Traffic down 12% on M6 (toll)

Is it the end of the road for road pricing? Two thirds of motorists say that they would not use proposed high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, according to the AA president addressing The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) seminar on road pricing today.

The new survey1 showed 65% of 7,380 AA Populus panel members said they would not use HOT lanes. Conversely 28% said they would use the lanes on occasions and 3% said they would use them all the time.

Raised speed limit

Even if they had the option to use the lane when in a hurry and the speed limit was raised to 80mph, only 35% would but 51% would still not use it out of principle.

These lanes, in which car sharers go free or those alone pay a small toll, were proposed by former Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly when she published Roads – 'Delivering Choice and Reliability' in July2. The Government and new Transport Secretary, Geoffrey Hoon are looking at taking these plans forward.

In April 2008 AA Populus panel members were asked whether they supported the principle of HOT lanes and 58% were opposed (17,400 responses April 2008). This latest research was carried out to explore in more detail motorists' attitudes to HOT lanes.

Regional variation

Drivers in London and those in the North West said they were most likely to use these lanes (37% and 34% respectively) whilst those in Yorkshire and Humberside were least likely to (25%).

In a hurry

Panel members were also asked if they would pay to use a HOT lane when in a hurry and if the speed limit was set at 80mph rather than 70mph - panel members were still reluctant with only 35% saying that they would use them. Those in the 18-34 age category (45%) and drivers in London (57%) were most likely to say they would use the lanes in these circumstances.

Safety concerns

The proposal for having a higher speed limit in a HOT lane is not a firm one from the government but AA Populus panel members were in no doubt that there would be some safety concerns with 64% either somewhat (21%) or strongly (43%) agree that this sounded like a dangerous idea.

AA comment

Edmund King, AA President said: "We were aware of motorists' general opposition to national road pricing but thought they might be more supportive of paying to use dedicated lanes if they had a choice. The poll indicates that drivers have little appetite to pay to use HOT lanes to avoid congestion even with the possible trade-off of a 10mph higher speed limit.

"Dedicated lanes on motorways will do little to ease congestion if drivers don't buy into the idea, so the Government should think carefully before making miles of motorway no go areas for the majority of drivers. We cannot afford to waste capacity in the belief that drivers will either car share or pay. We are proposing to government that they should set up a small pilot project to assess such a scheme before going headlong into something that might prove to be a white elephant."

Today is also the fifth anniversary of the M6 Toll but traffic flows between July and September are down 12% on the same period last year.

Opposition to congestion charging in the North West also seems to be growing as our latest results1 show that 77% of AA members are opposed compared to 72% back in April.

The western extension of the London Congestion charge zone is also to be scrapped. All these trends seem to suggest that it might be the end of the road for road pricing.

More hard-shoulder running

The DFT recently announced "The acceleration of work to make better use of our motorways, following detailed examination earlier this year into the feasibility of introducing hard-shoulder running on around 500 lane miles of Britain's motorways. In the New Year we will announce on which motorways we are able to open the hard-shoulder to traffic".

HOT lanes were dubbed "Lexus lanes" in the USA as it was thought that only wealthier drivers would use them. Research on usage actually shows that the lanes are used by a cross section of the population.


1 The latest survey (conducted 21-28 Nov of 7,380 AA members) shows that 77% of AA members in the North West are now opposed to congestion charging.

Question: Before local charging schemes are introduced some people say that there should be a local referendum to decide on such a scheme. If you were asked to vote on road pricing in your local area would you support or oppose road pricing?

Drivers in NW
60% were strongly opposed
17% somewhat opposed
6% strongly support
11% somewhat support
4% neither support nor oppose
2% didn't know

2Ruth Kelly said "Allowing motorists to enter a reserved lane if they are carrying passengers or willing to pay a toll gives them a real choice without having to change their route. More capacity comes on line, but instead of immediately filling up, we can manage demand over time, adapting to circumstances, maintaining traffic flow, and improving the reliability of motorway travel."

Other questions and national responses

Question: If a new lane was added to a motorway that was reserved for car sharers (i.e. driver + passenger) to use for free, or for lone drivers prepared to pay a possible small charge of between 30p and £1 per mile, would you consider paying to use it?

Yes would use it all the time 3%
Yes would use it sometimes 28%
No I would not use it out of principle 34%
No I would never use it because I would not want to pay 31%
Don't know 5%

Question: If the pay lane mentioned in the previous question allowed lone drivers or those sharing cars to travel at a higher speed than the rest of the motorway with a limit of approximately 80mph, to what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?

I would pay to use this lane if I was in a rush:

Don't know 2%
Strongly agree 12%
Somewhat agree 23%
Neither agree nor disagree 12%
Somewhat disagree 15%
Strongly disagree 36%

I would pay to use this lane even if I wasn't in a rush:

Don't know 2%
Strongly agree 3%
Somewhat agree 9%
Neither agree nor disagree 12%
Somewhat disagree 19%
Strongly disagree 56%

Having a higher speed limit sounds like a dangerous idea:

Don't know 1%
Strongly agree 43%
Somewhat agree 21%
Neither agree nor disagree 11%
Somewhat disagree 10%
Strongly disagree 14%

Join the discussion in the AA zone


9 December 2008