Tag Archives: road-user charging

How will Boris fix the Irish border problem?

Boris ‘Kipper’ Johnson appears to believe that technological solutions can quickly be found for the Irish border problem. Everyone in the computer industry knows that is fantasy, which would lead to an orgy of criminality.

Right now, clever people are thinking about juicy ways to make money from a new land frontier, or just to cause trouble. My own taste runs more to throwing grit in bureaucracy than throwing mud at surveillance cameras, but readers can probably think of far worse things to do.

We should be thinking about another side to this issue. The day is not far off when all road vehicles will be permanently tracked, much as mobile phones and airliners already are. This will be part of the self-driving revolution, promised to reduce vehicle usage, air pollution, and road accidents. In principle, having a tracker in your car should be voluntary, but of course government and insurance companies will make it compulsory.

If Mr Kipper gets his way, every border-crosser in Ireland will be tracked. Not just vehicles and the commercial goods they carry, but also all passengers, human, animal, and explosive. There will be penalties for evasion, massive databases to be hacked by cyber-criminals, and huge scope for corruption. Mission creep will lead to facial recognition software, cross-correlation with phone data, etc.

But BoJo’s folly may have a silver lining. Back in 1964 the Smeed Report on Road Pricing spelled out how road users ought to pay the costs they impose upon others. It contained so much good sense that successive governments buried it, but Smeed’s ideas must prevail eventually. A future in which every vehicle is tracked (and charged) for every yard it moves is scary, but it would solve many problems near me in south-east London.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Motorway tolls – a step on the road to a progressive, green and Liberal Britain

Privatisation and progressive politics are not always natural bedfellows, so Tory veteran Tim Yeo’s suggestion that motorways could be privatised and tolls erected in the interests of the fight against climate change was always likely to be greeted with a mixture of suspicion and scepticism by Lib Dems.

But like most privatisations – if done correctly – Mr Yeo’s proposals could lead to a fairer, greener and more Liberal Britain.

The existing tax on road usage is road tax, which is essentially regressive as it doesn’t take income and amount of usage of the road network into account. While road tolls …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments
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