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DECEMBER 2004 NEWS

31 December 2004
At Hogmanay are Tolls on the way in or out?
We issued the following press statement:- Campaigners are to step-up their battle for the abolition of toll roads in the UK. The rallying cry comes from the National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) who say they will make road charging an issue in the General Election expected in 2005.

A spokesman for NAAT said:-
"The ending of the Skye bridge tolls followed nine years of campaigning and was a cause of great relief to the islanders and their neighbours. There will be one of the biggest Hogmanay celebration ever held in the Highlands and Islands. It is going to be a huge boost to the economy of the region and we would like to see the same benefits for areas in the rest of the UK that are blighted by tolls.

One arena for the battle is the M6 Toll which was Britain's first new toll road in more than 30 years when it opened late in 2003. The road is being keenly watched as a guide to what effect more Tolls would have.
Figures for November 2004 showed the 3rd consecutive monthly decline with daily traffic movements down to 47,100 from a peak of 55,400 in August.

A spokesman for the NAAT said:-
"In general tolled roads are underused as most drivers will avoid paying tolls if they can. In particular, lorries have been avoiding the M6 toll and using less satisfactory roads. As far as HGVs go the M6 Toll is a virtually no-go zone."

In July 2004 the Government announced that it was considering abandoning widening part of the free M6 in favour of extending the M6 Toll road alongside it. The Government also indicated that it was considering introducing tolls onto most of Britain's existing main roads. Ministers later appeared to backtrack on this idea.

The NAAT spokesman said:-
"We are worried that a Government that is pressed for cash, may see further road tolls as a way of extracting more money from road users and of getting the private sector to finance any new roads. They may have temporarily backtracked while they try to get people used to the idea of tolls. The Government may also wish to appear to be Green, by not spending any of the tolls on new or improved roads.

"We believe tolls are unfair and uneconomic. Most road users do not want them, though at the moment only a minority live in areas that are affected by them. During 2005 we will be encouraging all those affected by tolls or potential tolls to form local anti-toll groups and join our alliance. We believe that if enough people get involved, as in Skye, we will see an end to all tolls."
"M6 Toll clear"
In today's Times, Graham Moss from Oldham writes:-
"While driving to Birmingham recently I noticed, as I approached the M6 toll road, overhead signs saying "M6 toll clear". Surely they should also be informing us if the "free" M6 is clear, and hence whether we should choose to use the toll road or not. The Government appears to be promoting the private toll road and improving its profitability at the expense of the driving public. "


29 December 2004
Big Brother
Wal-Mart, the giant USA supermarket chain (which owns Asda in Britain) is to introduce RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tags on some of the items it sells. There is some concern that RFID tags will be used to track people. The tags are already used in some identity cards and in the tags used in electronic tolling systems. (Report from Donna de Marco in Washington Times.)

NZ Tolls - Maybe
New Zealand is still considering charging Tolls on new roads. This is despite diverting road taxes to other services and still not spending the money allaocted to raods. As usual when tolls are mentioned, the estimated cost of building a road seems to double.


28 December 2004
Where have all the pennies gone
Everyone knows that Tolls don't make good economic sense, and that Public Private deals are just as bad. But when you put the two together, you get a situation like the Skye bridge:-  Guardian - A scandal of secrecy and profligacy

Deutschland Uber Alles
With the Toll Collect sytem due to come into force in Germany at the end of the month, Paul Marston reports that if it is successful it will encourage the British Government to introduce it on "all" roads toll in Britain sooner rather than later :-  The Telegraph - Germans pave way for UK road tolls


27 December 2004
Someone has to do the job!
Peter Ruell does a round up of "weirdest and wackiest news stories" in the MetroWest Daily News of Boston including:-
"Take this Toll and Shove it "
"It's safe to say nobody enjoys paying tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike, but it seems toll-takers this year weren't big fans of collecting, either.
A study done this year found 265 complaints had been registered with the state in just over a year, ranging from rude treatment to drinking and drug use on the job to toll workers napping on the job.
The complaints ranged from the creepy -- a toll taker who demanded a girl's Social Security number -- to the bizarre -- another toll taker who called a minister a "maggot" for paying a 70 cent toll with a $20 bill, all while rushing a congregant to the hospital."


26 December 2004
Victoria Toll Road
Robert Clark, the shadow treasurer for Victoria gives his views in The Age on the proposed buy out of the Tolls on the Scoresby "Freeway" from Mitcham to Frankston. The road has been the subject of fierce dispute after the Victorian government decided to toll what they had said would be a free road. The opposition have promised to buy out the tolls, but the Government have said that this would cost $7 billion.
Mr Clark reveals that $7 billion is in fact the amount that they expect to collect in tolls, on a road that will cost $2.5 billion. He also reveals that there will be $50 million a year wasted in toll collection and administration.


25 December 2004
USA Border dispute
Part of the border between Maine and New Hampshire is disputed. It is mainly New Hampshire claiming the area of the Portsmouth Naval shipyard. But now Maine are making a tongue in cheek counter claim that part of New Hampshire is theirs. Is there oil in the claimed area? No, the goldmine that New Hampshire would like is the Hampton tolls on Interstate 95.


