Given Tony Blair's email response to the road pricing petition on the No.10 website there has been much reflection on the issue of transport in the UK.
No doubt, there are many reasons to be against road pricing and it does not surprise me that the feeling against it is so strong. 85% of UK passenger Journeys' are taken by car; so any tax raid on this element of our life will no doubt be resisted.
However, the Government is in a bind. The Eddington report, which I discussed last year ,has left a number of dilemma's. Air is the best solution to inter-regional travel and is the least expensive but has 'environmental' effects. Rail has had £12 billion a year invested since Hatfield, but capacity increase has been minimal. The roads meanwhile make do with £660 million invested in the Highways Agency, whose existence is now under review by Shriti Vadera at the Treasury.
Even if the massive investment is rail was to double capacity (which is very unrealistic) then this would only have a 3% effect on travel outcomes in the UK. Whereas a smaller investment in road capacity and improvements would have a vastly greater impact on the 85% of all journey's taken.
The case is clear for more road investment is undeniable. Fuel and Motoring taxes generate over 12% of government income, yet total transport spend is 4% (see Treasury Stats).
A future Tory government must grasp this nettle; road pricing or not the roads that are the lungs of our economy must be heavily invested in and the relative waste of resources plunged into Rail must be cut. Failure to do this will increase the transport chaos we face, which is why Labour's policy has been such a failure for the past 10 years; you can't ignore the economic realities and replace them with wishful thinking.