31 August 2005
AUGUST 2005 NEWS
Bill Berry in the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina says:-
"The idea of toll roads is a sign that our politicians have totally lost control on spending. Years ago I lived in a state referred to as "Taxachusetts," where the taxes were so high that thousands of people, and jobs, fled the state. Gov. Mike Easley has so focused on forcing through a lottery that he signed a budget that is totally out of balance unless the lottery passes. Lotteries are a tax on the ignorant and have a very negative impact on the poor. Likewise, toll roads are simply another inelastic tax that will hurt the poor and middle class much more than the wealthy. Please look at the state of Connecticut, which removed tolls on I-95 because of a series of fatal accidents caused by the toll booths.
It seems the people in Raleigh have decided that increasing poverty and highway deaths is a good thing. If our governor and legislature continue in this way, it will not be long before our state goes the way of the Northeast. Perhaps we should get used to the idea of our state being called "North Taxolina.""
What a lot of tokens!
Various states are replacing toll tokens with EZ passes. One catch is that you only have a limited time to use up the old tokens. The Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire reports that one man has 3,000 tokens that will become worthless after December. Any suggestions as to what would be a fitting way to use them?
30 August 2005
Charge hits Business
On the 19th the Forum for Private Business issued a statement calling on Ken to suspend the Con charge. They say that there has been a fall in the number of vehicles and a slump in business:- "Stop London's shopping slump - suspend C-Charge, says FPB".
Since then the British Hospitality Association have called for the charge period to end earlier each day. Restaurants that used to do two sittings each evening due to pre theatre trade, are now only getting later customers.
More on Katrina
Tolls were suspended in various states, including as part of the state of emergency around New Orleans to ease traffic flow for the evacuation.
MIG from Australia who own many roads including most of the M6 Toll, have just added 87% of the Dulles Greenway toll road (just outside Washington DC) to their collection. It is reported by Robert Clow in the Australian that MIG will earn 8.4 per cent premium over the 10-year US Treasury bond rate (currently 4.25%). It is also reported that the deal has been structured so that the sellers will get tax losses.
Autostrade (who are the minority shareholder in M6 Toll) have sold the subsidiary that collects Austrian truck tolls. Their sale gain is reported as nearly one million euros per employee of the subsidiary. The Austrian government has denied that it plans to extend the truck tolls to cars.
High Occupancy Toll = Wasted Road space
Walt Brewer in the North County Times of California comments on plans to spend $7 billion to provide more High Occupancy Toll lanes. He points out that these lanes are underused, and waste about 10% of the capacity. He also wonders why the existing tolls are used to subsidise public transport that is barely used:- "Car-pool plans waste freeway capacity"
29 August 2005
The BBC today reported the results of a survey showing that three out of four lorry drivers avoid the M6 Toll.
It was implied that this was OK, as it was a case of consumer choice - if you wanted a less congested road then you had to pay a toll for it, otherwise you could use the "free" road. We wonder if they have heard of fuel duty and road fund licence etc.
27 August 2005
Americans using roads less
The Washington Post reports that income from gas taxes is falling. The rise in prices at the pump has meant that Americans are driving less. The solution to this "problem"? - Believe it or not, they suggest that they need to raise road tolls and privatise more roads.
The M6 Toll have issued a press release saying that they are handing out 10,000 information leaflets about the need for rest stops:-  BBC - "Safety advice given on M6 Toll"
They are handing out 10,000 leaflets over the weekend 27th to 29th. During that period there will be nearly 150,000 vehicles passing through. We wonder how they will decide who to give the leaflets to?
26 August 2005
Congestion ahead for Cardiff
Cardiff is on the road to road pricing. They have plans for big spending on public transport, and a council spokeswoman has now said that "An income stream such as road charging will be necessary to support the investment and to help reduce the demand for travel." The proposal is opposed by businesses:- Western Mail - "Congestion charge for Cardiff?"
It will be interesting to see whether the people in Cardiff and the surrounding area will be given any say in this. In any case the establishment will be going all out to con the public through propaganda and measures to increase congestion.
"Road to Riches"
Value of the company that owns the M6 Toll is up by $1.3 billion. Blair Speedy reports that "The result came after an average 16 per cent increase in traffic on MIG's portfolio of 25 toll roads, while toll revenue was up 28 per cent thanks to price hikes delivered during the year."  The Australian - "MIG on the road to riches"
Katrina stops tolls
As is usual with major tropical storms or hurricanes, many of Florida's tolls have been suspended.
Where the tolls go
The Daily O'Collegian in Oklahoma reports that on September 13th there will be a vote on higher gas taxes. The extra money will be spent on the roads.
This may sound fine, but the paper also reports that only 7 per cent of the existing income from tolls and licence fees is spent on road maintenance and construction. The rest goes to general State funds and to school districts.
25 August 2005
More EZ Fun
Phil Santoro in the Boston Globe reports on more fun at the Hampton toll:-
''The result is a disaster," writes Steve, who reports that northbound traffic was backed up at the toll plaza for 40 minutes at about 11 a.m. on Sunday ''they have totally screwed it up."