23 December 2004
London Tolls good for KPMG - why doesn't everyone use taxis?
Shonaig Macpherson, vice-president of the British Chamber of Commerce, in the Scotsman says that in London "accountancy firm KPMG ... saved 750,000 in taxi fares and waiting time", after London Toll Zone was introduced:-  The Scotsman - "Why congestion charging can be good for business"
We wonder how many people ride round in taxis (exempt from Toll Zone charges). We also note that the British Chamber of Commerce on 16th February 2004 issued a statement about the London experience which said:-
"..The much talked about congestion charge has made little impact in reducing the overall London congestion problems affecting business...The congestion charge itself has created additional problems for businesses within the zone which need to be responded to. A London Chamber survey found that a quarter of central zone retailers are considering moving elsewhere as a result of the charge. Congestion charging is not a silver bullet solution to the Capital's transport problems."  BCC - "London Congestion takes its toll on business "

Tolls the answer to Inadequate Roads
There was a bad accident yesterday on the A74, which is the main route linking England and Scotland. The route is mainly motorway apart from this short stretch. If the road is blocked there is great difficulty finding an alternative route. Some drivers were held up for up to 24 hours because of the accident and the way it was cleared up. There have been calls for road improvements. But the RAC and the Government say that the answer lies in Tolls! They want either to build more roads and toll them, or just toll the existing roads and force traffic off them.
Why don't they just go the whole hog and make it an offence to use the roads?

California Bridge Row Rumbles On
There are almost daily reports on the controversy over the increasing cost estimates for the new "signature" bridge at San Francisco. Report from Michael Canabtuan in San Francisco Chronicle:-  Audit rips Caltrans on bridge costs - Review ordered by Legislature says agency concealed the soaring price tag for bay span

Ken clams up
Ken Livingstone, London Mayor, says that he can't answer questions from the Evening News in Edinburgh because he was ""lawfully unable". Report from Brian Ferguson:-   Evening News - "Ken ducks road tolls quiz on legal advice"

"Why wait seven years to scrap Skye tolls?"
There were several letters in the Herald this morning about the Skye tolls.
One from someone in Oban asked why wait and concluded "The most disturbing aspect of this is the curt dismissal of the case of those who recognised from the start that the toll regime was discredited and illegal and were fined or sent to prison for their opposition. To dismiss out of hand their principled action and the proposition that their sentences be reviewed demonstrates again just how far the Labour Party of today has moved from its roots."
Another was from NAAT (that's us!):- "NOW that the tolls have gone on the Skye Bridge it is time for all the other tolls to go, starting with the Erskine Bridge. The bridge is owned by the Scottish Executive so the tolls could be stopped very quickly."
"The bridge cost 11m to build, but they have so far collected over 80m in tolls. This tax falls unfairly on the people of west Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire Ending this toll tax might also shift some of the traffic using the Clyde tunnel and the Kingston Bridge."
"This decision is a no-brainer. The Scottish Executive should act now."

22 December 2004
Skye Bridge Tolls - The Morning After
As well as maybe a few headaches today after celebrations by the Skye and Kyle community, the politicians seemed to be falling over themselves yesterday to claim the credit for the abolition of the Skye Bridge tolls. Well at least the politicians can recognise that it's popular! One politician who does deserve credit is the local MSP, John Farqhuar Munro. He may not have been a member of the campaign from the start, but his support may have tilted the balance. Now, how's about quashing those convictions of protestors and turning them into medals!
The BBC reported today calls for scrapping of tolls on other bridges. The 2 MSPs involved (Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, and Helen Eadie, the MSP for Dunfermline East) are not just jumping on the bandwaggon, as they have both called before for tolls to be scrapped. Good for them!   Fresh call for bridge toll purge

end
This photo was taken by Ray Shields of SKAT, shortly after the Tolls stopped.
The Police were obviously keen that people didn't pay the toll by mistake!

The ending of Skye tolls has been widely reported including:-
  The Scotsman - "Darkness falls on unloved landmark"   The Scotsman - "To Skye: have yourselves a toll-free Christmas "   The Telegraph - "It's a free ride over the sea to Skye as bridge toll abolished "   The Guardian - "Over the water "   The Guardian - "It was ordinary people who did this"

We even had Fraser Nelson complaining that the tolls should have stayed!!  Scotsman - "Skye Bridge deal is an Executive cop-out"

Severn Too!
John Morgan from Varteg near Pontypool asks "Why should we have to pay to enter Wales from that place across the river? The Skye authority, along with the Scottish parliament, have seen fit to buy out the private toll collection company - we should do the same."  BBC - "Morgan's Shout - Severn Bridge Tolls"

New Jersey to scrap E-Z Pass Discounts in peak periods.
As an inducement to switch to electronic tolling, the New Jersey Turnpike offered a discount. The discount will now only apply offpeak from Jan 2006, making the Authority another $17 million a year.

E-ZPass disaster
New York News Day reports that a Bill is being introduced in New Jersey following a State Commission of Investigation probe into the E-ZPass disaster, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The bill restricts ways in which the bidding process can be bypassed. It also requires that project assessors have relevant experience in the field in which the contract is being awarded and mandates record keeping by state officials dealing with potential contractors. Another provision would ban members of contract evaluation committees from having family ties, personal interest or financial links to potential vendors.
W. Cary Edwards, who led the probe , praised the proposed law:-"As the E-ZPass debacle demonstrated, the existing procurement process lacks proper oversight and accountability and is prone to all sorts of abuse."

It's New Zealand but it could be anywhere
The Residents Action Movement in NZ have issued a press release   Scoop NZ - "Government Should Come Clean"    about the authorities covertly creeping towards Toll roads. Elaine West says:- "Government and Treasury officials are well aware that tactics such as delaying road construction along with increasing costs will wear down the public majority who oppose tolls."

"It is clear that most of the affected community do not want tolled roads as indicated in submissions and surveys. However, the public are being driven to frustration so that they will ultimately accept tolls as a means to an end."

"And it comes as no surprise that Government continues to unfairly target new road taxes from the same road users who already fund public roads through Road User Charges, petrol taxes, vehicle-related charges and income tax."

"The Government should come clean with its secret plans to introduce tolls and congestion fees on our public roads and the Environment Court should force the issue."

