30 December 2005
DECEMBER 2005 NEWS
Melbourne Con charge
The Australians are thinking of introducing a London style Congestion Charge. Like most people they have fallen for the myths of the success of the London scheme. Though it is difficult to predict what the overall effect will be in another city:- The Age - "Gridlock: new push on city car tax".
Stockholm's Con Charge - Popular?
Stockholm's Congestion Charge trial begins on 3rd January. Another survey The Local - "More opposed to Stockholm congestion charge" reveals how unpopular it is. Will Stockholm be able to employ spin doctors to fool the news media as London did? We will see.
More on Brave New World
Report (or is it an advertisement?) from the BBC on the use of Galileo for road pricing "Navigating future for road charges".
28 December 2005
Launch of Brave New World
The first of Galileo's 30 spy satellites is due to be put into space today on board a Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome. The satellites are to be used by the military, the spooks and the trolls.
27 December 2005
Italy's AGI reports on a toll scam. If it is this easy to cheat the tolls, why isn't everyone doing it? "TELEPASS FRAUD". Comically, the Eurotollcrats are planning on taking Italy to court for having official discounts too high (see 15th December).
There is a row in Maryland about the proposed "Inter County Connector". The cause of the row is that poorer people will not be able to afford to use the road, which may make it more difficult to get a job. The Trolls response is that they "will make travel opportunities available to people of all socioeconomic levels". It isn't clear what this means. They also say that it is "financially impossible to build the road unless it is tolled". This is the Big Lie which is being sold to people all over the world. The truth is that such infrastucture can be paid for by borrowing or taxes. If it is borrowed, then it is a case of whether the borrowing is repaid from tolls or taxes. The Trolls want tolls, because it generates lots of money which passes through their hands. And yes, Trolls do have very sticky fingers.
Over a year ago (29th November 2004) we reported on an experiment in Seattle where 500 drivers had had money deposited in a special account. As they drive, tolls are deducted. At the end of the trial, they get to keep any unspent money. It seems that the trial is still going on and there is now a report from Eric Pryne in the Seattle Times:- "Do cash incentives alter driving habits?".
Though there is no conclusion from the study, they think that there will be logictical difficulties if all cars have to be fitted with devices, there were also signal reception problems in downtown streets and some concerns over privacy.
But what was the effect on driving habits? - "the study's 400 participants actually are driving a bit more than they did before the experiment started. But they're also paying a little less than they would have if the tolls had been in force when researchers first began monitoring their driving. That could mean the volunteers are avoiding roads with the steepest tolls at times, even if it takes them out of their way.". They didn't need an experiment to show that most drivers will avoid tolls when they can. This means that they will use a longer and less suitable route.
26 December 2005
American Christmas Spirit
It seems that in some parts of America, toll collectors have joined the ranks of heroes. One paper on the eve of Xmas included those "Collecting tolls at bridges and tunnels" in their praise- "Their toil is too often unsung, though they no doubt would prefer to be home with friends and kin rather than on the job. The smiles of these individuals make a joyous day even brighter."
Though we are glad to see that all Americans have not completely lost their sanity, as another paper reports the words of a Californian toll collector "What they need to do is make all these lanes free so we can spend Christmastime at home with our families."
A Republican state senator from Virginia has revealed a plan to impose tolls on motorists using interstates 95 and 85 near the state line south of Richmond. The plans has been discussed with North Carolina politicians. The loot would be shared out between the two states. Charlotte Observer
"Progress" report on Texas Tolls:- Austin American Statesman - "End of the open road"
Comments on Congress paying for pilot schemes for vehicle tracking:- Hammer of Truth - "I know where you were last summer..."
24 December 2005
Toll Angels at Xmas
The Washington Post reports on the tough job of these unappreciated public servants. We agree that it can be tough, and hope that they are eventually all found some productive occupation. "In Job With Little Comfort, Toll Taker Brings Joy"
Kentucky's last two tolls should end in the next year. Though if they are kept till the last possible moment, then it will be June 2007. A local business leader called them "a roadblock to development" Lexington Herald - "Last 2 Kentucky toll parkways set to be freed up"
23 December 2005
Australian drivers fined for not using toll roads
It must be difficult to avoid toll roads in Australia, they even close other roads to force you to use the toll. But it seems that some have managed it. So cars with toll transponders, are to be fined $10 every three months, if they have not used the tolls:- The Courier Mail - "Drivers fined for avoiding tollways".