''We were thrilled that New Hampshire had finally signed on to the E-ZPass system, having spent many hours stuck in traffic at the tolls," write Janet and Jeff. ''We were more than dismayed this weekend to find how it had been implemented. Bottom line: the tolls still represent a huge waste of time and gasoline."
Part of the problem is that some lanes have to be on old system, and drivers approaching the toll booths are confused as to which lane to be in. Long queues can snowball. A pity that USA drivers meekly accept tolls "system", when a few cents on gas, could wipe out the need for any tolls.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
RTE reports that Dublin Chamber of Commerce has suggested that tolls on Dublin's Port Tunnel are used to reduce tolls for trucks on the West Link bridge.
What a marvelous idea - for trucks!
Dick Meyer on CBS News has a few suggestions on how to "Save Gas". His main one is "Liberate The Left Lane" i.e. drivers hogging the overtaking lane cause congestion. His other advice is to ban SUVs and "immediately eliminate all tolls; they're a medieval and inefficient form of municipal revenue collection that should have gone out with the invention of asphalt."
Ned Kelly update
Various Australian papers give the latest on the Sydney Cross City tunnel. As previously reported, the authorities are removing free road space to force drivers to pay the toll. They are warning that when the toll road opens there will be "months of gridlock for those venturing in or out of the city centre. City roads will be clogged from day one of tunnel opening and city drivers will face delays of more than an hour because of road closures and diversions. We are preparing ourselves for potentially the worst traffic problems we've ever seen in the city.":- Amy Cooper in The Australian - "Tunnel opening to block city roads"
Australians will be happy in the knowledge that their suffering is for a cause which is dear to the heart of all drivers - tolls.
24 August 2005
David Moretti of Rhode Island took some time to write to Governor Lynch about his journey home from Maine. He and his wife were held up by the Hampton tolls for 1 hour and 15 minutes. He says:-
"Thousands of cars sat in 98-degree heat and humidity vying for their turn at the tolls. We witnessed cars on the side of the road with hoods up, a crumpled car that had rear-ended another while jostling in line and motorcyclists cooling off under a bridge. We noticed several cars carrying young children without air-conditioning."
His letter ends:- "Many people, including myself, who would otherwise spend a weekend in New Hampshire go elsewhere to avoid this headache. You may collect a couple of dollars per car in tolls, but you lose more in tourist dollars.
Governor, I suggest you spend a weekend afternoon stuck in your car sitting in line. Hopefully, you won't be rear-ended." (Concord Monitor - "Hampton backup takes a mean toll")
Texans would like to Vote
Texas has massive plans for toll roads. Opponents include the Austin Toll Party. Other opponents in San Antonio are questioning the figures that toll road proponents claim, and they are calling for a vote on how roads should be funded:- woai.com - "Opponents Demand Toll Road Vote"
Tri State Media newspapers oppose plans for tolls on Interstate 59 linking South West of Indiana to the State Capital. They suggest to the Governor that if tolls are such a good idea, then he should put toll booths on all the other Interstates into the capital.
Big Federal Roads Budget
President Bush has just signed a bill authorising nearly $300 billion in federal road spending. States have to bear 20% of the cost of any schemes fianaced under the bill. There are fears that they will resort to tolls to meet their share. Though we think that very little of tolls will be left after you deduct the cost of collection and the waste and "consultant's fees" that are associated with toll roads.
22 August 2005
Turkish Tolls Delight
This weekend's Turkish Grand Prix was a success. Apart from a slight problem - "the presence of toll gates along the route from downtown Istanbul, caused massive delays throughout the race weekend as thousands of cars tried to squeeze through the tolls - thousands of people spent up to four hours in the jams trying to get to the track and blockages stretched for many miles. Eventually some fans began to abandon their cars as the start of the race neared and went on foot to the track." grandprix.com
French Flog Roads
This is an update from Bloomberg on the sale by French government of toll roads. Bids for some roads have to be in by tonight - "Bidders may be attracted by profitability that can be 10 times higher than in the construction industry." "Vinci, Macquarie May Lead Bidding in French Road Sale"
States to Sell Roads?
New Jersey is considering selling off its main toll roads - New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. This could raise $30 billion:- Courier Post - "Sale of toll roads could raise $30B"
The roads belong to the users. They and their ancestors built the roads and have paid for them mainly through gas taxes and tolls. To sell them to private operators really will be highway robbery.
Americans are concerned about the threat to freedom that comes from cars fitted with RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) devices for tolling and "other" purposes. The technology is British:- CRM Buyer - "Government May Soon Track You by Your License Plate"
EZ Speed traps
John Hall reports that motorists using the electronic toll lanes are being targetted by police speed traps. As there is no need to stop (unless there is a queue) cars go faster and right into the traps:- Hernando Today - "Suspicious activity from D.C. North"
The News Sun of Chicago reports on big traffic problems round the Six Flags theme park, partly caused by "motorists trying to avoid paying higher tolls on the Tri-State Tollway".
