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APRIL 2005 NEWS

30 April 2005
Daughters of Rebecca Live Again
Welsh canal enthusiasts who want a canal link reopened have resurrected the "Daughters of Rebecca" who tore down toll gates 200 years ago:-   BBC - "Protest over 'blocked' canal link"


29 April 2005
Good news? And Bad news?
Tolls guru, David Begg, is reported to have spoken against the extension of the London Toll zone:-   Evening Standard - "Blow for Mayor's C-charge extension"
Curiouser and curiouser, particularly as the story does not mention that Mr Begg is on the board of Transport for London.
What is more alarming for the residents of the proposed extension area (Kensington and Chelsea) is the end of the story:- "London Transport Users Committee, said it favoured the extension in principle. "We would like two zones so that people in west London still have to pay a charge to enter the centre."" (Residents of the existing zone have the advantage that they can claim a large discount. The "Users" committee want to deny this to the people of West London.)

Traffic Congestion
RAC Foundation has issued a story about traffic congestion costing 15 billion in lost time. They call for "Urgent improvements to the provision and operation of the UK's roads network" including: "A comprehensive national road user charging scheme should be introduced - but only when technically feasible and acceptable to the motorist ". The story also says that of the 42 billion in roads taxes "only 15bn is reinvested into road and transport maintenance":-   BBC - "Road jams costs 'could hit 30bn'"    RAC Foundation Press Release - "New Government - New Agenda for Transport?"

A national road user charge will NEVER be acceptable to motorists, and we are dissapointed that a group, that is supposed to represent motorists, campaigns for something which will harm most roads users as well as the UK economy.
Whatever the guess is as to how much congestion costs in lost time, it is a cost which is borne by the roads users who are on the road at that place and at that time because they need to be.
The official Transport statistics show that spending on road building and maintenance in England is only 5.5 billion. not 15 billion. Even adding on Scotland and Wales will only increase the figure to about 7 billion.
More spending on roads is needed, but it should be financed by reducing the gap between this 7 billion spending and the 40 billion of roads taxes. Roads users should not be treated as a compliant cash cow.

"M6 Toll opponents get cash from road"
No! It doesn't mean us. The toll operators are giving some of our cash to a wildlife charity:-   BBC - "Toll opponents get cash from road"
Wouldn't it be a good idea, if on "Drive for Charity Day" people who normally use the toll road avoided it. They can then give the toll to a charity of their own choice. Unfortunately the other 364 days, the "good cause" will still be the toll operator.


27 April 2005
Tolls Protest
Campaigners against extension of the charging zone were today holding a protest :-   BBC - "Go-slow protest over road charge"    Evening Standard - "C-charge protest to cause chaos"
In our view, the issue is not the extension, but the charge itself. Unfortunately a lot of people have fallen for the spin and believe that the scheme is a success.

Tories say they will Scrap the Toll
Today, the Tories launched their "Action for London" manifesto. On the London Toll they say:- "London Conservatives have consistently opposed the congestion tax, because of its damaging effects on the London economy. We also oppose the Labour Mayor's plans for widening the size of the zone, hiking the daily fee to 8 and extending the charge to motorcyclists. London Conservatives will continue to lead the fight against Labour's congestion charge hikes.
We recognise that this matter is devolved to the Mayor and Assembly; Conservatives on the GLA have pledged to scrap this tax. Our proposals to allow the Mayor's budget and strategies to be amended by a simple majority, combined with a more accountable electoral system, will help to scrap Labour's tax."

20 April 2005
Tolls across London
Katherine Barney reports that Transport for London yesterday revealed a bit more of their plans for a toll scheme that would cover the whole of London. They will collect 3 billion a year, when the scheme is fully implemented:-   Evening Standard - "Satellites to track cars in 80p a mile toll"
You can see a bit more on our :-   general news page for April

Tolls across London
Transport for London yesterday revealed a bit more of their plans for a toll scheme that would cover the whole of London. They will collect 3 billion a year, when the scheme is fully implemented:-   The Times - "Driving across London and back may soon cost you 15"    Guardian - "Plan to vary congestion charge levies"    Evening Standard - "Satellites to track cars in 80p a mile toll"


19 April 2005
Congestion firm not meant to be Customer Friendly
Capita who operate the London Toll "claims it is merely enforcing a harsh regime imposed by the Mayor's Transport for London authority":-   Evening Standard - "C-charge firm 'not trying to be friendly'"
TfL have two possibly conflicting objectives. One is to discourage people from using cars. The other is to make money. Enforcing a harsh regime certainly helps with the first object, and may help with the second, as they make a lot of money from penalties.


16 April 2005
Wacky races?
Rhodri Clark reports on call for further speed limits to prevent accidents at Severn Crossing toll booths:-    Western Mail - "Severn Crossing tolls still Wacky Races blackspot"
There is no justification on a toll for movement between Wales and England. They don't need speed linits, they need to scrap the tolls.


