The government has asked IT suppliers to bid to run demonstrations of road pricing technology that could be used to implement congestion charging schemes across the UK.
The Department of Transport has set aside at least £10m for the projects, which aim to inform central government thinking on road pricing, and influence the plans of 10 local authorities that are considering setting up schemes in their own areas.
These time, distance and place systems would charge drivers according to the amount of time they were driving, the distance they drove and the location in which they were travelling. Officials are also interested in the possibility of charging drivers according to the type of vehicle they use.
“We know that safeguarding privacy is important and that is why one of the primary objectives of the demonstrations is to identify how a time, distance and place scheme could be designed so that it safeguards privacy.
“We will explore a number of different system design and technology options to see how this could be best done,” the Department of Transport said in a statement.
The demonstration projects are separate from road pricing plans being developed by local authorities in 10 large areas - Greater Manchester; west Midlands, incorporating Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry; east Midlands, in a joint bid by Leicester, Derby and Nottingham; Tyne and Wear; Durham; Bristol; Reading; Cambridgeshire; Shrewsbury and Norwich.
Local officials in these areas have been asked to submit plans for tackling congestion to the Department of Transport by July this year, and have been strongly encouraged to make road pricing part of their strategies.
The government says it has not made a decision on whether to introduce a national road pricing scheme, which would be politically controversial. However, a clue about its intentions is contained in the new draft road transport bill, which says that any road pricing schemes run by local governments in future must be interoperable.
The government today submitted two tender notices to the Official Journal of the European Union, asking companies to come forward for the demonstrations, which are now expected to start in spring 2008.
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