Trolls want $43,000 from Cancer Patient's Family
The newspaper.com report a story from PE.com. The toll collectors in Orange County, California want $43,638 (25 thousand pounds) in tolls and penalties from the Casillas family. They used a toll road to take their daughter to hospital for leukemia treatment, and their transponder was linked to a closed bank account. Toll officials have so far managed to get $10,000 (£6,000) by blocking the family's attempt to refinance their home to pay medical bills. "Toll Road Charges Cancer Patient's Family $43,638"
Con Charge in Court
The recently set up London Motorists Action Group (see 21st November) has taken its first case to court. One of the members is disputing charges for bailff's letters and visits following upaid con charges. Hampstead Express.
Australian drivers "back tolls"
Down under, drivers "back" tolls, ot at least that is what the headline in most Oz papers says:- The Australian - "NRMA 'would back' highway toll". The groups which supposedly represent Australian motorists are weak when it comes to tolls. In this case they have said that they would accept a toll on the Pacific Highway "But it would have to be last card in the pack."
We wonder if they will ever realise that the roads will be funded by Australian pension funds any way. Isn't it better for everyone if the Government pays them back through gas taxes etc, rather than everyone suffers tolls, and the pension funds have a bigger risk?
People who live near the Delaware river must love tolls. They have the "Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission" which runs the Trenton-Morrisville, New Hope-Lambertville, Interstate 78, Easton-Phillipsburg, Portland-Columbia, Delaware Water Gap Interstate 80, and Milford-Montague toll bridges. and they have the "Delaware River Port Authority" which gets it's income from tolls on Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, and Betsy Ross bridges. What they have in common is that the tolls are spent on - almost anything. There is an argument at the moment between New Jersey and Pennsylvania politicians about using $500 million to dredge the river Philly.com - "Rendell vows not to close bridges"
Drivers do not want road tolls. Most of us probably already knew that, but it has been confirmed today by the results of a survey released by the RAC Foundation. The survey indicated that only 11% were prepared to pay tolls on all roads. Some may wonder why it was so high!
The RAC Foundation have been campaigning in favour of road tolls. Though they do have various conditions, including - reductions in other motoring taxes, some proceeds to be spent on transport, protection of privacy and protection for the least well off. Our view on this is:-
Any one who has bothered to look at the facts will realise that Road pricing is the daftest idea ever Reasons Why Idea Is Daft. The Government themselves say that the initial set up cost could be up to £62 billion. Allowing for running costs gives an average cost of about £10 billion a year. This is the equivalent of adding 20 pence on to the cost of a litre of fuel - just to cover the cost of collecting the charge. So there will be no proceeds to spend on transport, unless there is an even bigger increase in taxes.
You might as well believe in Santa Claus, as believe that the Government would not track where drivers are and what they are doing. And if anyone is forced off the road by tolls, will it be the better off driver of a big gas guzzler, or the poorer driver of a smaller car?"
22 December 2005
Two wheels good, Four wheels bad
The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research say that a motorcycle emits more air pollutants than a car, including 16 times more hydrocarbons, and three times more carbon monoxide:- Medical News Today. Some may find this surprising, but a motorcycle is not big enough for the same filters etc as on a car. The absurdity is that in many cases, there is no toll or congestion charge for motor bikes. We are not suggesting that bikes be tolled, but we wonder what the logic (if any) of the trolls is.
1984 is just a few years ahead
The Independent has a long report on the work of the National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Data Centre. It will probably be used if road pricing is introduced. A Chief Constable described it as "an ubiquitous policing tool". "Surveillance UK: why this revolution is only the start"
Tolls, tolls, tolls, tolls or tolls
Democracy in action - Commissioners in various parts of Texas are voting on tolls. Their views will go to the North Texas Tollway Authority. They have 5 choices - tolls, tolls, tolls, tolls or tolls. Which one will they go for?
