Policy makers step on the gas with plans to charge road users on congested highways

The imperatives driving transport policy are set to change, both in the short term, with London Mayor Ken Livingstone's decision to impose a congestion tax on central London, and in the long term, with the proposals by the Commission for Integrated Transport to price many vehicles off the road. Both moves have significant implications for the environment - in terms of achieving a significant lowering of traffic generated pollution - and for all forms of transport and vehicles used in waste management. The options of sending waste by rail or by water, reviewed on page 8 of this latest LAWE Tracking Trends series, should come much more into the picture, backed by Best Value policies.

Never shy of controversy, London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, signed the Order on 26 February to implement a £5 daily entry congestion charging scheme for central London a year from now, amidst praise from environmentalists and criticism from motoring interests.

TfL predicts that the scheme will reduce traffic in central London by 10-15% and delays by 20-30%.

Road charge plan
In the longer term perspective the Commission for Integrated Transport has proposed a new method of paying for road use, which it claims could reduce road congestion across the UK by up to 44% without increasing the overall tax take.

Under this plan all cars would be fitted with a small in-car unit linked to a GPS navigation system covering the nationwide road network from motorways to residential areas. Vehicles would then be charged according to the road space they used and the time they used it. Tolls could be collected via a pre-stored smartcard on board the car or billed in the same way that mobile phones are now. The Commission says that most travel would not incur any charge.

The Commission also proposes that, to compensate for the charges on busier roads, other motoring taxes - Vehicle Excise Duty and Fuel Duty - nationally would be reduced by an amount equivalent to the charges levied. One option would be to scrap VED with a small reduction in fuel duty.

Prof David Begg, who chairs the Commission said: "Our proposals are designed to complement the 10 Year [Transport] Plan and could not be introduced until the technology could be rolled out with confidence on the scale needed. We would also want to see the public transport improvements promised in the Plan delivered first so people had real choices to make."

Alternative fuels
The wind of change is also blowing on the transport front with the steady advance of alternative fuels to petrol and diesel. Last month, Energy and Industry Minister, Brian Wilson announced a new £1 million LPG Boost Programme as he and Transport Minister David Jamieson opened the 1,000th Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) station in Charlton, South London.

TransportAction, which is run by the Energy Saving Trust , and is the Government's authority on clean up vehicles, has warmly welcomed Ken Livingstone's plan. It is estimated that switching to a cleaner fuel like LPG or natural gas could save London commuters over £1,000 a year with exemption from the £5 entry charge. TransportAction adds that the cleanest vehicles, which include bi-fuel and hybrid vehicles would not be subject to the charge.

This will be welcome news to suppliers of alternative fuels, which are gaining increasing use within the local authority and waste management sectors, such as e-diesel which has recently secured the significant BSEN 590 approval, the European diesel standard. The fuel, which is manufactured from recycled waste vegetable oil from a wide variety of food production processes and can be used in any type of diesel engine, has been available to a limited number of customers for the past two years, including several local authorities, is now set to make an impact on the mass market.

Last month the City of Hull began fuelling all its diesel vehicles with a new, ultra low sulphur, lower carbon fuel, GlobalDiesel with 5% rape seed oil, produced by Greenenergy, which will require no engine modification, and which is anticipated to receive a tax reduction in the Budget.

Market advances
On the business front, several RCV companies have notched up good results recently with Faun, for example, reporting about 40% growth last year with a further 30% increase forecast for the coming year by Managing Director, Russell George.

Ros Roca also stated in January that demand for its RCV compaction bodies had boosted annual sales to their highest level since the company entered the UK market six years ago. According to Sales Manager, Colin McMorine, sales for 2001 rose by over 40% compared with the previous year, with local authorities and municipal hire companies taking the lion's share of the business.
Seddon Atkinson can point to orders such as the ten Pacer refuse vehicles added to the London Borough of Newham's fleet recently. The vehicles completed a fleet renewal process which began in 2000 with the delivery of seven new Pacers, with all the vehicles supplied on a five-year contact hire deal from Riverside Truck Rental.

From Heil Europe comes news that Croydon LBC has recently added a further two Heil Powerlinks to its existing fleet of 38 RCVs. These new vehicles are part of the council's replacement programme which commenced in 1998 following a five-year period during which no vehicles had been acquired.

The good news for the RCV suppliers, chassis manufacturers and the rental sector is that the market in waste management is keeping pace, at the very least, with overall good news in the commercial vehicles sector reported in the first monthly report from the automotive manufacturers' body, the SMMT.


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