Today I am informing the House that I am placing in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) two notices inviting interested companies to bid to be part of framework agreements to run different elements of a road pricing Demonstrations Project “Demonstrations”. Copies of the accompanying context document are available in both Libraries of the House.
I announced last May that the Government intend to run some Demonstrations to help us understand how time, distance and place road pricing could function so that it safeguards people's privacy, and operates reliably and accurately. We recognise that people are concerned about the possible impact road pricing might have on their privacy, and they want to be reassured that any road pricing schemes would be fair. The OJEU notices published today are simply the next stage in the procurement process to enable us to take the Demonstrations forward and address these issues in practice.
The Demonstrations will inform the work that 10 local areas are doing to develop proposals for local road pricing schemes. Alongside the draft Local Transport Bill, which I published yesterday, the Demonstrations will help local areas to develop local road pricing schemes as part of packages of local measures to tackle local congestion problems. These packages of measures will be eligible for funding from the Transport Innovation Fund, which will provide up to £200 million per year from 2008. We expect local authorities to submit their proposals in the summer, with the first road pricing schemes going live in local areas in four to five years time.
The Demonstrations will also build our understanding of the components that would need to be commonly specified across all potential future time, distance and place road pricing schemes to ensure road users could move easily between one scheme and another. It is important that any future road pricing schemes are easy for people to use, and consistent with one another.
No decisions have been taken on whether to move towards a national road pricing scheme. It is only on the evidence from local schemes that any such decision could be taken, and the Government have made clear that there would need to be a full public debate. The Demonstrations will help to inform that debate by building our understanding of how road pricing systems and technologies might be designed and operated to address people's legitimate concerns about privacy, reliability and accuracy.
We expect the Demonstrations to begin in the Spring of 2008.