Environmental group oppose Toll road
Also in Texas, an environmental group - Aquifer Guardians - have filed a law suit to stop a new toll road. They are mainly opposed to building more roads in this location. But they also oppose tolling it, as tolls will mean more lanes are required. MySanAntonio - "Activists seek injunction to stop U.S. 281 toll project"
Guide to Stockholm's Con Charge
The Local has a comprehensive guide to Stockholm's Congestion Charge trial which begins on 3rd January and "ends" at end of July. The trial will cost 3.8 billion kronor ($500 million or £300 million).
A new bridge is planned for the Thames, which for some odd reason is to be called the Thames "Gateway", though there are other bridges up and down river from it. The bridge is to be tolled, but locals were promised discounts. Now in a bid to reduce the traffic using the bridge, they plan to increase tolls and reduce the numbers getting discounts:- The Mercury - "Anger as Bexley residents lose bridge toll discount". Why don't they follow this policy to it's logical conclusion and charge all users say £1,000 tolls and thus have no traffic at all!
Roads not toll booths
An ex planning director in Texas says that the current lobbying for toll roads has arisen because developers were allowed to "blanket" the area without providing adequate roads.My SA- "S.A. needs more roads, not toll booths"
21 December 2005
Happy Birthday Skye
A year ago the people of Skye woke up to discover that the despised tolls had gone overnight (see December 2004 News). To mark the anniversary we issued a press release. Here is part of it:-
WILL 2006, bring joy or grief to those campaigning for an end to the nations' road tolls?
Tolls on the Bridge to Skye ended a year ago today. It was the first significant stopping of tolls in Britain since the Second World War. Though the fight on Skye is not completely over, as over 100 islanders were left with unjust criminal records.
Scotland used to have many tolls, but most only survive as part of the name of a street or district. There are only three real tolls left - the Clyde at Erskine, the Forth and the Tay.
The Executive has been carrying out a review of tolls for the last two years. Though they removed the Skye Bridge toll, they seem to be determined to keep the remaining tolls.
Two of the tolls are soon due to end anyway (Forth at the end of March, Erskine on the 1st July), but it is expected that the minister, Tavish Scott, will make orders to extend them.
The tolls are long past their sell by date and we have petitioned the politicians to end all the tolls. sign our petition.
20 December 2005
EZ come EZ go
The discounts offered to lure people into having tolls automatically charged, are to end on the New Jersey Turnpike. Philly.com says "There's no such thing as a free ride, and soon on the New Jersey Turnpike, there won't be many discounted ones, either" "Turnpike ending E-ZPass discount
Meath County Council are threatening to introduce emergency by-laws to try and stop truckers using Enfield to escape the M4 tolls. A familiar story. It is also familar that the authorities don't see that the problem is the toll:- Mayo News.
Euro Truckers Unhappy
Transport News Network reports that the International Road Transport Union is unhappy with the recent European toll agreement (see 14th December). Truckers say that there is no guarantee that the higher tolls will be spent on roads, and that higher road transport costs will make Europe increasingly uncompetitive. "Eurovignette Directive is Flawed".
"Anti Social bastards"
These are not our words, but those of one of the writers in today's Guardian paper. In particular they attack the Association of British Drivers, who's sins seem to include that it has links to organisations that are opposed to the "congestion charge". The writer ends with an attack on Tony Blair, including "It shouldn't be hard to see how politically foolish are the current government's transport policies. The £11.4bn that it is spending on road building is an £11.4bn subsidy to the Conservative party." - The fact is that roads users pay £50 billion a year in taxes and only £7 billion is spent on road maintenance and building. The amount spent each year on road building must be less than £7 billion and is probably nearer to £1 billion. Will the anti motorists lobby only be happy when all the roads are destroyed and Britain is turned into a Stalinist Erewhon?
PS The Znet website has an annotated version of what was in the Guardian. It gives the source of the spending figure as "Road Block", otherwise known as the "Alliance Against Road building". Unfortunately there is no trace of the £11.4 billion, or anything similar.
