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Should we abolish vehicle excise duty and instead franchise the private sector to run motorways with tolls?

Picture 5 John Redwood made a proposal on his blog this morning which I wanted to share with the ConHome audience and see what kind of reaction it gets here.

He effectively wants to privatise the biggest roads in the country and summaries his plan thus:

"Let’s franchise the main motorways and trunk roads to the private sector to run. Let’s do it in a way which sends them clear financial incentives to cut pollution and congestion. The maths would be good for taxpayers as well.

"I would start by abolishing the vehicle Excise Duty, a tax on ownership, and replacing it with permission for the private sector to impose tolls on use of the main roads. The aim would be to impose tolls that yielded £5.6 billion a year at current usage levels, the exact cost of vehicle Excise Duty.

"This would be neutral for motorists as a whole, but would cost those of us who travel more a bit more, and those who travel less would benefit. People who travel less tend to be worse off. There would be regulation to prevent excessive charging, with clear stated maximum toll levels."

It's worth reading his arguments in full, but I for one - as a user of the M6 toll road whenever I am travelling to or from the West Midlands or North West - am quite tempted by the idea.

When we surveyed candidates recently, 50% agreed it was "worth considering introducing road pricing on some of Britain's motorways in return for a cut in road tax" (while 43% disagreed).

What do you think?

Jonathan Isaby

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