The proposals for the A14 upgrade have now been published, and as expected they include a toll. The consultation document says,
Tariffs have yet to be agreed but could be between £1.00 and £1.50 (current prices) for cars and other light vehicles
This might seem relatively cheap – if your car does 40mpg and petrol is £1.40/litre, then £1 of petrol will take you just over 6 miles. However, it’s instructive to look at what has happened to the pricing of other road toll schemes. Here is the price history of the M6 Toll since it opened in 2003:
While the toll for a car started off at only £2, it rose rapidly, and by March 2012 had risen by 175% to reach its current level of £5.50. If it had followed the Retail Prices Index over the same period, it would have risen by only 31% to £2.62. You have to wonder whether an A14 toll, once in place, would follow a similar pattern.
A further point is that the £1-£1.50 tariff is quoted in “current prices”. However, as the consultation document says, construction is expected to start no earlier than late 2016, and will take between three or four years. Who knows what will happen to inflation in the meantime.