19 December 2005
The Daily Mail in Charleston, West Virginia, gives it's opinion of the way roads users are milked for tolls which then is spent on "economic development". The Daily Mail says the Interstate should "have no tolls at all", and that toll is really "one more mark against economic development. Businesses do not wish to locate in an area where the freeway costs money. No one wants to mess with stopping, fishing out the correct change and waiting in line to pay a toll." "Tolls should go only for the road"
Our headline is a bit of a cheat, as it will only be free if you are leaving the state to go to Ohio. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is switching to one-way tolls at the Ohio line from January 2nd "in an effort to ease congestion, after motorists complained that traffic backs up at the state line". Pity it's only one way that will get the relief.
18 December 2005
"Ask not for whom the tollbooth waits, it waits for thee"
A Virginian paper details the history and future of toll roads. They predict more and more tolls:- Daily Press - "Past as future". In a Christmas Carol, Dickens has "The Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come" pointing to a very bleak future. But Scrooge sees the moral and immediately mends his ways. Let's hope that Americans are not buried under a desert of toll roads. A better future would be no tolls, now, with all roads revenue coming from gas tax.
17 December 2005
Come on in - the water's warm
Another story about the murky goings on down under:- The Age - "The major project? Being accountable". Why the Stars and Stripes? - Well we wonder why so many American politicians have been converted to the merits of tolls, toll increases and road sales. In part of course it is to fool the voters that spending and taxes are being kept down, but are there other reasons?
Scandal in Nippon
Japan has recently turned it's toll roads into companies as a step towards privatisation (see 1st October). The Japan Times now reports on some of what went on in the old system "JH execs Uchida, Kaneko plead not guilty". Once the toll roads are fully private no doubt nothing will ever be heard about corruption.
We have got your number - not
Channel 4 and the Times report that "London police are warning drivers of an increase in thefts of numberplates, stolen by drivers planning to beat the £8 London congestion charge."
16 December 2005
Professor wants Tolls
The Birmingam Post reports that a Professor who has just come back from a Government sponsored trip to look at German tolls is "backing the compulsory introduction of 'black box' technology in vehicles so drivers can 'pay as they go' but wants the issue to be debated by drivers before the Government makes the decision for them" - You mean they haven't already! "Professor calls for debate on future of road charging"
Oh! Oh! Oh what a Lovely Toll Road!
The Victorian state Government is spending taxpayers money on week long, full-colour promotions singing the praises of a toll road. The adverts seem to be intended to sway people before the next elections. The Opposition have complained to the Auditor General:- The Herald Sun - "Toll-road ads blitz marginals".
Paris v London
Michelle Doyle in the Guardian says that a report has been published which claims that efforts by the Mayor of Paris to cut car use in the city by narrowing roads and building more bus lanes have increased congestion. That may be correct, though we don't agree with the report's other conclusion - that a London style Con charge would be "better value"!
Flashing lights and Ringing bells
In some parts of the States, avoiding tolls is a major crime. In others, it appears that it is an optional tax. The Washington Post says of the Dulles Toll Road - "When drivers blow through the toll lanes without paying, a red security light immediately flashes and starts whirling in circles. A loud bell rings. And that's it - Forever! Despite the gaudy appearance of enforcement, it's all for show. That little device that looks like it houses a camera? There's nothing in there. No pictures are taken. No ticket is issued. No note is sent home to Mom." "Dulles Road Cheaters Take Toll on Virginia"
15 December 2005
Irish No Tolls Day?
We reported yesterday that one trucker was boycotting the new Kilcock toll road. Transport News Network now reports that the Irish Road Haulage Association are looking at having a 'no toll day' for all roads users. The truckers refer to "Rip Off Ireland". Oddly one complaint is lack of discounts (see story below).
Toll discounts too high
Europa.eu.int reports that the Eurotollcrats are preparing to take Italy to the Court of Justice for allowing high discounts to frequent users of the toll roads..
Scotland backs French Toll roads
Bloomberg reports that the Royal Bank of Scotland is helping to finance France's toll roads sale, which is expected to fetch 21 billion euros (15 billion pounds or 25 billion dollars):- "Royal Bank of Scotland Wins All Three French Toll Road Loans".