Uganda officially abolished road tolls on 12 June 2003 - Three Cheers! - Unfortunately allafrica.com reports that at Massajja the authorities have put in a toll to collect from the "taxis" that are the main means of local transport.
Help for Campaign Funds
Various papers report on an investigation by Associated Press. They found that most of the contractors on the toll roads in Illinois were making substantial donations to politicians' campaign funds:- The State Journal Register - "Blagojevich collects more than ever from tollway contractors"
Ned Kelly rides again
Australia still has bushrangers, except that now they are called toll authorities. Lisa Tisdell reports in Port Maquarie News how out of towners and tourists are ripped off when they are forced to use the Sydney cross city tunnel (opening on 28th August).
:- "Tunnel makes drivers cross"
PS The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that:-
"Thousands of motorists will have little choice but to use the new Cross City Toll Tunnel, as authorities plan to close adjacent routes to traffic - such as the Palmer Street, Woolloomooloo turn-off. One section of William Street will also be designated "buses only" and four other streets will be blocked to ordinary traffic. Other measures such as bicycle lanes, wider footpaths and large median strips will reduce space for vehicle traffic on nearby roads. The move coincides with plans to install speed cameras on the 1.7 mile route also known as the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, in violation of guidelines that say the devices should only be used on roads with a history of accidents."
Force Truckers onto Toll roads
One of the themes that recurs every day in USA, is the complaint that trucks are using residential roads to avoid tolls. Unfortunately the proposed solution is usually new laws, traffic restrictions or tough policing of truckers.
It's cheaper by rail
The Jakarta Post reports on a dispute between members of the consortium that is to build a monorail system. One company is apparently demanding that 60% of the income from electronic road pricing is handed to the consortium.
20 August 2005
Today's Guardian reports that Westminster City Council has called for various measures to halt the recent decline in vistors to central London. Proposals include- shortening the hours during which the Con Charge is paid, and suspending it completely during September:- "Plea for rates cut in wake of bombings".
Not suprisingly, TfL have rejected the call. What is surprising is that TfL say that despite the bombs and despite the 60% increase in the charge, there has only been a "0.003% drop in the number of cars on the road". - We thought that the purpose of the London Toll was to discourage drivers. We are perplexed, not only by the almost invisible effect of the charge increase, but also by the attitude of TfL - Will they also be claiming that congestion has reduced?
Britain's hauliers complain that they lose out to foreign trucks because of high fuel and other taxes. On Thursday the DfT published the latest figures for lorries travelling between Britain and Europe:- "Road Goods Vehicles Travelling to Mainland Europe Q2 2005"
Figures show that the decline in Britain's share of lorries continues. Ten years ago, half of the traffic between Britain and Europe was in British trucks, it is now down to a quarter. The countries with the biggest percentage share are:- Britain 24, France 19, Netherlands 12, Germany 8, Italy 6, Belgium 6, Spain 5.
Seacoast Online reports that cameras may soon be turned on at New Hampshire EZ Pass tolls to catch people who go through the lanes without paying. Nice of them to have made it free up to now!
The same report says that they are also installing special equipment to catch drivers breaking the 10 miles an hour speed limit on EZ pass lanes - It's reassuring to know that with modern toll equipment there is no disruption - or at least not for careful drivers who are not in a hurry!
Ontario loses to Toll operator
On Wednesday, arbitrators decided for the 407ETR toll operators and against the Ontario government. It seems that the operators can set the tolls as high as they like on Ontario's only toll road, as long as traffic does not fall below 2002 levels. Ontario say that they will continue to fight.
One novel idea for paying for roads comes from Dennis Rogers from the News & Observer of North Carolina who says of toll roads - "most of the tolls would come from the many servants rich folks employ". The solution? - build casinos along the roads, with the licences paying for the roads!
Czech Truck operators are having a tough time because of German and Austrian road tolls. Their solution is to higher haulage prices and lower Czech road tax:- Prague Daily Monitor - "Lorry transport firms say it's either price hikes or bankruptcy"
California Toll Rush
Earlier this month California made hybrid cars free of road tolls. It is reported that the bureaucrats can't cope with the rush for special passes.
As these cars (made by Honda and Toyota) are also free from most other taxes, we wonder what they would do if all drivers switched to them?
19 August 2005
Councils in the West Midlands have volunteered to introduce road pricing in exchange for Government money.
The Councils in the region have now received a consultants report on congestion. The report recommends widening of the M42, higher car parking charges and improvements to ticketing on public tranport etc. But on road pricing, it says that road pricing as proposed by the Government would encourage rat-running through residential streets and would not make any significant change to the demand for road travel.