21 December 2004
Bravehearts Victory - Skye Bridge Tolls vanish
It is now official that the Skye tolls have gone, with immediate effect.
The Scottish Executive have bought out the right of the Bank of America to collect tolls, the Executive will also pay future maintenance costs. Here are 3 stories today from the BBC:-
Tolls abolished for Skye Bridge (you can click on film clips)   Party planned after toll victory    Timeline: The Skye Bridge tolls
Here is the story on Grampian TV:-    Skye Bridge tolls finally abolished   (you can click on film clips)
And Scottish TV:-    Skye Bridge tolls abolished   (you can click on film clips)
Here are 4 early reports from the Scottish Press Association on The Scotsman online:- First Drivers Cross Bridge for Free    Key Dates in Skye Bridge Controversy    The Financial Cost of the Skye Bridge    Controversial Bridge Tolls Scrapped

This is a great victory for the people of Skye and Kyle who have fought the tolls for 9 years.
Let us hope that it is not too long before all the other tolls in Scotland are removed.
SKAT reaction (and photos)
SKAT and NAAT Press Release
Scottish Executive Press Release
There were early calls for other Tolls to be scrapped. The Evening Telegraph, that serves the Tayside and Fife areas, reported calls for an end to the tolls on the Tay and Forth bridges:-   SCRAP BRIDGE TOLLS APPEAL
In Glasgow, the Evening Times said "Now the focus will switch to campaigns to end tolls on other bridges."

Missouri may change Consitution to allow Tolls
Missouri roads are apparently in a bad state. The usual interests want Tolls introduced, the problem being they will have to cahnge the State Cxonstitution first:-   Legislator Proposes Tolls For Missouri Roads

Malaysian "Highway takes its toll on taxpayers"
Dr Mustafa Anuar of Aliran, a reform movement in Malaysia, today issued the following statement:- "Aliran is appalled by the government's insensitivity towards the hardship that ordinary people will face when the 10 per cent hike in North-South Expressway tolls comes into effect in January. "

"Apart from the higher tolls, citizens will also bear the brunt of the inevitable increases in price of essential goods and services that will follow. Experience tells us that the government will be unable to prevent such price increases. It is disturbing to see the government's pro-business philosophy taking effect at the expense of public interest."

"The government appears to have painted itself into a corner by making such a lop-sided agreement, which allows the highway concessionaire to periodically raise the toll rates without regard to the higher traffic volume on the highway. It is such a blatantly one-sided agreement, which even stipulates that the government must pay hefty compensations if for any reason the toll hikes are deferred."

"Such a practice virtually amounts to a guarantee of profitability by the government to the highway concessionaire. What kind of business 'entrepreneurship' is this - and where is the traditional business risk inherent in any private investment? Why should billions of ringgit in profits on the highway flow to a private entity, which only invested a few billion ringgit to build the highway - and that too financed by taxpayers' money in the form of government loans. No wonder the concessionaire of the proposed Penang Outer Ring Road has already dreamt up a toll hike even before road construction can start."

"Works Minister Samy Vellu was reported to have argued that the higher toll rates are necessary for the government to avoid being burdened with ever-increasing compensation for the concessionaires. But either way, the ordinary taxpayers, who are already paying income tax and road tax, lose. If the toll rates go up, they will have to cough up even more in tolls and hikes in the prices of other essentials. If the government rejects the toll hike and instead pays compensation to the concessionaire, it would mean that taxpayers' money (i.e. public funds) would still flow to the concessionaire."

"We hold the Cabinet and the entire government responsible for this shameful fiasco."

20 December 2004
Tamar Bridge - a few grumbles
We reported on 8th October that they were about to waste 2 million on new toll equipment for the Tamar bridge linking Devon and Cornwall. Now it appears that they are thinking of charging drivers extra money for the electronic tags. There have been a few grumbles, but apparently no one there minds paying the tolls (if you use the bridge and this is wrong, then please contact us at naat):-   BBC - "Drivers may face toll 'tag' costs "

Ozzies Told they must go Cashless
Drivers in Sydney are to be gradually forced onto cashless tolls. (Report on national nine news.) Perhaps George Orwell set 1984 in the wrong country.

Chicago forces Big Trucks off the Skyway
Now that Chicago has sold its Skyway road, the new owners are increasing tolls. Worst affected are big trucks which will be charged higher rates to discourage them from travelling in "peak times". Apparently the peak period in Chicago lasts from 4AM to 8PM. No doubt forcing the big trucks on to less suitable roads is a sensible move. Well, it is if you are a private road operator, as cars are a better class of customer.

New York may increase Tolls on the Thruway
New York is considering raising the tolls on the Thruway, by 25% for cars and 35% for trucks. There is nothing unusual about that. Though it was promised the road would be free by 1996. Isn't it unusual that they didn't keep their promise? Well, maybe not.

NZ Toll - 7 years or 35 years or from here to eternity
The New Zealand Herald reports that they are still discussing the Tauranga Harbour Link Expressway. It looks as if it will be tolled. Tolls Action Group say that any tolls should only be for 7 to 9 years, but those proposing the road say it will be 35 years. Not that it makes much difference what date they say they will lift the toll. Promises to remove Tolls are usually broken.


19 December 2004
Truth at Last!
We reported on 16th & 30th November the rioting following Chinese toll collectors beating up a customer. The official "People's Daily" today reports that the county head has been warned because "his subordinates refused to pay tolls and beat toll-collectors and policemen"!!!!!!