More Toll Fun
Richmond.com report that unknown to most motorists the system that counts the coins at the Powhite Parkway Mainline Toll Plaza has not worked since August. But all donations are still gratefully received! "Short changed"
Down the Rabbit Hole
It is reported in The Australian - "Tollway tender bungled, says auditor", that Victoria's Auditor General has criticised the Government over the East Link toll road. The Government failed to get a "public sector comparator" before deciding between the final toll road bids. This story gets curioser and curioser. The road was originaly not supposed to be tolled, but the Government said that it could no longer afford it, and is currently fighting to keep the costings (if there were any) secret (see 12th December).
Virginians (or some of them) "didn't fall off a turnip truck"
The Great Toll Rush continues in America. But not everyone fall for fool's gold. The Charlottesville Daily Progess in Virginia argues for an increase in the Gas tax (last changed in 1986) and say "Even tourists and truckers pay for gas.". They also say "Some would sell the right to charge tolls or would set up tolls on new lanes and try to convince taxpayers they are not raising taxes. Most Virginians weren't born yesterday, didn't fall off a turnip truck and know a tax when they pay one."
14 December 2005
European Toll Rush
The MEPs and Eurocrats who recently abandoned plans for harmonising diesel duty and other roads taxes are gleefully going ahead with plans for higher tolls. Originally the toll rules would only apply to the heaviest trucks, but the rules will now go down to trucks of only 3.5 tons (previously 12 tons). These rules were originally a way of limiting the road tolls on the vehicles that move most of the goods between European Union countries. Now they seem more like a rip off perpetrated by the Eurofatcats. How long before the 3.5 ton limit goes down to cover all vehicles? eupolitix.com - "MEPs take the toll".
Tolls "whatever we like"
The Australian bank that owns the M6 Toll have made a bid to take over the London Stock Exchange. The Age reports that one problem is what was said when the M6 Toll opened:- "We can put up the tolls by whatever we like and almost as importantly we can start the tolls on day one by whatever we like.". The Age also says that it was said that "if motorists didn't complain about the tolls, it was evidence they had not been set high enough":- "MacBank faces fees hurdle".
Doctor Ladyman, Government Roads minister, is still trying to sell the "Tolls for All Roads" idea. But they seem to be getting worried that ordinary people may catch on to the fact that the scheme would waste £10 billion ($18 billion)a year, just on collection. So the Doctor has now told a conference that the system will not require any staff or anything else, it will all be done by "mobile phone operators and insurance firms". Really?
Irish Trucker Boycott
Various Irish papers have reported that Howley Transport say that they will be boycotting the new Kilcock toll road. If enough other truckers join them, they may be able to stop the march to a not so free Ireland.
We have been trying to find out the tolls policy of David Cameron, the new Tory leader. One clue is the views of George Osbourne, the shadow Chancellor. On his web site in May 2004 he published:- "A neccesity not a luxury". He said - "Car drivers already pay more than enough in taxes, and the least they should be able to expect in return is a decent road network.". We would all agree with that, but it seems that from more recent items on his web site, that roads are to be paid for by tolls, e.g.:- Speech to Centre for Policy Studies in July 2005 "We desperately need to update Britain's crumbling transport infrastructure. And in the case of roads we can do that by paying for new roads through tolling."
An editorial in the "News Sentinel" of Kentucky says that the state's remaining tolls (on William Natcher and Audubon parkways) should be removed now. The remarkable thing is that while some other states are introducing new tolls, selling roads and increasing tolls, Kentucky wants to "retire" the tolls before the promised date:- "Time right to remove parkway tolls"
13 December 2005
A 52 year old has been convicted for putting glue into a toll machine on Chicago's North-South Tollway. He will have to pay $1,744 (one thousand pounds), serve 20 days on a work detail, and is on probation for 2 years. Though he denied it was him who did it, maybe he was lucky as the maximum sentence is three years in gaol.
In New Hampshire, the Bureau of Turnpikes are starting to send fines out to people who have gone though the electronic toll without a transponder. One lucky person has hit the jackpot with a $1,000 fine. The Bureau had no advice to give those without a transponder who found themselves in an electronic only toll lane with a queue of vehicles behind them.