A spokesperson for the councils says that there is no problem as all they will do is "note" the report.." Birmingham Post - "Solihull puts Midland congestion charging plan on back burner"
The city of Durham was the first place in Britain to have a congestion charge (from 1 October 2002). The city fathers are now building three out of town "park and ride" sites. The reason? - to ease congestion in the city centre! BBC - "Talks over park and ride charges"
15 August 2005
States Raid Road Tolls and Taxes
Some USA states raid taxes paid by roads users for other purposes. They even raid the road tolls. The result in New Jersey is "dozens of dilapidated bridges and thousands of miles of crumbling roadways around and in between":- "Longer commutes loom as fund loses money"
Malaysia to stop Tolls Subsidy
In Malaysia, they have been subsidising the privately operated toll roads. It has now decided to withdraw the subsidies:- Forbes / Associated Press - "Malaysia to Remove Highway Tolls Subsidies"
PS The Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations say that "the way toll rates are being indiscriminately increased just goes to show the arrogance of the concessionaires, as well as their inefficiency":- Bernama - "Renegotiate All Toll Pacts With Highway Operators"
Fuel price rises cause USA Tolls fall
As USA has relatively low gas taxes, motorists are feeling the effects of the crude oil price rise more sharply. One bizarre effect is that tolls income is falling as roads use declines:- Seacoastonline / Associated Press - "High prices viewed as factor in drop in turnpike traffic"
Another bizarre effect is that travellers are realising that it is cheaper to travel by plane. There are no taxes or road tolls, and you get there quicker, possibly saving on motels etc.
Free NZ Tolls
We have reported on the controversy in NZ over plans for lots of toll roads. It appears that there is a slight problem with the Tauranga harbour link. It would be illegal to toll vehicles going to the harbour marina. One proposed solution is to have special toll free exits, another is to give motorists "toll credits" to cancel out the toll they have just paid!- Bay of Plenty Times - "Marina access solution on table"
Not Free NZ Tolls
Stuffnz reports a survey by Wellington Regional Chamber indicating that 80% of busineses support road tolls.
Britain "Helps" Vietnam
Vietnam's infrastructure was largely destroyed in decades of war. The roads are paid for by petrol and tyre sales, with some help from World Bank. vietnamnews agency now reports that Vietnam is getting technical advice from Britain's Department for International Development. It appears that we will be advising them of the glories of private finance and road tolls:- "Roads to link all communes by 2010"
More on Not So EZ Tolls
Difficulty of getting "loss leader" transponders in New Hampshire:- Nashua Telegraph - "New Hampshire's great toll shuffle is a real E-ZMess"
"Why Toll Roads are a good idea"
Round up of toll views at austin.about.com:- Austin Blog Archives
13 August 2005
Dublin Toll to hit Northern Ireland motorists
Motorists from Northern Ireland heading for Britain via the M1 and Dublin port will be particularly hit by a 12 euros (8 pounds) toll on using a new tunnel. Lorries will be free, but the Irish government want to discourage cars from using the road. Economists usually favour tolls, however much they hurt the economy, but this was described as "madness" by Moore McDowell, an economics columnist with the Irish Independent:-
Belfast Telegraph - "Tunnel tolls will drive out the motorists".
National Roads and Motorists' Association complain about Tolls
After years of meekly accepting tolls, it seems that the Aussie drivers may have decided that they don't like being pushed around, forced to queue at tolls and be treated like a cash cow. The latest row is because the authorities are trying to force more drivers down into the tolled Cross City Tunnel:-
Daily Telegraph - "RMA revved up over closures".
12 August 2005
Toll Tricks 1 - Slow alternative roads
The agreements between authorities and tolls road operators are usually kept secret from the public, but Daniel Sorid of Reuters reports on one agreement unearthed by a Colorado resident and posted on:- unbossed.com blog site. The Council agreed to deliberately slow traffic on other roads by lowering speed limit and installing more traffic lights. Authorities have also had to agree not to improve roads in the area:-
Reuters (2 pages).
Tolls Tricks 2 - Tolls Needed To Pay for cost of collecting Tolls
Brian Rudman in the New Zealand Herald "Tax collectors coming to a toll booth near you" reports that of one $1.80 toll, the cost of administration is $1.35 (75%). He asks:-
"What's wrong with the existing method of "tolling" - the petrol tax? The cynic in me says the politicians know we're programmed to scream every time taxes go up, but think we could be tricked if they called it something else - like tolls.
But a tax by any other name is still a tax, however fancy the wrapping. And the toll-tax being proposed seems a very inefficient and cost-intensive way of raising more funds for road-building.
Surely siphoning the extra impost via the petrol pump, as has been done from time immemorial, would be both simpler and cheaper. Alternatively, we could borrow to cover the shortfall, and leave it to those who will eventually enjoy the benefits, to pay their share."
Hull "isolated" by toll bridge
On Wednesday night, Channel 4 TV had the:-
"Best and Worst Places to Live in UK". They chose Hull as the worst place. They gave various reasons, but said that Hull was "isolated from the rest of the country by the Humber estuary".
Is it a coincidence that Hull is linked to the south side of the estuary, but it is by the most expensive tolled crossing in Britain?
Reports on the fall in traffic:-  Birmingham Post - "M6 Toll traffic figures continue to plunge"
Birmingham Evening Mail - "Row as drivers desert M6 Toll"
The Post report says that traffic on the old M6 has also fallen compared with last year. We think this must be a mistake. Traffic on the old M6 is less than it was before the toll road opened, but there is no reason why traffic will have fallen in last year.
