This lecture argues that the current road taxation approach is a blunt control instrument when what is actually required is a more flexible and refined tool. Such a tool should more directly link charges to the value of the service used and the cost of its provision and, as such, would be more acceptable to the user. Flexible charging would also provide a mechanism by which congestion could be reduced, economic growth facilitated and a more inclusive society created. The effectiveness of the current taxation system in supporting these objectives is limited and, as recent events have shown, the political kick-back can be formidable. It is proposed, therefore, that we should begin to debate whether it would be possible to gain public acceptance for replacing vehicle excise duty and fuel tax with a system that would automatically charge for the use of all roads; from farm track to motorway. The objective being to establish a system which would allow governments to use transport policy to more effectively facilitate social and economic development. The key to success would be to charge for all road use. This would overcome the current problems associated with diversion and 'rat-runs'. Such a system would use a global location device such as GPS combined with a two-way communication device based on mobile telephone technology. Real time information provided by the vehicle to the network operator would improve network efficiency and hence the quality of service provided. It would also generate the data on which a range of value added services could be delivered on a fee-paying basis. Privacy and enforcement issues are shown to be more easily dealt with than in more conventional gantry-based systems and the need for additional infrastructure is minimised. If we could find a solution to the political and institutional issues over the next ten years, technology would enable us to totally transform our national road transport system for the benefit of our economic, social and environmental well being. In presenting this lecture the President's objective is to encourage everyone to challenge current thinking and use technology to put us in a position to take an ambitious, if controversial, step forward.

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