I was very interested in your article'Stuck in the Slow Lane'
(Viewpoint, 5 May).
The government has a near impossible task in dealing with highways, transportation and road safety. Road charging systems may well deal with congestion but aggravate many other situations.
First, road charging is most unlikely to be a revenue neutral policy, ergo it will cost people more to move around. A large number of people already find the cost of commuting high to the point of cripplingly expensive. Many only commute longish distances because they cannot find a job paying a decent salary locally.
If people cannot afford the additional costs road charging adds to the daily commute, are we likely to see unemployment rise or the transfer to lower-quality, lower paid local jobs?
As people look to avoid congestion charging systems they will increasingly look for non-priced roads to drive on. As intelligent congestion charging zones cannot blanket cover all roads on routes, (a contradiction in terms) we are likely to see increased traffic volumes and vehicle speed issues on smaller roads with the likely consequence of an increase in road accidents and casualties.
Local authorities do not have enough money to deal with the current issues of worn-out roads and current road safety concerns. Who then is going to pay the horrendously expensive bill for the extra traffic calming engineering and higher levels of policing required to handle the unintended consequences of the congestion charging policy?
What about the local communities that become commuter rat-runs? How is that going to fit into the government's health, social care and wellbeing strategy?
I don't have the solution to the congestion problem, but I suggest we add a couple of categories to Mr Wall's last paragraph regarding what will determine the ultimate success of a future road charging system, namely (a) continuing road casualty reduction beyond national 2010 targets and (b) improved quality of life for everyone, drivers and communities alike who are impacted by the policy.
Pat Bates (responsible for casualty reduction strategies in a local authority)