Project: Surface Transport Costs and Charges

Reference: H025A

Last update: 09/09/2003 16:39:40


This project follows on from a recommendation in the 1999 SACTRA Report, Transport and the Economy, that the Department should move towards providing official estimates of the relationship between the prices and marginal social costs of different classes of journey. It estimates the costs of each of the main modes of surface transport in the UK, including track costs, congestion costs, environmental costs and an element of accident costs. It also assesses the extent to which costs, both at marginal and aggregate levels, are covered by payments made by users.


This research project has examined at both a more comprehensive and detailed level, than most previous studies, the average and marginal social costs of road and rail transport. These estimates are compared with the payments, mainly through rail fares and fuel tax, made by transport users. The study uses the DETR's traffic database and estimates of speeds by road type, area type and time of day to derive estimates of congestion costs. Using previous studies carried out by the consultants and values from a range of sources, estimates of the environmental costs of road and rail traffic have been made and added to the track and congestion cost calculations.


University of Leeds
School of Geography, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT
0113 233 3300

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £70,000.00

Actual start date: 28 March 2000

Actual completion date: 01 August 2001


Surface Transport Costs And Charges
Author: Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies
Publication date: 01/07/2001
Source: Leeds University
More information: Report.pdf

Summary of results

  1. The study showed that the average costs of road travel and prices are broadly in line, but that marginal costs are high at times of congestion. Hence prices do not cover the costs of travel of road vehicles using congested roads (theoretically revenue at those times should be redistributed to users making journeys at low-flow times). On the other hand, for rail travel, average costs are well above the average prices/charges levied (a factor of about twice actual prices paid). In addition, the marginal prices paid are significantly lower than the marginal costs of supplying additional units of rail service.

Departmental Assessment Status: Project completed prior to the implementation of the Departmental publications scheme.