Trolls in the Forest
Kommersant reports that the Russian Government is to take over forest roads, and start charging road tolls on the loggers. It also reports that last weekend "The Freedom of Choice drivers' movement" demonstrated in various cities against proposed increase in "transport tax".
The BBC reports that some residents near the M6 Toll road are complaining that though the road is two years old, they are waiting for compensation for noise. It seems that the payments are initially the responsibility of the Highways Agency. It is not clear whether the cost ultimately falls on the taxpayer or the Australian owners of the road . "Row over Toll road payout 'delay'".
Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has given MPS details of Con Charges unpaid by foreign embassies. USA has had the most publicity but is only 10th on the list. Number One is the United Arab Emirates, the next 8 countries are all from Africa. The total unpaid is £1.9 million ($3.4 million). This is a very tiny part of what is collected from all the other donors.
12 December 2005
State Secret update
We reported on the 9th, that the Victorian government is fighting to keep secret what the cost would have been of building a toll road with public money. The latest development is that the Opposition "Scrutiny of Government spokesman" Richard Dalla-Riva has received a letter from the Treasurer warning that the Government would want paying for its legal costs if he persisted with the case and the Government won:- The Age - "Lib faces big bill over road".
The Evening News tonight reports on car sharing service for those crossing the Forth Road bridge:- Travelshare.
We don't know why this is being promoted for that bridge now. But whatever the motive, car sharing is in principle a good idea:- Travelshare main site
10 December 2005
Call for extension to London Discount Zone
We reported in October that Battersea residents wanted to be included in the buffer zone which is outside the charge zone but residents can still get a 90 per cent discount if they enter the charge zone. Southwark Council is now calling on the concession to be given to people living in the Kennington, Elephant & Castle and Bermondsey areas. As we said last time - Where will it end - Hadrian's Wall?
9 December 2005
The M6 Toll road is two years old today. But drivers will not be celebrating. Many of then continue to avoid the toll road, leaving severe congestion problems in the West Midlands particularly if there has been an accident on the M6, or there are roadworks. BBC report.
Bizarrely the Express and Star editorial yesterday said "Remember the endless lobbying from the haulage industry during the campaign for the M6 Toll? Lorry operators and Midland industries claimed to be losing billions of pounds because of motorway congestion. But far from supporting it, truckers seem to avoid the new road. Today, the haulage industry is leading the campaign for another relief road around the west of Wolverhampton.
Before embarking on this enormous project, is there any guarantee that lorries would actually use it?" - We wonder why they don't realise that the problem is the toll?
PS Michael O'Hagan from the NAAT in the Midlands was interviewed on Central TV. (They tried to interview him at the toll road, but this was stopped.) Michael pointed out that roads users were already paying one billion pounds (1.75 billion dollars) a week in roads taxes, and that the M6 Toll should be free to use for the benefit of all.
A Hard Sell
Many politicians and other trolls are busy selling the idea of more tolls, but they are not getting it all their own way:-
The Bristol Herald Courier editorial says:- "Paying a toll would be a hardship for many in the region, where average incomes are well below those in more prosperous parts of the state. It is unseemly to require area residents struggling to improve their lot in life to pay a toll to drive from their home to work or to visit family in the next town.
Tolls also are a burden for local trucking firms, manufacturers, agribusinesses and the regional timber industry. Some parts of the state will have longer drive times, more wrecks and a deterioration of air quality from all that start-and-stop traffic." They end:- "Apparently, such matters aren't important enough to concern those gung-ho toll supporters, who see tolls as the only way to pay for a massive road-widening project whose final cost is still a question mark. If there is a silver lining, it is this: The toll issue is out in the open and ripe for debate. But its backers should tread carefully. Public sentiment and state law are against them." "Tolling I-81: The wrong approach".
Indiana Democrats have started a petition against the plan to sell toll roads and increase tolls, which they say will place infrastructure in hands of foreign interests and increase heavy traffic on local roads:- WNDU - "Democrats oppose governor's toll road plan".
The Victorian government is fighting to keep secret what the cost would have been of building a toll road with public money. The road was to be a free public road, but was built as a private tolled one. The Court of Appeal has now given the government leave to appeal against an earlier court decision that the cost should be made public:- The Australian - "Court battle over tollway cost".