Ken to Carry Tolls to Edinburgh
Ken Livingstone is to come to Edinburgh on 17th January to help sell the Edinburgh Toll. Report from Jeremy Watson:-   Scotland on Sunday - "Ken Livingstone to spell out capital gains"

Skye High Tolls to go?
There is more speculation about the ending of Tolls to Skye. Alan Crawford speaks to the locals:-   Sunday Herald - "Water under the bridge"


18 December 2004
Another Threat to Forth Bridge Toll
We recently (6th & 7th December) mentioned the Inquiry into Forth Road Bridge Toll increase. There is now a report that before the result of that is known they are already planning a bigger increase. To make it worse part of it is for a road scheme (A8000 / M9 spur) which the Inquiry was told the authorities had asked the Scottish Executive to fund:-   Scotsman - "Forth Bridge tolls are set to rise again"


17 December 2004
Austin, the Toll Capital?
There was a meeting to discuss Austin's extensive tolling plans. The Austin Toll Party site is at:-  Austin Toll Party

More USA Tolls
Georgia is considering letting a Toll consortium take over the currently toll free Ga316. Users say that they would take other routes. (firstcoastnews.com)

Dartford asks "Please Sir Can I Have Some More"
Dartford gets 2% of the tolls collected on the Dartford Crossings where the M25 crosses the Thames. The local MP thinks that they should get more.
We are pleased that the MP realises the tolls are an issue. But shouldn't all the MPs in the Kent area be pressing that tolls should go? That would boost the whole area:-   BBC - "More tunnel cash bid for Dartford "


16 December 2004
Tolls on I81?
The Virginia Department of Transport has applied for permission to put tolls on Interstate 81. (Chris Graham, Augusta Free Press.)
Though it is reported on wavy.com that residents at a town meeting in Staunton were opposed to the toll.

USA Tolls Rise
There are reports from various parts of USA of increases in tolls, usually by 20 to 50%. Areas affected include New York. At Albany, part of the reason given for raising tolls is to pay for new tolling equipment! Contractors have welcomed toll increases as they are expecting that some of it will be spent on the roads.

Colorado is considering adding Toll lanes to its existing free roads. Someone has gained already, as the study that came up with this advice cost $600,000. (Jeffrey Leib in Denver Post.)

Texas to build Massive Network of Toll roads
Texas is planning to build 4,000 miles of new transport links mainly as toll roads. The contract for the first phase (316 miles from Dallas to San Antonio) has been given to Spanish Toll group Cintra. As well as paying for the road, they will make a present of $1.2 billion to the State. Now, tell me again, whrere does this money come from? Report from Associated Press:-  TXDOT Picks Spanish Consortium To Build First Leg

Western Democracy Comes to Afghanistan
Afghanistan is being lent money (at 1% interest) to build more roads and to instal tolls on existing roads. (Report on bignewsnetwork.com.)

London "Gateway" Bridge
We reported on 24th November that councillors in Greenwich were about to give planning permission for the so called Thames "Gateway" bridge. Well now, councillors in Newham have approved it, though with numerous conditions including Toll discounts for its residents:-  BBC - "Thames bridge gets vital backing "


15 December 2004
Seattle wants Tolls. Or do they?
Further to the Connecticut story yesterdy, Jane Hadley at Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a group has "come out squarely in favor of road tolls". They also want to increase gasoline taxes. An unusual want list. Though the group is composed of "business, labor and environmental representatives", so we can see what they might all get out of it, as the money would be spent on "transit" projects as well as roads. But we wonder if Seattle road users want Tolls?

Swiss Tolls - most don't want them
Nzz.ch reports that the Swiss are considering London like Toll zones for Zurich, Bern and Geneva. Apparently those who live in the proposed zones are in favour of them, whilst those from outside are not. The Swiss Parliament "has repeatedly rejected moves to introduce a nationwide toll system".

Trucks Only toll road
Birmingham News in Washington state reports a proposal for a trucks only 100 mile long toll road.
We wish them the best of luck as truckers don't like tolls. At least the road surface won't get damaged!

Xmas present
On Christmas Day, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority will again not charge tolls on the Peace bridge between USA and Canada.

Greek Bus hijacking
Charges were suspended on nearby toll road, (report from ana.gr).

Tay Sheep
Further to yesterday's report, Cllr Arbuckle has complained and said that "motorists are getting fleeced." Apparentl;y 25% of the existing charge goes in collection costs. (And that is before the cost of a planned move and replacement of toll booths.):-  Evening Telegraph - "Tay tolls 'fleecing' drivers "

Toll non-Collect not yet a Capital offence
Unfortunately it looks as if Germany's delayed "Toll Collect" system (originally due to start on 31 August 2003) will start on 1 January 2005, according to a report from Brian Parkin in Berlin.
The German government is expected to make 2.4 billion euros a year, but it seems likely that the consortium running it will have lost a substantial amount.
Germany's Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe when asked about infringements said:- "We won't hang people on the motorway but will follow up abuse with rigor."
On a brighter note he said that motorists would not be asked to pay tolls, citing the country's higher than average road taxes, and commuters' dependency on cars. - Well let's wait and see:-  Bloomberg.com - "Germany Says Truck Toll Will Start Jan. 1, Raise EU2.4 Billion"

Voters angry in the Land of Oz
There are continuing rumbles in Victoria over the broken promises of politicians about tolling of the Mitcham-Frankston Road. The latest twist is that 2 of the politicians, who have been rightly complaining about the tolling, bought shares in the new toll road. This is a pity, but Tolls do seem to be the latest Gold Rush.


14 December 2004
More businesses complain 1
Businesses outside the charging zone believe that they have lost trade because people think that they are inside:-   Evening Standard - 'It's just another tax... and the way it operates is a shambles'

More businesses complain 2
Yet another adverse survey, this time from the Forum for Private Business:-   Evening Standard - Companies criticise C-charge

""Useful?" Not a Lot"
With the Skye tolls expected to go at the end of this month, the American owned Skye Bridge Company showed their generosity.
The Skye and Lochalsh Orchestra held a fund-raising night for itself and a new chemotherapy unit at Broadford Hospital. The Company, asked for an auction prize, donated a book of 20 Toll tickets to cross the Skye bridge. Not surprisingly there were no takers. (Report from Ken Smoth and David Belcher in the Herald.)