11 August 2005
Are Times A Changing?
The Times is a big fan of the London Con Charge and other road tolls. But yesterday it's editorial covered the issue of the rising oil price. They said:-
" In Britain, a good place to start would be London, a metropolis that without a transport revolution will, come the 2012 Olympics, choke in its own toxic fumes. Even with the congestion charge, even with better rail links, the capital's traffic will continue to be dense. The revolution must therefore include vehicles: private, public - and the landmark, famously polluting, black cab."
The Times's solution to the problem is "hybrid, electric or, if viable, fuel-cell vehicles". But aren't these vehicles exempt from the Con Charge?
Singapore Road Pricing
On 1st August we reported that Singapore had intoduced electronic road pricing on one road between 6PM and 8PM. Channel News Asia, yesterday reported that the authorities now say "Naturally, the drop in vehicle traffic meant other motorists were taking alternative routes to avoid paying the ERP. But the conditions on these alternative roadways remain manageable. The average speed on these carriageways is generally above 20 kilometres per hour, which is above the optimal speed range for arterial roads. Towards the end of the first week, some of the traffic flow on these roads even dipped a little as some motorists went back on the tolled raod."
Though the island is small, we are glad that we don't live in Singapore if 20 kilometres per hour (12 miles per hour) is "above the optimal speed". And if even more motorists return to using the tolled road - what will they have achieved?
Not So EZ Tolls
The USA is going in for electronic tolling in a big way. It is being sold to drivers with offers of big discounts and no more frustrating delays at toll booths. The truth is of course different. There is no guarantee that discounts will be kept. And there may still be delays and an increase in accidents as drivers try and get into the appropriate lane. Some drivers have abandoned using the transponders:- Portsmouth Herald - "Drivers: E-ZPass anything but easy"
There was also this letter of complaint, yesterday:- Concord Monitor - "No way to run a highway system"
Foster's Online in New Hampshire also today reports that some toll authorities may be losing money with EZ Tolls - Apart from any toll discounts, the transponders cost about $24, and the individual accounts cost about $5 a month to administer, even if the driver makes little use of the system.
It is a pity that the Americans don't see that the road to easier, smoother journeys is to scrap tolls and, if need be, increase gas tax.
"Warning Bell" for Tolls
We reported yesterday that Aussies may be more toll smart than we thought. Now we are not so sure - Today's editorial in the Daily Telegraph says:-
"THERE might be lessons worth learning for the NSW Government from the reaction of motorists to our revelations yesterday that the automatic toll gates at the entry to the Harbour Tunnel were not working.
Having been made aware of the rort, a number of motorists drove gleefully through the toll collection points without paying, while others made no secret of their contempt for the tolls in the first place. One driver said that "living in a police state" made it "fantastic to get away with something for free". Another expressed regret he hadn't known about the toll racket sooner- "Living in NSW is expensive - there are tolls and charges everywhere so if you can get away with something for free, then good."
So new Roads Minister Joe Tripodi should prick up his ears - the $3 which motorists shell out every day on their way to work is the cause of some ill-suppressed resentment. While most drivers pay, they do so begrudgingly.
Give it some thought, Minister. Ask yourself about the fairness of a system that has let hundreds - probably thousands - of drivers avoid this hated toll tax.
We agree with the Editor. What makes us unsure about how smart the Auusies are, is that they reckon the solution to this "hated toll tax" is to "get it fixed". It isn't clear whether they mean get rid of the tolls or make sure that everyone pays them!
PS "rort" is an Australian word meaning - taking unfair advantage of a public service.
NZ Anti Roads Group oppose Tolls
Scoop reports the Residents Action Movement opposing plans for tolled roads. Spokeswoman, Elaine West, said:- "Transit and government threats to charge Auckland drivers billions of dollars in road taxes is no more than a cruel public set-up based on an alliance between state officials and big business interests intending to rake in money out of a car-trapped-and-weary public."
"The research on the social and economic impact of tolls in Auckland - and New Zealand - predicts that tolls on roads will likely harm society's most vulnerable citizens - families, middle income earners with overheads, low income earners, the elderly, students, the disabled, workers who travel by car as public transport is not available to them."
"The road tax announcement is unjustified, unnecessary and attacks the quality of life that New Zealanders hold dear."
10 August 2005
East Anglian view
North Norfolk Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb says: "Petrol duty is an unfair tax and particular unfair on rural motorists who don't have any alternative. It disproportionately affects people in rural areas, and hits people on low incomes like pensioners. The Government should move to a system of road pricing based on congestion, so that people on uncongested rural roads pay less." EDP24 - "Petrol price hike brings fresh fears"
Mr Lamb voted for people on Merseyside to pay higher tolls. But then an unfair tax is probably OK, if it affects people hundreds of miles away.