8 December 2005
"Trust me" - No tolls
It's a Monty Python world. On the 1st, the Government announced it's seven pilot schemes for road pricing" or "congestion charging", but since then the authorities have done their best to deny that they have any intention of doing this. Today there is a report from Sheffield, it is not one of the seven pilots, but the message is the same - it is only the anti car nuts who run the passenger transport authorities who hate cars:- Sheffield Today - "Trust me, we are not anti-car".
Damian Hockney, the leader of the One London group on the London Assembly, has asked Ken Livingstone why the London Con cameras are on all the time. The charge only operates Monday to Friday during the day. Damian say that it is "like a citywide version of the Big Brother house, with no chance of escape". A spokesman for Transport for London says that the cameras are kept on to monitor traffic flows and denied that the information was recorded on any database or used for criminal evidence gathering or other investigations.
These Tolls were meant for walking
The French Parliament has just passed a law to allow tolls to be charged against people walking along tracks, but only in winter sports areas.
Toll offer to Nationalists
In an effort to woo Basque nationalists the Spanish Government has offered Cataluña the cancelling of all motorway tolls in the Catalan region, according to a report in "El Pais".
A new toll motorway (Westlink M7) through western Sydney will be toll free for the first month after it opens on December 16. This follows the problems in enticing motorists into Sydney's Cross City tunnel (even though other roads were closed to try and force them to use it):- news.com.au - "Toll-free period for Westlink M7".
7 December 2005
We have ways of making you pay
Delaware drivers are protesting about the removal of some of the ramps that enable them to cross the river near Delaware 1 by the free bridge. Moving the ramps will force drivers to pay a toll. Residents are also complaining about the effect on other roads:- The News Journal - "U.S. 301 plan drops ramps south of bridge".
We reported on the 2 December that the Burns Inquiry report on taxation of lorries on British roads was now available to joe public. The Government had it earlier and Gordon Brown in his pre budget speech on Monday "promised" help Freight Transport Association Press release Road Haulage Association Press release.
It is difficult to see why the truckers are happy. They still want the Lorry Road User Charging Scheme, but Gordon Brown isn't going to bring in a tax which he knows will cost more than it collects. Bizarrely, the Guardian today has
a letter on the issue from Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Transport spokesperson. He says:- "The decision to scrap lorry road pricing has cost the tax payer a substantial loss in revenue from foreign vehicles. Instead of setting up yet another task force, the chancellor should have insisted the government resumes work on the solution already identified - lorry road user pricing." Does Tom not know that this would have lost money, or is he so keen on tolls that he wants them at any price?
Start of Dartford Revolt?
We reported on the 2nd that the United Kingdom Independence Party were protesting against tolls on the Dartford Crossings. Here is a report from Sara Nelson of what happened:- News Shopper - "Call for crossing tolls to be axed". Story on Transport News Network "Scrap the Tolls Campaign Launched at Dartford Crossing". Dartford Toll Protestors website
Sydney Toll Inquiry
New South Wales's former Premier has been before a committee inquiring into the Cross City toll tunnel. The Sydney Morning Herald says he treated the committee with so much contempt there is no point continuing:- "Does Carr's contempt know no bounds?" The Australian - "Carr shows for whom he tolls".
It's New Technology, Stupid
David Berlind details problems with existing electronic tolling and proposed use of Global Positioning System tracking devices for tolls:- ZDnet Blog - "For all the good it does, technology often fails us in big ways".
"Vehicle Miles Travelled" Tax
In the Columbian, the president of the Association of Washington Business sets out the case for replacing the gas tax with VMT (Vehicle Miles Travelled), though he also sets out some reasons against. The main reason for VMT seems to be that people are now getting more miles per gallon, and therefore paying less gas tax. Would it not be simpler to raise the gas tax?
