An economist has come up with a way to get rid of traffic jams by rolling out road charging with Uber-style surge prices

Rebecca Smith
Nothing like good old gridlock
Nothing like good old gridlock (Source: Getty)

Drivers should be charged 8p a mile and Uber-esque surge pricing should be rolled out to tackle the nation's traffic-laden roads, according to the deputy chairman of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

In a new report, How to Abolish Traffic Jams, Douglas McWilliams suggests introducing an 8p per mile for cars is introduced over the next 20 years, with Uber-style surge pricing for periods of high demand.

Read more: Pressure is mounting on TfL to rid Oxford Street of traffic

The UK has 20,375 so-called traffic pinch points, according to Inrix Roadway Analytics, while drivers in London spend more than 100 hours a year in traffic jams. Average traffic speeds in the capital are expected to fall from 8.4 to 6mph by 2030, according to recent research.

The report, a preliminary analysis to highlight key issues, ultimately expects the move away from fossil fuels as an energy source, and the rise in driverless cars, will lead to a fall in the cost of road usage. In the meantime though, it suggests interim measures to tackle traffic.

By 2027, every vehicle in Britain should be fitted with a GPS-based tachograph to assess the type of road and send back details for charging.

Surge charging should be introduced with booked trips, so people select their trips in advance, and are informed of the price in advance.

The report also advocates a division between major roads and minor roads, with the former like today's motorways, while pedestrians and cyclists would be diverted to new purpose-built specialist routes. Ultimately, the report envisions major roads becoming exclusive to driverless vehicles only.

The rarity of road user pricing is a "very serious policy failing", according to McWilliams. He said that with technological changes, traffic jams could be cut down and the cost of motoring reduced by about a third.

His modelling suggests that by 2037, GDP could be up to three per cent higher as a result of the general introduction of road user charging and surge pricing as "road usage is optimised and traffic jams diminish".

This is also contingent on partial automation and 55 per cent of traffic shifting from fossil fuels.

McWilliams said:

Road usage will be safer, cleaner, less congested and cheaper; GDP could be up to three per cent higher. This is a prize worth aiming for.

Abolishing traffic: The proposed timeline


  • Make GPS transmission units compulsory and start setting up road charging system
  • Set up a Monetary Policy Committee style National Roads Authority
  • Set up Barnett formula-style system to compensate the Treasury for loss of fossil fuel based income
  • Start distinguishing between major roads (ultimately to be autonomous vehicle-only) and minor roads
  • Start building alternative routes to major roads for pedestrians and cyclists


  • Bring in technology for surge charging
  • Introduction of autonomous vehicles
  • Early segregation of autonomous vehicle only roads (motorways)


  • Phase out fossil fuel based vehicles
  • Bring in increasing numbers of autonomous vehicle only roads


  • Phase out non autonomous vehicles
  • Make nearly all roads autonomous only
  • Cebr's analysis shows that it should be possible to gradually eliminate pollution, accidents, traffic jams, and parking problems while making road usage more comfortable and cheaper
  • Roads, plus segregated cycle and pedestrian routes will be paid for by the receipts from general road user charging and from surge charging

Read more: Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to cut three million car journeys a day in London

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