The English speaking world seems to be increasingly tolled, with news of more tolls, including Plano Council in Texas voting for a currently "free" road to be tolled:- Red Nova / Dallas Morning News - "Plano Reluctantly Backs Toll for 12"
Aussies Salute Tolls
We reported on the 8th that most Aussies wanted to keep tolls. It now seems that they may be smarter than we thought. It appears that on Sydney Harbour Tunnel Toll, paying is optional. The cameras that record nonpayers at the cash booths don't work. The company doesn't mind as it's income is guaranteed by the Government:-
Daily Telegraph - "To pay or not to pay: your choice"
9 August 2005
South London Press report that the London Dungeon say that the takings of the Dungeon and other major London tourist attractions have fallen by a third since the July bombings.
The London Dungeon call for a national advertising campaign, Tube price reductions and a suspension of the Con charge.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner / AP - "Penalising the motorist"
Note that though most people think that travelling by car is a lot slower than it was, the average time spent travelling has not increased. Though if the government continue with their "Don't Spend on Roads" Programme, no doubt average travelling time will increase.
Increase in Ancient Toll
The Department for Transport Minister has just approved a massive toll increase on the Aldwark Bridge:- Brian Dooks in Yorkshire Post - "Tolls at ancient bridge to soar by 166 per cent"
The bridge is in the North Yorkshire area, and crosses the river Ure to the north west of York halfway to Boroughbridge. The old tolls ranged from 15 pence for cars to 80 pence for lorries. There has been a privately owned toll bridge there since the 1770s. The bridge is not on a main road and the toll mainly hits local people, as it means a detour of up to 25 miles to avoid the toll bridge.
The approval of the toll increase followed what were claimed to be large financial losses by the bridge company. There had been various objections heard by a government inspector at an inquiry in April. Objectors included the local parish council (Linton on Ouse).
Here is the Inspector's report from 2nd June. Note that this is a 25 page PDF file and may take some time to load
We issued this statement:-
"There used to be hundred of these private toll roads or "turnpikes", but most lapsed or where bought out over a century ago. As the Government makes a profit of about £35 billion a year from drivers, it should have bought the bridge and made it toll free."
M6 Traffic in July
The toll company have issued their figures for July 2005. There is a small increase compared with June, but a year on year fall of 15%. This is only the second time that there has been a year on year fall.
The company give better more timely figures to the financial markets in their home base of Australia. It was reported there that though traffic numbers were down, revenue was up by 40%.
Daniel Boone gets road back
The USA is mainly going in the direction of more and higher tolls. But today there is a reminder that they can go the other way. The Daniel Boone Parkway was renamed to honour U.S. Representative Hal Rogers who had the tolls removed from June 2003. But the name of the road will revert to Daniel Boone:-
Kentucky.com / AP - "Daniel Boone to get back on the road"
Let's hope that this does not discourage other politicians from removing tolls!
8 August 2005
NZ No Tolls Pledge
Further to the NZ report on 3 August, the leader of New Zealand First launched his party's campaign yesterday by pledging there would be no tolls:-
NZ Herald - "Peters pledges toll-free link for Tauranga"
More trucks avoiding tolls
Residents in Virginia are complaining that their road is clogged with trucks avoiding the Chesapeake Expressway
toll road. Residents say the trucks are dangerous, and want the speed limit reduced. But one of the city's engineers says ""A lot of people assume that the slower the speed, the safer the road is going to be. But it's the difference in the speed that creates the hazard. For example, if the limit were lowered, an illegal passing problem could develop. Some drivers would obey the new limit, while others would pass them and continue to drive":- Cindy Clayton in Virginian Pilot - "Trucks keep rolling down Battlefield, dodging tolls"
It seems to us that the solution is to scrap the tolls, and if need be, then increase the gas tax. Trucks and cars will then chose whichever road is best.
Sting in the Tail. Believe it or not, but the same day of this report, the Washington Times reports that Virginia is to introduce tolls on the Interstate 81 - just for trucks! They plan to add a new lane for the trucks. Here's a free tip for them, bring in the toll for trucks and you can save the money building a truck lane - it would be empty.
7 August 2005
More Tolls extortion
Reliefweb today reports on civil war in Indonesia's Aceh province. There are hopes for peace but the war has gone on so long it says it will be difficult because both sides," but especially the military, have committed human rights violations, some government and GAM combatants have turned conflict into cash via illegal tolls on roads, kidnapping, and demands for protection money."
Also today, allafrica.com reports that Nigeria has declared "total war" on corruption. It quotes the President as saying:- "Government is already committed to a very vigorous, continuous, and systematic reform of the "toll gate" institutions that appear to have been bastions of corruption largely because of the huge revenues that they generate" and "Corruption has weakened the public security system especially the police that came to be known for its pathological fixation on collection of bribes and illegal tolls and levies."
But Oz Loves Tolls
On the other hand one of Indonesia's neighbours, Australia, apparently loves tolls. CARSguide survey of 10,000 Aussie motorists has just been published - "The majority believe road tolls should not be abandoned."
Perhaps it's something to do with downing all those tubes of Fosters.