15 April 2005
Green Flag for London Toll
Green Flag (who run a breakdown service) have commissioned a survey from "yougov" which apparently shows that nearly half all drivers support the London Toll:-   BBC - "London drivers 'split on charge'"
According to the report 54% of drivers are against "congestion" charging. But amazingly 45% of drivers support the charge.
There is no mention of the survey on either the Green Flag or Yougov websites, but Green Flag have given us their press release. It doesn't explain the figures, and some of the other findings are a bit difficult to comprehend. For example, 90% of motorists thought that fuel prices were too high, but when motorist's concerns where ranked, fuel prices only came 10th!
The monitoring report in January from Transport for London said that most people living in Inner London thought that travelling times had actually increased since the charge was introduced."

More on the Baroness
Evening Standard report of yesterday's court hearing says "She told the court she had been threatened that bailiffs would remove her furniture if she did not pay. "One has felt that one is dealing with a blind and deaf Big Brother, who has neither heard what has been said nor read what one has written.":-   Evening Standard - "Baroness takes on C-charge bailiffs"


14 April 2005
Even Baronesses must pay the Toll correctly
The Press Association report a court appeal by a baroness against London Toll penalty. The Baroness misquoted her registration number when she paid the Toll. The Toll adjudicator dismissed her initial appeal as "liability was strict":-   The Scotsman - "Battling Peer Takes on Congestion Charge System"
The Baroness is apparently a keen supporter of Tolls, so perhaps she won't mind too much.

Toll Trap
Tower bridge is to be closed between 30 April and 8 May with a diversion sending drivers into the Toll zone:-   Evening Standard - "Bridge closure diverts drivers into C-zone"
Unless drivers are careful they will end up being ripped off with fines as with yesterday's story.

General Election Press Release
Today we issued a press release, which sank without trace! This is part of it:- "ALL MOTORISTS are warned to beware of the Tolls threat that the parties have hidden in their General Election manifestos.

NONE of the parties mention "tolls". But Labour say that they are "examining the potential of moving away from the current system of motoring taxation towards a national system of road-pricing". The Lib Dems say that they "will encourage more cities and towns... to extend congestion charging". They want to replace the present road tax system "with a national road user charging system". This is all just double speak for Tolls.

The Lib Dems say that they will cut roads spending and use the savings elsewhere. Labour are not so open. They imply that there will be major spending on roads, but it is apparent that they want this to be privately financed toll roads, as they have suggested for the M6 corridor "Expressway".

How about the Tories? They say nothing in their Manifesto, and there is a fear that like the other main parties they may continue to overtax roads users to subsidise other spending plans.

Politicians want tolls in an attempt to force the poorer drivers off the roads that they are already paying for six times over. Road users pay over 40 billion a year in taxes, but only around 7 billion is spent on roads. With a toll system, there are extra collection costs and time wasted at toll barriers or in detours to avoid the tolls.

The Commons Transport Committee suggested in March that tolls would be used as "a revenue raising, rather than a revenue neutral, approach".
It seems that instead of spending more of our roads taxes on Britain's inadequate roads, most politicians want to try and solve the congestion problem by hitting motorists with more taxes."
European Toll Stitch up
It appears that EU transport ministers are near to an agreement on European wide tolls:-    Eurosource- "Green light for EU road tolls?"

Election Campaign - Lib Dem Manifesto
Liberal Democrats today released  their manifesto
Like the other two main parties, they fail to mention Tolls though their intentions are clear:- "We will start by reforming the Vehicle Excise Duty system ('road tax') to cut tax altogether on cars that pollute least, funded by increasing it on those that pollute more. Congestion charging in London (first proposed by the Liberal Democrats) has cut pollution, cut traffic jams and paid for new investment in buses. We will encourage more cities and towns where traffic congestion is a problem to extend congestion charging, linked to up-front investment in better public transport to give millions real alternatives to the car and to reduce the need to drive. In the longer term, as technology allows, we will scrap petrol duties and VED altogether, replacing the revenue with a national road user charging system based on location, congestion and pollution (including the level of pollution of the particular vehicle). As a result, pollution and congestion will be better targeted, with no need for the present system of heavy taxes on every journey."

"We will not proceed with major new road-building schemes unless the benefits are clear, including environmental and safety factors and a full assessment of alternative public transport schemes. We will use savings from the roads budget (for railways and other public transport)".
Any practical toll system would tax pollution more crudely than the present system where the more fuel that is used the more tax will be paid, and where certain fuels are taxed less.
To imply that the burden of "the present system of heavy taxes" will be lifted is nonsense. At best, the overall tax burden would be unchanged, but more likley tolls would be used to increase taxes, while the already inadequate Roads spending is cut.



13 April 2005
Rip off London
There is another story today about the staggering penalties for anyone who doesn't pay the London toll for any reason. Someone who missed paying two charges, ends up having to pay over 1,000:-   Evening Standard - "Two C-charge fines end up in 1,000 bill"
We understand that stories that not paying the London Toll will be treated as a "capital" offence, are premature.

