Transport group slams fuel duty freeze

Government plans to freeze fuel duty for an eighth consecutive year will have a ‘damaging impact’ on air quality in the UK, a sustainable transport body has claimed.

Greener Journeys made the comments in response to the Prime Minister, Theresa May’s policy announcement in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham yesterday (3 October).

Greener Journeys has called for government to stick to its commitment to raise fuel duty

Fuel duty has not increased since January 2011, when it was increased from 58.19p per litre to 58.95p per litre. It was cut by 1p per litre in the Budget two months later, and has remained at the same rate since.

The tax freeze is believed cost the Treasury approximately £7 billion in lost tax revenue.

In her speech yesterday the Prime Minister, confirmed that this will be maintained in the Autumn Budget later this month. She said: “For millions of people, their car is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

“Some have wondered if there would be a thaw in our policy this year.

“Today I can confirm, given the high oil price, the Chancellor will freeze fuel duty once again in his budget later this month.”

Congestion

The move has prompted Greener Journeys to point to research carried out on its behalf which linked the freeze in fuel duty to increased congestion on UK roads, and harmful emissions of air pollution (see airqualitynews.com story).

Claire Haigh, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Extending the freeze on fuel duty into an eighth year is a disastrous move which will have a severe impact on air pollution and public health in the UK. Roadside air pollution is causing up to 50,000 early deaths a year, and we know that cars and vans are the primary cause.

“We urgently need a shift away from car use and towards more sustainable public transport, but today’s decision will do the opposite. We urge the Government to show leadership and make the right decision.”

Research

According to Greener Journeys, prices at the petrol pump are 13% lower than they would otherwise have been if the government had opted not to freeze fuel duty, potentially resulting in up to a 4% increase in traffic since 2011 and a similar decrease in public transport use, equal to up to 60 million fewer rail journeys and 200 million fewer bus journeys.

Ms Haigh added: “The past seven years of fuel duty freezes have already made the price of fuel at the pump 13% cheaper than it would otherwise be and resulted in up to 200 million fewer bus journeys over the same period.

“Greener Journeys’ research shows that the government’s continued freeze on fuel duty has caused there to be 4% more traffic and an additional 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and 12,000 tonnes of harmful NOx emissions, by encouraging people to abandon public transport in favour of their cars.”