6 August 2005
We reported some time ago the dispute between the Government of Ontario and the operators of the province's only toll road the 407ETR. The Government thought that they had some control over the tolls, but the courts ruled that the operators could charge what they like.
Canada.com, reported yesterday that the toll operator might try and sell the road:-
"SNC-Lavalin could eventually sell stake in Toronto-area toll road Highway 407"
Did you hear the one about the Government that thought that they ran the country!
5 August 2005
Trafficmaster has worked out which are the worst congested roads in Britain. One of them is the M6 between junction 4 (M42) and 10a (M54). This is almost the same as the stretch covered by the M6 Toll (Junction 3a to 11a). The M6 Toll road was meant to relieve congestion on the old M6, but it does not have it's optimum effect because it is tolled.
Tolls Inn Jamaica or Not a Just Causeway
Jamaica, and similar countries are increasingly forced by foreign interests to introduce toll roads. The people affected by one new toll road under construction feel that the Government are breaking their own laws, as they will in effect be forced to use the toll road. The Jamican government are going to demolish the existing toll free bridge. Last week protestors took the Government to court, but lost:-
Jamaica Observer - "Gov't wins toll case"
What the residents think of this:- Portmore Residents Against Toll Road
The Jamaican legal establishment have called the Portmore toll protestors "backward" for daring to challenge the imposition of tolls:- Jamaica Gleaner - "BACKWARDNESS! Portmore, toll road and the lawsuit"
Some Jamaican Toll Jokes:- Caribbean News - "Toll Booth Collector In Jamaica"
4 August 2005
Woman Loses Car
Elaine Lynch lent her car to a "friend". He entered the London Toll zone six times without paying the then five pounds charge. Penalties increased the bill to three thousand pounds. The bill has been reduced, but she still can't pay and will now lose her car to the bailiffs:- Milton Keynes Today - "Car clamp nightmare for city driver".
With the London Toll, it is the registered keeper of the vehicle that is responsible for paying penalties. No wonder that Transport for London makes most of it's money from these penalties.
Twenty Four equals One
Car Pages reports that Car magazine has worked out the cost to motorists of the Government's proposed road pricing scheme using the prices that the Government have indicated. They worked out that the cost would be four times the existing tax:- "Road Pricing Could Quadruple The Cost Of Commuting"
Car magazine say that "we believe satellite tracking could provide a sophisticated, precise way to make motorists pay for their true cost of motoring". As road taxes are already about six times what is spent on roads, we fail to see how increasing this to around 24 times what is spent represents the "true cost of motoring".
Irish Greens Oppose Toll!
It has been proposed that parts of the road from Galway to Dublin are tolled. Green Party Councillor Niall Ó Brolcháin has opposed this. He says "It's like giving them a licence to print money. I was on the M50 last week in Dublin and one of the reasons there was such a massive tailback on the road was that people were having to queue so long to pay the toll.":- Galway Advertiser - "Unfair that Galwegians have to pay to cross country say Greens"
It appears that the Greens don't really oppose tolls, though they discriminate against people in certain parts of the country, hit the poor the hardest, affect business and cause congestion. This would all be OK - if the Government operated them!
Highway from Hell
The latest survey of the favourite and the most hated motorways is reported today:-  Birmingham Evening Mail - "Red mist for M6 drivers"
In this survey the M6 comes out top - the most hated that is.
Virgin Cars, who sponsored the survey, said: "With the introduction of the M6 Toll, we anticipated that this stretch of motorway would prove more popular in our poll. But it seems the scheme has not found favour with most."
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: " This is no surprise. Every ten minutes of jams on the M6 costs millions to businesses in Birmingham and the West Midlands. The M6 Toll hasn't taken away traffic from the M6 as we had hoped."
More USA Tolls To Come
President Bush is expected to approve the Highways Bill this week. The bill includes a large spending program and no increase in Federal gas taxes. But the bill allows tolls on existing interstate highways:- Etrucker - "Highway bill draws mixed response"
The American Trucking Associations said "tolls are an inefficient funding mechanism that double-taxes motor carriers and causes substantial diversion of traffic to other, less-safe roads."
More on Texas Toll
Report from Michael Cary of San Antonio Current:- "For whom the roads toll"
3 August 2005
Sky High Toll
Transport for London have been looking at a tag and beacon system for the London Toll (see Toll Tag on 28th July). Today Computing magazine reports that they are also looking at satellite tracking:- "London looks at car tracking options".
As we said before - a daft idea as they will have to keep the existing number plate recognition system anyway. But it looks as if there will be mega bucks going to some lucky company, all coming from London drivers.
