Road pricing: Industry positioning must start early

One thing has received little exposure among talk of the zero-emission shift: What revenue stream will make up for a drop in fuel duty receipts?

The most likely answer to that is road pricing. Sources suggest that it is already on Rishi Sunak’s to-do list. It is also on the radar of the coach and bus industry’s trade bodies.

While road pricing is a long-term prospect, there is a need to position the sector ahead of early policy discussions. It is likely that any road user charging scheme would incentivise the uptake of zero-emission. That would be scant comfort for those in the industry that were still looking at a future for diesel, whether because of a lack of alternatives or through vehicle depreciation cycles.

Road pricing would be a big headache in that scenario. But it could be mitigated by ensuring that the wider contribution that coaches and buses make to the environment and to reducing congestion is front and centre in the mind of policymakers.

That, clearly, would require a change in political approach. In emission control and congestion zones, road pricing already exists. There has not always been recognition of shared transport there. Difficult decisions are sometimes avoided and instead, coaches and buses are among those targeted. That does not, and will not, sit with wider policy goals. Hence, the industry needs to ensure that its voice loudens when it comes to talking about paying to access road space.