Election Campaign - Labour Manifesto
Labour today released  their manifesto
Like the Tories, they fail to mention Tolls or "Congestion Charges". They say:- "Major investment is planned to expand capacity on the M1, M6 and M25. We must also manage road space better. We are examining the potential benefits of a parallel Expressway on the M6 corridor. We will introduce car-pool lanes for cars with more than one passenger on suitable roads and explore other ways to lock in the benefit of new capacity. We will complete the introduction of Traffic Management Officers to keep traffic flowing. Because of the long-term nature of transport planning,we will seek political consensus in tackling congestion, including examining the potential of moving away from the current system of motoring taxation towards a national system of road-pricing." The reality is that major investment in roads is almost non existent.
They fail to mention that if the "Expressway" on the M6 corridor is built, then it will be a privately financed Toll road.
Introducing car-pool lanes means restricting use of part of the road, which may make things worse.
Worst of all New Labour are not honest enough to admit that they want to introduce tolls on all roads in an attempt to force the poorer drivers off them.



11 April 2005
Election Campaign - Tory Manifesto
Tories today released  their manifesto They say:- "A Conservative Government will end Labour's war on the motorist. We will modernise Britain's road network." But they fail to mention Tolls or "Congestion Charges".


6 April 2005
Coffin Protest
Protestors are to deliver a coffin to City Hall. They oppose extension of the zone and an increase in the charge:-   Evening Standard - "C-charge protesters take coffin to City Hall"
According to the report, Ken says that only 5,000 people a day have stopped driving into central London as a result of the charge. Is he really saying that all the pain and aggravation was just to stop 5,000 cars?

M6 Tolls Traffic figures
The M6 Toll operators have released their figures for March 2005. As with February, the company's figures show that the fall in traffic has reversed though it is still below July to December 2004 level.


5 April 2005
Ken ignores advisers but offers sweeteners
Ken apparently went aginst TfL advice when he decided on an immediate 8 London Toll:-   Evening Standard - "Mayor ignored advisers"
We don't see any problem with Ken ignoring his advisers. After all, he ignored everyone else!
But what we don't understand is the discounts that are to be introduced for fleet owners and those who pay well in advance. Is Ken trying to generate more business? More business means more traffic!

Election Campaign starts
Tony Blair today called a General Election for 5 May. Already some of the candidates are making "promises":-   BBC - "New calls to cancel bridge debts"
We are pleased that in at least one area, the candidates regard tolls as an issue. We wish for 2 things:- 1) that they promise to get rid of tolls, and 2) that they honour their promise.


Toll all London roads
Professor David Begg, the Government's leading tolls advocate, proposes tolls on ALL London roads:-   Evening Standard - "'All London roads should have toll'"
The professor suggests that the tolls could be used in part to:-scrap tax discs for vehicles inside the M25, halve council tax, reduce business tax.
What - no lollipops?
It isn't clear what happens when all the cars are eventually forced off the road, and Gordon Brown has a massive hole in his budget

Businesses complain - but toll increase "good for economy"
Various businesses are queuing up to complain about Ken's proposed increase, including Boots, Tesco, hotels and the Forum of Private Business:-   Evening Standard - "Revolt over 8 C-charge"
Transport 2000, said: "The less traffic there is in central London the better.. it will soon be apparent that the charge is good for economy of central London and that retail and hospitality businesses will benefit from a street environment that is more inviting for people."
No doubt the various anti roads groups are looking forward to London becoming a rural village again. There will be plenty of seats on the trains and buses. Shopping will also be a more pleasant experience when there are no other people around.
There was another report today on business effects of the increase:-   Evening Standard - "'It means huge rise in running costs'"
One of the businesses paying the Lomdon Toll is Royal Mail with 500 vans. At 8 a day, that's nearly one million pounds a year. In effect that is paid by all of us whether we go anywhere near the centre of London or not. We wonder how much more of the London Toll is paid for by all of us?


1 April 2005
Increase in London Toll to go ahead
The "Congestion Charge" increase proposed by Ken is to go ahead, probably from July:-   BBC - "Congestion charge increases to 8"  and   BBC - "Dismay at congestion charge hike"  and   Evening Standard - "C-charge rise from July"  and   Evening Standard - "I agonised over rise, says Mayor "
Another victory for "democracy", as the views of the people and businesses of London (or even the London Assembly) were ignored. There are still many people fooled by the "success" of the existing charge. An increase from 5 to 8 will obviously have a major effect.
It will reduce traffic, but it will also reduce the number of people visiting businesses in the charge area; particularly shops and restaurants.
It will have little effect on either air quality or the time that it takes to get around London.
Ken expects to get an extra 45 million a year from the scheme.
If he does eventually succeed in forcing most vehicles off the road, all he (and London) will have is a BIG loss.


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