NRC offers qualified support to congestion charges

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 2, 2020

Congestion charges for Auckland roads would be supported by the road freight industry if the user-pays scheme delivered the claimed benefits of faster travel times and increased productivity across the city, said National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken.

Aitken was responding to a briefing on Monday 30 November from Auckland Council and government agencies on the potential of road congestion charges. Initial findings from a combined agency study found that congestion pricing could reduce congestion in Auckland by around 8 to 12% when fully implemented.

“While on first blush we support the principle of congestion charging, we would need to see more details and be assured that forecast productivity and efficiencies gains can be secured,” Aitken said. “Additionally, the price per freight vehicle for accessing the central city or arterials routes would need to be right.”

Aitken says there are few alternatives to moving most freight around Auckland other than on the roads. The reliance of roads for freight also applies to service vehicles such as builders and plumbers who need to use the road network to conduct their business and make a living in the city.

NRC is part of the Auckland Business Forum, which supports the congestion concept and has called on the government to implement a trial congestion charging scheme in Auckland as soon as possible.

“This is not the first time we have seen a report on congestion price. The technology for congestion charges is well proven. There have been enough reports. It is now time to trial a congestion charge scheme and see if it actually works,” Aitken said.

As traffic congestion is costing Auckland more than $1 billion annually, initiatives along the lines of congestion charges will need to be trialled and implemented so that freight supply channels can be freed up.

“Everyone is aware of the current wider supply chain issues affecting New Zealand now; local congestion is adding to this,” Aitken said.

He noted that the report released on Monday suggested heavy freight vehicles would pay double what passenger cars would pay. “Some would question why this is the case given that congestion was largely due to commuter traffic.”

NRC would support congestion charges also, if the revenue collected was spent directly on roading infrastructure and was not just another tax on road users, Aitken said.