Highway Engineer says that M6 Toll safety barriers are "shocking"
Contract Journal reports that a highways engineer said that the safety barriers were "beyond belief" and had not been built to current standards. A spokesperson for the builders of the toll road says that they were built according to the concession agreement with the Highways Agency:-  "Crash barrier safety on M6 toll in question"
A countryside campaigner warns that a new M6 Toll "Expressway" may cause floods by blocking drainage in the floodplain:-  Middlewich Chronicle - "M6 sparks flood fear"
Kiwis to get new Toll road
The NZ government have given the go ahead for the "Harbour Link" road at Tauranga. It will partly be financed by grant, but there will also be tolls:- Scoop - "Government's decision on tolling Harbour Link"
NZ Herald - "Tauranga Harbour Link bridge to be tolled"
The reason given for the tolls is that "Without tolling we would be waiting more than 10 years to get started". - Does this mean that the workers, materials and construction equipment would have been left to idle if it was not for tolls? Or does it mean that the tolls will be payable before the road is built? Or does it mean that politicians the world over are able to fool most of the people most of the time?
It seems that there is at least one person not fooled. This is what New Zealand First party leader and Tauranga MP, Winston Peters said:- Scoop - "Minister Has It Half Right - Peters"
Thames Bridge Tolls of Ten Pounds for Cars
Linda Piper reports on the continuing inquiry into the proposed Thames "Gateway" bridge. It appears that Bexley council is not too keen on a new Thames crossing. But if it goes ahead then they want tolls to be higher, up to ten pounds for cars and twenty pounds for lorries:- Town Online - "Outlaw tractor-trailers from residential streets"
Perhaps Bexley would be happier if drivers paid the toll, but walked across.
More trucks taking their toll of the roads
Polly from Newtown, Massachussets, complains about the damage caused by trucks avoiding toll roads. She wants a law enacted / enforced to prevent this:- Town Online - "Outlaw tractor-trailers from residential streets"
Polly is right to be concerned, but wouldn't it be better to scrap the tolls?
The Indonesian government is planning to increase tolls by at least 15 percent, "ostensibly to reduce the number of cars on the streets and raise money for maintenance":- Jakarta Post - "Operators get huge profit"
The Jakarta Post has had a lot of readers letters on the subject including:-
Antonio Juswar - "Sometimes, the traffic congestion along the toll roads is worse, especially inner city toll roads, than most normal roads. That's really ridiculous."
Dimas Wasisto - "If the toll operators plan to increase their toll fees, what benefit do we get from this? When I use the toll roads, I get stuck in the middle of traffic."
Yisuf Gala - "I disagree with the plan to increase tolls. You know why? The operators fail to control the traffic along the toll roads. All vehicles on toll roads must drive at a certain speed, which is fast, but the potholes on some toll roads make driving at such speeds uncomfortable and dangerous."
2 August 2005
Tolls move Congestion PS
Cars and motorbikes that pulled over to avoid the evening rush toll in Singapore, were forced to drive on by police. Those without the money or the "In Vehicle Units" will be fined.
The toll has certainly succeeded in moving the congestion off the toll road. The traffic on alternate road was "bumper to bumper" at 8.30 PM:- Today Online - "The road-price of forgetting"
"Tunnel takes its Toll"
At the end of July it was reported that a second Tyne Tunnel will be built. The existing tunnel is likely to be sold off to the operator of the new tunnel, and there will be large toll increases.
Today, Helen Logan the Business Editor of the Evening Gazette, says that she does not mind paying more tolls:- "Where time is money,Tunnel takes its toll"
Thankfully not everyone agrees, this is the press release on the 25th July from the Forum of Private Business:- "New Tyne Tunnel costs must not tax local business economy"
Never mind the Toll
Increases in tolls on the Ohio Turnpike drove the truck traffic onto less suitable roads (see Tolls News for August 2004 (12th) and October 2004 (13th)). This also had the effect of reducing toll income from trucks. To entice the truckers back, they reduced the tolls and increased the speed limit. Not suprisingly this is now creating a toll of accidents:- Toledo Blade - "Faster is not better"
Land of the Free for All
A big Finance company have suggested privatising toll roads. They reckon that New York and New Jersey could together rake in over $36 billion:- Reuters - "NY, NJ could reap $36.5 bln from toll roads-study"
Why stop here? How about the other roads? Then there's schools, hospitals, parks, libraries .....
Lone Star Governor Likes Tolls
Some troublesome Texans have been belly aching about plans for a lot more toll roads. Now they have discovered that taxes had already been put aside to build one of the roads. :- WOAI San Antonio - "It's Up to State Lawmakers to Stop Toll Roads"
State Senator Jeff Wentworth said that he preferred raising the gas tax over charging tolls to pay for new roads. State Governor Rick Perry promised to veto this idea - Perhaps the Governor uses a lot of gas.
And so does North Carolina
There are no toll roads in the state, but they have just approved plans for up to nine. :- Wilmington Star / AP - "Bonner Bridge replacement, toll span in bill given final OK"
At least it seems that they want to spread the misery. Why not make it 900 toll roads?
1 August 2005
Tolls move Congestion
Singapore has today intoduced electronic road pricing on one road. The toll only applies heading north on the Central Expressway between 6pm and 8pm. The idea is to avoid building a new road. It appears that the charge (of up to one dollar) has reduced traffic on the toll road by pushing it on to other roads:- Channel News Asia - "Alternative routes congested as evening ERP on CTE starts"
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