Highest Bridge
millau President Chirac opened the world's highest bridge at Millau in southern France. The bridge has been acclaimed for its engineering and beauty (picture from Press Association). Unfortunately it will be tolled for 75 years, with the company reportedly making a 15% annual return.

The bridge cost 390 million euros to build (= 276 million or $520 million). Sounds a lot? Yes. But in Britain there is over 30 billion a year in car and road taxes that is not spent on roads. This is enough to pay for 2 new Millau bridges EVERY week, and WITHOUT Tolls!


Reduce Tolls to attract visitors
It seems that it is not only Scotland that realise that tolls deter visitors. Today online in Singapore reports that it could soon be cheaper for Malaysian motorists to come to Singapore. The Government is reviewing Tolls charged to vistors "We want to encourage more Malaysians to visit Singapore and the most practical way they come is by car."

Connecticut Tolls
Futher to the report on the 2nd, the"Transportation Strategy Board" proposes increases in gasoline taxes and "a modern system of tolls" to pay for roads. (Oh! And railways. And airports.)
It seems that road users must have very deep pockets.

Shadow Tolls in Canada
Enironmental approval has been given for a new bridge across the Mackenzie river in the North West Territories. The bridge will be a "public-private partnership". This off balance sheet financing is popular with governments around the world. The bridge will cost $50 million, and the company will get about $4.5 million a year for 35 years. But at least they are pretend tolls, and not ones inflicted on the road users.

Increase in Tay Bridge Tolls?
Grampian tv reports that "Motorists crossing the River Tay from Dundee to Fife could be faced with a hike in bridge tolls. The Scottish Executive have refused an application from the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board for cash to pay for repairs to the forty year old structure."
The Tay is the scene of a major disaster when the railway bridge collapsed in 1879 killing 75 people on the train that was crossing.


13 December 2004
"Held up on the Queen's (Antipodean) Highway"
We reported on the 1st that the NZ Government were considering tolling extension to Aukland motorway.
Mathew Dearnaley in the New Zealand Herald now reports that they may change their mind because of opposition in what will be an election year. One opponenrt is Dr Hans Grueber. He is considering asking the Auditor-General to investigate the project, saying tolls are a less honest and more inefficient way of raising money for infrastructure than road taxes already paid by motorists. He believes there must be other reasons for pushing for tolls, which he says will require a new industry to collect the money and become a first step towards privatising roads as well as potentially opening the way for greater surveillance of citizens. He said "New Zealanders will not only be held up on the Queen's highway, but the highway itself will be stolen from them." Full report:-  Puhoi motorway start a 'token'

Toll Zones a "Wrecking ball"
The Forum of Private Business today issued a press release giving their views on "congestion charging" following a survey they did.
The survey found around 90% of businesses reported a fall in profits, with a quarter of firms saying that profits had fallen 15 to 30%.
FPB Chief Executive, Nick Goulding, said that the findings of their survey were a "stark and compelling warning to other cities, thinking of introducing congestion charging. Our survey shows beyond any doubt that congestion charging is having a devastating impact on small businesses":-  FPB warns of congestion charging's 'wrecking ball' effect
A spokesperson for the Toll Zone said that the business problems were due to the economy and fall in tourism and not the toll.


12 December 2004
Italians to Toll UK Motorways?
On 13th October we reported that AGI in Italy had reported plans for Tolls in Britain that we did not know about. We have now come across this story from Suzanne Harvey:-

An Italian toll road millionaire has revealed that he is in talks with the Government over plans to charge cars using ALL British motorways.
Motorists would pay charges on all M-Ways - as they do on the new M6 Toll - if Gian Maria Gros-Pietro - a friend of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi - gets his way.
He runs Autostrade SpA and is a partner in the firm that operates and maintains the M6 Toll.
Gros-Pietro's firm runs Italy's motorway network and he wants to operate the UK's 1500-mile motorway network as toll roads.
He outlined his concept in detail during a speech he made at an international business conference in Florence.

He said: "The British Government has begun the process to take bids to select a company to collect tolls on the motorway network.
"This is a very complex bid, which we still have not finalised.
"We plan to charge lorries and HGVs to use 20,000 kilometres of A roads and motorways.
"Light vehicles will only have to pay to use the motorway network.
"Autostrade is the sole bidder at the moment but we are not ruling out the possibility that we will be working in partnership with other companies."

The Automobile Association warned any plans to impose blanket tolls on UK motorways would be "deeply unpopular."
Spokeswoman Claire Price said: "British motorists already pay thousands of pounds in petrol and road tax without being made to shell-out to use the motorway as well.
"Toll roads are deeply unpopular here and it would be incredibly unfair to force people to pay to use the motorway.
"Sadly drivers look set to be charged for using many new roads, with the M6 toll just the tip of the iceberg."

John McGoldrick of the National Alliance Against Tolls pledged to fight the proposals.
He said: "It looks like the Italians have let the cat out of the bag.
"Motor cars and road travel is demonised by those who seek to add tolls to the already heavy tax burden.
"The vast majority of road users dislike tolls even more then other motoring taxes.
"Tolls don't make sense for the national economy, they cost money to collect, delay vehicles and cause many drivers to divert onto less suitable routes. "

A Department for Transport spokeswoman confirmed that Autostrade is among the bidders to run a Lorry Road User Charge, which is due to come into force in the UK in 2007.
Others bidding for the multi-million pound contract include BT, IBM and Daimler Chrysler.
The spokeswoman suggested that the idea of the scheme being extended to cars was an "error in translation".
Tolls go to Arts
Cars pay $3 to cross the Delaware river. Now abclocal in Philadelhia report that millions of the tolls go to support the arts including $250,000 to an art school with 50 students.
PS Subsequent reports indicate that the Delawere River Port Authority has been very generous with distributing tolls money.

