AA/Populus Panel

AA members don't trust government to deliver fair road pricing

28 April 2008

Eighty six per cent of AA members do not trust the government to deliver a fair system of road pricing even though 42% support the principle of pay as you go, according to the results of the biggest dedicated motoring panel in the UK released today by the AA.

These results from the AA/Populus panel of almost 17,5001 AA members could throw the government's plans for road pricing into jeopardy. The Government's broad intention is to encourage local authorities to introduce local congestion charging schemes by offering increased funding via the Transport Innovation Fund. The Chancellor has also recently announced more funding to investigate the technology required for a national scheme.

This local approach is being actively followed by Manchester and Cambridge but already strong opposition is growing.

Road pricing raises various sensitive issues. Transport academics, planners and economists seem convinced that road pricing should be a major part of a strategy to reduce congestion. The pure economic theory of rationing a scare resource (roads) by price makes sense but the practical, economic and social implications of such a policy are less sure. Opinions were divided on road pricing in the AA/Populus panel with 42% supporting the principle of pay as you go and 45% in opposition.

Perhaps more importantly 32% were strongly opposed with just 15% strongly in support. Young drivers and those living in the North and Scotland were more likely to be opposed.

There was even less support for local road pricing schemes with 51% strongly opposed and 16% somewhat opposed. Only 6% were strongly in support and 14% somewhat in support. The strongest opposition of 72% was in the NW where Manchester is considering introducing congestion charging - the NE and in London (68%) which already has charging. The lowest opposition was in Wales.

There was no majority support for tolls on new roads or motorway lanes (53% oppose), nor for tolls for single occupant drivers on High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (58% oppose).

From the panel results it appears that the main objection to tolls or congestion charging is that 86% would not trust the Government to keep its word if they had offered reductions in fuel duty or road tax upon the introduction of road pricing.

The AA opposes this theoretical concept of road pricing until the government can spell out exactly what it entails and how the wider interests of motorists can be safe-guarded.

Commenting, Edmund King, AA president said: "When we have clearer proposals on road pricing from the government we will go back to our panel. Currently there seems to be no great appetite for local road pricing eventhough just over 40% support the principle of pay as you go. There is a wide reality gap between the principle and the practical aspects of road pricing.

"Road pricing is unnecessary on most roads, unpopular and difficult to implement socially, politically, financially and practically."

The AA/Populus panel road pricing results showed:

Motoring is currently paid for by a combination of fuel duty and road tax. Some have suggested that we should move to a system of paying based on when, where and how far we travel. In principle, would you support or oppose such a system?

15% strongly support
27% somewhat support
42% net support
32% strongly oppose
13% somewhat oppose
46% net opposition

Highest strong support (28%) came from over 65s and lowest (7%) from 18-24 year olds. In terms of regions the highest strong support (17%) came from the West Country and the lowest from Wales (13%). The strongest opposition came from Yorkshire, NW and NE (34%).

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?

6% strongly support
14% somewhat support
20% net support
51% strongly oppose
16% somewhat oppose
67% net opposition

Males were more opposed (70%) than females (62%). Strongest opposition came from the 45-64 age group (55% strongly opposed).

Regional opposition was as follows:

London 68%
South 64%
South west 67%
Wales 67%
East midlands 67%
Eastern 66%
Yorkshire & Humber 67%
North west 72%
North east 69%
West midlands 68%
Scotland 66%
N Ireland 66%

New motorway lanes and roads should be built and those who use them should pay tolls to play for their construction.

9% strongly support
23% somewhat support
32% net support
33% strongly oppose
20% somewhat oppose
53% net opposition

New high occupancy vehicle lanes should allow people driving on their own to use them for a fee that varies according to the level of traffic congestion - perhaps £5.

6% strongly support
17% somewhat support
23% net support
38% strongly oppose
20% somewhat oppose
58% net opposition

This was an idea floated last month by Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly MP, who 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."

Notes to editors

1AA/Populus panel of 17,481 AA members conducted between 14 March - 9 April 2008

The AA intends to continue recruiting members to the panel.

AA Public Affairs


28 April 2008