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As elsewhere in the world, road use charges should be introduced in the UK both for motorways and for urban areas.

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Introduction

As elsewhere in the world, road use charges should be introduced in the UK both for motorways and for urban areas. Whenever we hear today about the problems facing this country and how the government intends to solve them, arguably the three most commonly occurring points for debate on the government's agenda are education, the health system and transport. Transport often comes into focus when high profile incidences involving sub-standard public transport (most notably in recent times involving the railway network) are brought to light. And all this does is reinforce the reasons why many of us choose to use a car to travel in, rather than public transport. Due to the increasing need to use cars, our roads are becoming more and more congested. Now the government, in its position of trying to improve the situation, has to find a solution, which will at least ease the problem. Congestion arises when the volume of traffic exceeds road capacity. This reduces the speed of all vehicles and so increases the average time it takes to complete a particular journey. The congestion mainly occurs at peak times where the demand for the road is at its highest. Particularly when queuing in traffic jams, more people are using the roads, which increases the (marginal) cost of time to other people. Congestion occurs due to the fact that roads are a "nonexcludable" public good, i.e. no one is excluded from using the roads (based on the assumption that everyone can afford a vehicle, can drive a vehicle, and can afford the additional costs to run a vehicle.) By its definition, when a nonexcludable public good is provided, it affects the welfare of every person in the society. A public good is one where another individual using it will have no effect on the benefits received by others using it (i.e. the marginal cost of someone else consuming it is zero) ...read more.

Middle

How elasticity effects the demand for motorways with/without alternative routes (Motorways without alternative routes) (Motorways with alternative routes) From an environmental perspective road charges should be introduced for the vehicles entering the urban areas. This is because there is significant evidence that motor vehicle usage will drop significantly (as shown in the Button 1993 table). The additional revenue raised can be used to fund the much-needed public transport services. Therefore those who will no longer use their own private vehicles will potentially benefit from an improved transport service. Evidence showed that those who continue to travel into the urban areas using private vehicles are also more satisfied if the money they are charged goes into improving public transport (as shown in the MORI diagram). For motorways the decision from an environmental perspective is split between those motorways that have alternative routes and those that do not. On those motorways with possible alternative routes the disadvantages (such as the possible movement of traffic as opposed to reduction) outweighs the potential benefit of the additional revenue. Where alternative routes are unavailable road charges are appropriate as the disadvantages stated above and in the report are much less of a problem. Revenue generated from these charges can then help urban areas with the possible improvement of public transport (like the Norwegian example). If roads were a "typical" competitive commodity, supply and demand would determine its price and an organization or business would own it. However there isn't a market for roads, and (in places where there are no toll systems in place) people can use the roads for free (i.e. its price is treated as if it was zero). Added to the fact that no one actually owns the roads (the government only has a requirement to maintain them), we have a demand for the usage of the roads by the public, but a failure of a market to emerge. ...read more.

Conclusion

The problems associated with using satellites are similar to that of the above; that is the infringement on privacy rights and costs of setup and maintenance. However one possibility with this method is that it can also be used in conjunction with locating stolen cars. From a technical point of view smartcards seem to be the most sensible option. Although it would be more costly than just buying licenses, this method would lead to less congestion, as there is no stopping to enter the areas being charged. It is less expensive than using satellites and would not infringe on privacy rights. However there are difficulties and limitations with implementing any of these road use charging methods; the general public will have to be educated in the use of them, which will be quite complicated due to different regions and the specific times of the day having varying charges. The aim of this report was to analyse the argument that as elsewhere in the world, road charges should be introduced in the UK, both for motorways and for urban areas. On addressing the argument the environmental and the consequential factors of congestion needed to be considered. On considering the environmental factors the conclusion is that the reduction in pollution levels would only occur if the road charges reduced private road use and increased the use for public transport (i.e. there were no alternative routes that people had switched to avoid the charges). However a reduction in congestion on motorways and urban areas could certainly improve a firm's economic profit as the investigation into consequences of congestion revealed. Having decided the obvious need for charges with the economic principles supporting this, whether the application of schemes is technically possible became important. For this factor the smartcard road-charging scheme emerged as the best option. On bringing all these points together road charges are both necessary and feasible for UK motorways and urban areas. Except by environmental perspectives where additionally there have to be few alternative routes, thus preventing people congesting other roads and avoid payment. ...read more.

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