"Why are fast lanes slow?"
Boston.com (Emily Sharton) discusses various issues with tolls, including:- "It seems the no-cash Fast Lanes -- which are meant to expedite traffic flow -- have become slow lanes. There are only two Fast Lane booths and each has a long backup. On the other hand, the regular toll booths have no backups or, if there is a backup, it is only two or three cars at most." Depending on the configuration and space, it is not necessarily easy to add more booths or to switch booths between cash and electronic tolls.

Tolls Over Africa
Brendan Boyle on allafrica.com reports that Johannesburg is considering various measures to reduce congestion. One is copying London's Toll zone. Another is more use of public transport.
Brendan says "For those who do use public transport, the strong preference is for taxis and not trains or buses." - Hear, hear. We don't believe using taxis reduces congestion (unless the taxi is more like a minibus). But replacing cars with taxis would certainly boost employment.


11 December 2004
M6 Toll
Alistair Darling makes it clear to the Express & Star in the Midlands that he favours building a new Toll road rather than widening the existing M6.
It was known that one of the local Labour MPs, David Kidney, was opposed to the Toll road plan, it now seems as if he is backing the original (non toll) widening plan:-  Minister backs M6 expressway plan

It's Got To Be Taxes
The New River Valley Planning District Commission in Virginia is urging that sources other than gas taxes should be used to finance roads. It seems that they want a source that will discourage people from using the roads. We wonder what that might be?
But Democrat State Senator John Edwards told them- "Suggestions had included bonds, which must be repaid; tolls, which nobody wants; and raiding the budget surplus, which would be a one-time fix. None of those are solutions. It's got to be taxes." (From Paul Dellinger at roanoke.com.)


10 December 2004
MSPs want Tolls to go
The Herald reported on a dispute where EU say ferry servuices have to go out to tender. It also reported that Clydeside MSPs are pressing for end to tolls on the Erskine bridge. (We wonder why all the Fife MSPs are not joining in?

California 1
Philip Matier and Andrew Ross of San Fancisco Chronicle report on the controversy over the cost and design and paying for a new Bay Area bridge:-  Governor to go for simpler bay span
P.S. It was reported by klta.trb.com that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has definitely decided to go for a cheaper design. The new bridge is required because of earthquake "damage" to the old bridge. But the estimated cost of the bridge has escalated from $1.3 billion to $5 billion, while $2.1 billion has already been "ponied up" in tolls.

California 2
Califorinia's Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed that gasoline tax should be replaced with tolls based on "spies in the sky". The resaon is that the yield from gas tax is falling as vehicles switch to more fuel efficent cars or supposedly "greener" fuels. Isn't that what they wanted?
The proposal comes despite California only spending about half what is collected on the roads.
Duane D. Freese reporting in Tech Central says "So on these questions, advocates for intelligent highways will need to have alternative plans or arguments at the ready for aggrieved hybrid buyers and privacy advocates and those for the poor. Otherwise intelligent transportation systems will find themselves mired in the same muck as Barucki's tax proposal -- in which case they'll never get off the ground."  Will 'Dumb' Tax Kill Smart Highways?

Irish Toll Road Plan to be Dropped
A proposal to toll the Newbridge bypass has been scrapped by a new Minister, to the relief of business and community interests in the town. It was felt that traffic avoiding the toll would create traffic problems in the town. Cllr. John O'Neill said that motorists were already taxed in various ways and it was cheeky to expect them to pay extra tolls as well. Report from Eamonn O'Molloy in Kildare Nationalist:-  Relief as Newbridge by-pass toll plan dropped


9 December 2004
Not so Happy 1st Birthday
NAAT PRESS RELEASE - "M6 ONE YEAR WASTED"

Today (9th) the M6 toll road is one year old.
To celebrate the operators were giving away sweets.
They also announced that the discounted tolls to attract more lorries will be extended for an indefinite period, and that the company will donate 1 day's tolls to charity from next year.
The company says that the new road has carried over 16 million vehicles in its first year.

A spokesman for the National Alliance Against Tolls said:-

" The equivalent stretch of the old M6 carried about 175,000 vehicles a day. The Toll road is carrying about 50,000."
" It may make a profit for the operator, but it is a wasted investment for the country as a whole as most traffic will stick to the old M6 and other roads to avoid the toll. This means longer journeys, on probably less suitable roads."
"It isn't just the operator that bears the cost of a new road, we all bear it through loss of land and through disruption during the construction period. The country should therefore get the maximum benefit when it is complete. That can only be achieved by not tolling it.
"Road users want no more toll roads and existing tolls scrapped."
M6 Toll Company press release:-  "Public backs the M6 Toll"

This is part of Friends of the Earth Press Release today:- "The M6 Toll isn't working. It hasn't attracted the traffic levels predicted and the road's owners are supporting and promoting greenbelt and greenfield developments in an attempt to generate more traffic. This is a simplistic car-based, traffic-generating development strategy which will undermine the regeneration of urban areas in the West Midlands. This should be a cautionary tale for the Welsh Assembly Government which should think carefully before deciding whether to go ahead with their plans for a toll motorway".
We don't completely agree with the Greens, they would probably like to see a Toll, but No road!
Our view is that if you want to get the full benefit from a road then it should not be tolled.

Do not go Forth alone
The Evening News reports that restrictions may be introduced for "Single Occupancy Vehicles" in Fife apparaoching the Forth Road Bridge and that "SOV"s crossing in peak periods will pay a far higher toll:-  Solo bridge drivers set to face fines

Virginia wants Tolls
Edie Gros in the Freelance Star of Richmond reports that the State General Assembly is considering how to finance roads. There have been suggestions that the state gasoline tax (17.5 cents a gallon) could be raised. Someone has even suggested that all the gas tax be spernt on the roads! But House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith of Salem (why does that ring a bell?) proposes that roads be built privately and financed through tolls. "..it's an ancient way of building it, it's a respectable way of building it, but it's also a modern way of building it .."
It's also the politicians way of building it, but not the road users way.

