A National Road Pricing (Taxing ) Scheme

A California Toll Road

Leave it to the Labour government of the United Kingdom for new schemes to tax their motorists – A National Road Pricing Scheme:

British motorists face paying a new charge for every mile they drive in a revolutionary scheme to be introduced within two years.

Drivers will pay according to when and how far they travel throughout the country’s road network under proposals being developed by the Government.

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, revealed that pilot areas will be selected in just 24 months’ time as he made clear his determination to press ahead with a national road pricing scheme.

Each of Britain’s 24 million vehicles would be tracked by satellite if a variable “pay-as-you-drive” charge replaces the current road tax.

Want to bet whether the Parliament will divert some of these new taxes away from the roads and into their bankrupt National Health Service?

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Darling warned that unless action is taken now, the country “could face gridlock” within two decades.

Official research suggests national road pricing could increase the capacity of Britain’s network by as much as 40 per cent at a stroke, he said.

The rapid uptake of satellite navigational technology in cars is helping to usher in the new “pay-as-you-drive” charge much sooner than had been expected. Figures contained in a government feasibility study have suggested motorists could pay up to £1.34 for each mile they travel during peak hours on the most congested roads.

Although a fully operational national scheme is still considered to be a decade away, Mr Darling said local schemes could be up and running within five years. Manchester is considered a front-runner, with local authorities in the Midlands and London also pressing to be considered for a £2.5bn central fund to introduce the change.

Most of the necessary technology already exists. Lorries will be tracked by satellite and charged accordingly from 2007. The main obstacle to constructing a scheme to track Britain’s 24 million private vehicles is public opinion, and Mr Darling is determined to start making the case now.

Mr. Darling…. there is NO case to be made.

Oppressive taxation in the U.K is the norm – don’t make it worse.

Can you imagine what this will do to the cost of business travel and tourism?

The national road-pricing scheme, by contrast, has got to work so there’s “something in it for me”, said Mr Darling in advance of a keynote speech on the issue this Thursday.

There is nothing in this scheme except millions for the technology company providing the tracking equipment and billions of fresh receipts for the Labour Government.

Update #1

See Dubya over at Patterico’s blog has this California analogy:

A while back Patterico covered California’s plan to put a GPS chip in our cars that will track our position and charge us a user fee for every mile we drive within the state. There were also plans at the Federal/DOT level to implement the same sort of thing. Over at the Jawa Report a couple weeks ago, I covered a similar initiative in Oregon in quite a bit of detail. (The link to patterico’s original piece is in there).

If this still seems far-fetched, consider now that England is on track to implement a similar program in a couple of years. That’s fine for a surveillance-happy society that has no objection to state-sponsored scanners prowling their neighborhoods to monitor whether they are watching TV without paying their exorbitant Baathist Broadcasting Company tax. But I don’t see it flying here.

Dude, this is America. We love our cars because they give us freedom. The (amazingly talented) country guitarist Junior Brown has a great song about his car called “Freedom Machine”, about exactly that. You can go where you want, when you want, with whom you want. If you don’t like the town you’re in, you can pack up and bug out. Cars have been responsible for amazing social changes and much of the dynamism of American society.

And yet the Supreme Court has already held that cars and roadways are “pervasively regulated”, that we have little expectation of privacy in our cars, and so there’s probably not much stopping a statist court from blessing this incipient big Brotherism.

In other words, this will be unpopular with the public, but fine with our black-robed judicial betters, and probably with our tax-happy legislators too. Welcome to 1984.

Of course the California Legislature has made it a habit to divert gasoline taxes and motor vehicle registration fees for social welfare and other state programs.

Little to no chance of this ever gaining ground with the initiative and referendum process.

Thank God for Hiram Johnson.

Update #2

W.C. Varones has 1984 comes 21 years late.

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