Research and analysis

Road pricing demonstrations project - introduction

Technical research project to establish how a road pricing system by time, distance and place could operate.



Demonstrations project on time, distance, place (TDP) road user charging

The demonstrations project was a technical research project designed to establish how any system of road pricing by TDP could operate reliably, accurately and affordably, whilst safeguarding privacy. The project did not seek to address the wider merits or otherwise of road pricing.

At the time of the project’s inception in 2007 under the previous administration, most existing road pricing or charging systems worked on the basis of a single event, ie paying a toll to use a road, bridge or tunnel, or for driving within a certain area such as the London Congestion Charge zone. This project set out to test whether technology existed to target congestion more effectively, by where it occurs and when. To do this in a fair and effective way required more advanced technology and systems than were then being used in the UK, and these needed to be rigorously tested before any conclusions could be drawn.

The coalition government has ruled out national road pricing for cars on existing roads, and any preparation for such a scheme, for the duration of this Parliament.

Background to the demonstrations project

In May 2007, the department announced that it would work with industry to establish how road pricing by time, distance and place TDP might operate reliably, accurately and affordably, whilst safeguarding privacy. To facilitate this it set up the demonstrations project.

In September 2008, the department confirmed in the Official Journal of the European Union the names of the four companies selected to participate in the demonstrations project following an open competition - Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (UK), Sanef Tolling Limited, T-Systems Ltd and Trafficmaster plc. Each of these contractors engaged 100 volunteer road users to help explore questions of privacy, accuracy and practicability.

A further 3 companies - Kapsch TrafficCom Limited, Q-Free ASA and Serco Ltd - were appointed to develop the systems necessary for both road users and the operators of a scheme to be confident that it was operating fairly.

The key finding from the project is that commercially-run time, distance place charging systems (along with an associated payment regime) can deliver accuracy, privacy and a trusted service. Further findings and explanation are contained in the project’s main report ‘Road pricing demonstrations project - key learnings: main report’’ and supporting documentation listed below.

Published 23 June 2011