Orlando Tolls
Voters in Florida in 2003 rejected the wonderland idea that sales tax would be increased partly to pay for putting toll lanes on existing roads. It appears that some of the politicians still want to go ahead, but many are still opposed including Florida Republican congressman John Mica, he said - "It's offensive to those who are entitled to a free interstate, to a highway that they have already paid tax dollars for"   Are Tolls Coming To I-4?

More on More Liverpool Tolls
There has been more about the Bridges from the Daily Post:-    Countdown to D-Day for 335m bid for second Mersey crossing
  and Simon Drury in the Weekly News:-  For whom the bridge tolls
It seems that they are trying to gradually soften the locals up to the idea of more tolls. But one of the members of our alliance is protesting, story in next day's (10th) Daily Post:-  Toll plans for Mersey bridges face tough opposition

Beggar My Neighbour
It is reported (The Journal Times) that Wisconsin which is currently free of the dreaded Toll roads is considering introducing them. Why? Because neighbouring Illinois has toll roads, and Wisconsin wonders why people from Illinois get to use Wisconsin roads for nothing, but Wisconsin people have to pay to use Illinois roads.
In our view all roads should be toll free, and paid for out of the gasoline taxes.


8 December 2004
"First Class motoring for the aristocracy"
Following the announcement of another Toll motorway (see 7th), Stephen Petty writes "Another step in the right direction, surely. If we are going to scar our landscape with more roads, it is of course essential that only a handful of the population ever gets to use them."-  The Times - Ask not. It tolls for me

M6 Non Story
This is a story that most people will have missed, because the only one that seemed to run it was the Birmingham Evening Times. They reported that traffic on the M6 Toll had fallen for the 4th month in succession:-  Drivers shunning M6 Toll

Speculation on End of Skye Toll
Speculation is growing about the long awaited announcement confirming that the Skye Tolls have gone:-  BBC - Bridge charge deal seems nearer

Tolls Legal Dispute Ends
A long running dispute in Florida between Sanibel City and Lee County has ended. The city had argued that the county should have maintained the toll bridges better and they would not have had to be replaced. There was a secondary argument over the city's share of the Toll profits. Report from Kevin Lollar:-  new-press.com - "Sanibel to drop bridge lawsuits"

Toll Rebate
Legislators in Massachusetts are considering making changes to the way tolls are administered. Believe it or not, drivers who use the Turnpike can claim back the tax on the "gas" they consume while on the Toll road. To claim they have to produce gas and toll receipts. They want to make the process less cumbersome. How's about just scrapping the Tolls?   Millford Daily News - "Toll-related bills seek relief"
PS It was reported on the 9th that the legislators had agreed that up to $750 for tolls could be deducted from Income when assessing tax.

Norway found an Energy secret?
Bent Isak Ramberg Oksvold in bellona.no reports on more incentives for cars fueled by hydrogen.
Electric cars were exempted from licence taxes in 1990, from tolls in 1996 and from VAT in 2000. It seems that they are now to do the same for cars that burn hydrogen.
We must admit that we don't quite understand what is going on, as Norway is oil rich. But it seems that the hydrogen is produced from oil, and that carbon dioxide that is produced in the process is stored somewhere. Sounds a bit like a magic trick.
Of course it must also help if, like Norway, you don't need road taxes because....?
Yes, that's right they don't need taxes because of their massive oil revenues:-  Norway implements tax incentives for hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles

"Right thing to do"
On the Sunday following Thanksgiving there was heavy congestion and accidents on the Ohio Turnpike. The tolls were suspended intermittently to clear traffic. The man in charge of the Turnpike said ""it was the right thing to do." (Report on toledoblade.com from David Patch.)
The right thing to do would be to scrap the tolls.


7 December 2004
Another Toll Road planned
Today it was the turn of the Welsh Assemby to add to the pain of road users. A new road to relieve congestion on M4 near Newport was announced. BUT it is to be tolled. This not only takes even more money out of the pockets of road users, it also automatically ensures that the road will be underused :-    BBC - "M4 relief road plan unveiled"
Here are some road users views emailed to the BBC:-    BBC - "Have your say: Transport changes"
NAAT issued this statement:- "John Warman, chairman of the Campaign Against Severn Tolls said "Like most people we welcome the proposal for a new road. But tolling it is unfair when road users already pay so much tax. For those of us who use the Severn bridge it will be a double whammy.""

Day 2 of Forth Toll Inquiry
Inquiry into Increase in Toll on Forth Road Bridge ended today:-    BBC - "Motorists attack bridge toll rise"
You can see more here:-    Forth

Florida Toll Poll Charter
Fort Meyers Beach has not got any toll roads. But just to make sure, the town council voted to add to their charter a clause that Tolls can never happen without a poll of all citizens. (Report from Pamela Smith Hayford at news-press.com.)

Electronic Tolls to Electronic Tolls
wlbz2.com reports that the Maine Turnpike Authority is to bring in an electronic tolling system (E-Z-Pass) at a cost of $10 million. The system replaces the Transpass system which cost $20 million way back in 1997.

"It's time to end toll roads"
John Grogan of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently suggested scrapping tolls booths and forcing all drivers to use electronic toll system to avoid queues. Some drivers agreed with him. But others said they believed it should be free. "Get rid of the cursed tolls once and for all, they virtually screamed."
Some of the quotes were:-

Jim Murray of Lumberton -"It's time to end toll roads. We are competing in a very competitive world market, and we are putting roadblocks up to slow us down - not to mention the fuel that is wasted sitting in line."

