Road tolling ‘good for Cambs firms’

TOLLING Cambridgeshire’s road network would be good for the county’s businesses, according to a county councillor who has proposed a “charge-and-spend” scheme for every non-trunk road in the county.

Charges under the scheme – which has little chance of being implemented but will rekindle an earlier debate about congestion charging in the county – would vary by type of road, time of day, type of vehicle and emission levels and whether the journey could have been made by public transport.

Under the plan put forward by Councillor Nichola Harrison, residents’ and businesses’ road use would be measured either by some form of geo-positioning satellite monitoring or roadside number-plate recognition cameras across the county.

But Cllr Harrison concedes that she has not costed the capital cost of installing the GPS equipment or cameras and that the computer algorithm for her mooted charging regime did not exist.

The former Liberal Democrat, who left the party last year to sit as an Independent, has hit back at companies’ criticism of the plan, saying businesses would save money from it.

“Charge-and-spend is an investment, not a penalty, for businesses,” she said. “Business people are used to investing, say in better equipment or a pay rise for staff. That’s how businesses grow and become more efficient. Charge-and-spend is the same – investing in transport will improve business efficiency.

“The only difference is that we always thought free roads were a given, but that approach has left us with bad transport and that’s bad for business. Charge-and-spend is about making a joint investment in our transport future.”

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She said firms would save time, fuel and other vehicle costs by using a less congested and better-maintained network, as well as employees suffering lower stress levels.

“Let’s say that a business saves just one hour a week in time, one gallon a week in fuel and a fiver from all other savings. That’s a saving of at least �20 per week, the maximum payment under the Charge-and-spend scheme,” she claimed.

“They will also get access to commercial offers through the meter in their vehicle. And they, their suppliers and colleagues, employees, families and friends will all enjoy a good transport system.

“In reality, many businesses won’t pay the maximum charge. But the businesses that do the most mileage and do pay the maximum charge, such as delivery vehicles and taxis, will be the biggest winners of all. That’s because their savings will keep increasing long after the charge has reached its maximum. And businesses with more than one vehicle will gain in relation to each vehicle they operate.”

She added: “Anywhere you go in the world, businesses and societies flourish where transport is good and suffer where it’s bad. If Cambridgeshire had good transport it would be the envy of the rest of the UK. Good transport can help create jobs for the young and unemployed and give existing and new businesses a better future.”