Jack Bellis of Wyndmoor -"We need to eliminate toll collection altogether.If we need to place the true cost of driving on drivers, then embed it into the price of gasoline or one-time taxes such as registration fees." Jim Ungerman of Feasterville - "If current wages and benefits, and future pension costs, are considered, would it not be cheaper in the long run to eliminate toll collectors now, even if this means making the turnpike toll-free?"

6 December 2004
All Scottish Tolls may go
Here is a very interesting story from Jonathan Paisley in the Evening Times. Keep your fingers crossed for all 4 of Scotland's tolls!  Tolls on the Erskine Bridge set to be axed (story is on 2 pages)

Day 1 of Forth Toll Inquiry
Inquiry into Increase in Toll on Forth Road Bridge started today:-    BBC - "Toll rise 'needed to meet costs'"
Here is what the authority that wants the increase had to say to the Evening News:-    'Eco-paint' blamed for road bridge tolls hike
And this is the report by Leeza Clark in the Courier in the next day's paper:-    Tolls vital for bridge operation, inquiry told
You can see more here:-    Forth

"Infrastucture Boom Pays Off for MIG Investors"
MIG share value has incresaed 45% since April, according to Rod Myer of theage.com. But "The M6, opened almost a year ago, has not reached its revenue target".

More Roads, No Tolls
South Carolina Chamber of Commerce wants to see the state's highways improved to promote economic development. "The chamber suggests increasing the motor fuel user fee to fund infrastructure needs. They also want the General Assembly to put extra money from general fund growth into the Highway Fund to enhance infrastructure. Members do not want to see tolls allowed on existing roads and interstates." (Report from AMY GEIER EDGAR of Associated Press in thestate.com.)

More on Ethics
We reported on 30th November about "Ethics". According to mccall.com the Toll board hired consultants to train staff on how to avoid giving straight answers to reporters or members of the public. (Did the consultants come from Britain?)


3 December 2004
Sanibel Tolls still hurting
Tourist business is down an average of 32% since bridge tolls doubled from $3 to $6. This is despite various promotions and some businesses refunding their customer's toll fee. (Reported by Laura Ruane of news-press.com in Florida.)

Ohio's turn to Strike?
Ohio Turnpike workers may strike. Their contarct expires New Year's Day (Reported by David Patch on toldeoblade.com.)

Lorry Restrictions to be tested
The Highways Agency is to trial restricting Lorries to the inside lane.
This will be better for car drivers, and the trial may show that it will reduce accidents and congestion; but will the food be stale by the time it gets to the supermarkets?   BBC - "M-way overtaking ban for lorries"

The money-making machine
Smh.com in Australia reports that a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank , ultimate owner of most of the M6Toll has purchased Britain' NTL:Broadcast, which owns the transmission towers in the UK that service media companies, mobile operators and emergency services. Eliabeth Knight's report says "And for Macquarie Bank it's another fabulous exercise in making the money-making machine more money."


2 December 2004
Time and Tolls
We all know that Tolls delay vehicles, but you would not expect it to happen to ambulances:-    BBC - "Toll motorway holds up ambulance"
P.S. There was this follow up on 7th:-    BBC - "Tag system for M6 Toll paramedics "

Fingers still crossed for Skye
The Herald reported that the Scottish Executive has agreed terms with the Bridge Company and that the abolition will be announced within the next week.

Connecticut Tolls?
The "Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area" have reccommended Tolls as a "congestion mitigation tool". It remains to be seen whether the people of the Constitution state will fall for that.

Crooks join the Bonanza
MENAFN.com reports that forgers in Japan produced about 5 million toll tickets with a face value of $39 million:-    Japanese forgers made millions on tolls

Ohio subsidises Truck Tolls
The Ohio State Senate has approved a bill to spend $23 million in state gasoline tax to subsidise the Ohio Turnpike Commission's reduction of tolls for trucks for 18 months. A Democrat asked why the state was using gas tax money when the turnpike commission has plenty of money.


1 December 2004
Business organisations queue to complain
Various organisations criticise the charge. They include London First who once welcomed the charge:-   Evening Standard - 8 charge could ruin firms

More Tolls at Liverpool
There have been more stories about the proposed new Mersey bridge and the tolling of that and the existing bridge. There seems to be a well organised campaign for it, but it looks as if a decision on it will be further delayed:-    Traffic chaos looms without new crossing
The "Mersey Tunnels Users Association" have suggested that cuts in tunnels tolls, would help to relieve congestion before and if any new bridge is built.

Don't Jump Off the Roof Dad!
The Macon Telegraph in Atlanta, Georgia reports that some counties are considering letting private firms add toll lanes to the existing toll free roads. One official wonders "whether the tolls would be discontinued once the project is paid off". Does the lion let the antelope go?

NZ may get Toll on one road but maybe not on another
It is reported that the NZ government is considering tolling an extension to Auckland motorway.
At the same time the New Zealand First Party are continuing to press for the Tauranga Harbour Link Bridge to be built without tolls:-    Scoop - "Tauranga Bridge: Half A Solution"

"Truckers' troubles: safety on a less open road"
Patrik Jonsson in the Christian Science Monitor reports on problems facing US truckers, including:- "In some states, such as Ohio, truckers have gone out of their way to avoid tolls by switching to other highways, where accident rates are up to six times higher than on the interstates.".

Turnpike Strike over
Following conflicting reports yesterday, it looks as if the Pennsylvania Turnpike strike is over, unfortunately. The toll collectors were reportedly already earning $40,000 a year, but it seems only right that the generosity of motorists should be widely spread. After all the tolls recently (1st August) increased 44%, so fair shares for all.

Tolls double
On the Illinois Turnpike, the tolls are to DOUBLE from 1st Jan for those who don't use the electronic "I-Pass" system.

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