6 December 2005
Further M6 Toll Traffic Fall
The owners of the M6 Toll road in Britain have published (in Australia) their traffic figures for November, there has been a further fall (4% on previous month, 5% on previous year, 19% below best ever month). November fall is mainly due to a decline in traffic on non working days. But as the better months experienced in 2004 fall out, it is likely that both actual and comparative figures will level out. Traffic Figures and Chart
PS Report in Express & Star
Today's Times has a eulogy praising Alistair Darling. It nominates him as Chancellor if Gordon Brown becomes PM. What has he done to deserve this praise? - "He has said that road pricing and congestion charging are the future without unleashing the fury of motoring groups." For "motoring groups" read the people that claim to speak for roads users, but mainly avoid upsetting the rest of the transport establishment.
5 December 2005
Hot Air Tax
Mark Andrews in the Midland's Express and Star suggests various new taxes to match the proposed con charge. He saves the best for last:- "Hot air tax - for politicians who impose taxes on the premise they will ease pollution and congestion, while being chauffeured around in gas-guzzling limousines."
Toll Roads to Rome?
Rome's Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA) ring road and the Rome-Fiumicino motorway - could become toll-paying roads, if Italy's rulers get their way. "Wanted in Rome" reports that Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni called the idea "absurd", the president of Rome province, Enrico Gasbarra called it "mediaeval". They say that tolls would lead to more congestion and harm local businesses and tourism.
The Bulgarian Cabinet has changed road tolls for foreign vehicles. The toll changes were said to be needed because of EU rules on harmonisation. The tolls are now in euros, but seem to be the exact equivalent of the old ones in dollars. If nothing else it proves in the EU, form is more important than substance.
Tolls in the raw
Tolls are such an easy racket that in some parts of the world, unofficial tolls are a major problem. The tolls may go to gangs or to police or both! Shamsul Huq Zahid in the Financial Express in Bangladesh reports that the politicians are making some of these "tolls" more official and concludes:- "If the collection of toll can be legitimised, the government should also mull over doing the same in the case of bribe-taking in government offices." "Communications ministry's incredible feat"
4 December 2005
Stockholm's "Environmental fees"
Ivan Ekman in today's International Herald Tribune interviews Stockholm's Mayor Billstrom. She says of the election due next year:- "It is expected to be dominated by debate over a test of traffic congestion fees, similar to those imposed in London to reduce the number of private cars on city streets. The experiment - here they will be called "environmental fees" - is set to begin Jan. 3 and continue through July. Stockholm residents will get to vote on permanent fees in an Election Day referendum question; most observers believe the issue will color the municipal election too.
Apart from the general unpopularity of the tolls - about 70 percent of Stockholmers oppose them, according to opinion polls - Billstrom had promised during her last campaign that such fees would not be instituted. For some people, the issue has stamped the mayor as weak and unreliable.:-
"I think it's horrible what she has done with these tolls," said Eva Wolf, a 79-year-old retired nurse, on a walk not far from where Billstrom lives. "I usually vote for the Social Democrats, and she is both good-looking and speaks well - but this is just wrong."
Stockholm was originally due to introduce the charge last summer, but it was delayed due to a legal dispute over who the contractor would be.
Countryside Congestion Charge
The Observer reports that officials of the Peak District National Park want to introduce a "congestion" charge. It seems that the aim is to keep people away rather than to make money:- "Beauty spot drivers face road toll". National Parks are not like Alton Towers. People should not be put off from entering them because of tolls, much of which would be wasted on toll equipment and bureaucrats. The Government takes nearly £1 billion pounds a week from roads users, some of that money should be used to ease the congestion in other ways.
PS A few more facts, even though it's from the wrong county! Yorkshire Post- "Scenic country road may see tolls despite setback".
USA Pot Pourri
Tolls on the southbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey have been removed from today. Unfortunately they have doubled toll going northbound. But it's still an improvement.
Boston, according to United Press International, is to equip all taxis with electronic toll transponders. Mayor Menino says "When tourists, business travelers, and residents come to our city through Logan Airport, we need to give them a great welcome, but we don't need to give them a long one. These transponders will shrink the wait time at toll plazas and move passengers more quickly to their destinations." - Pity about all the other poor suckers!
The Boston Globe reports a complaint dfrom someone using electronic tolls as to why he is still slowed down by a toll gate on the Tobin Bridge. The answer from the officials is "Speed can become a safety factor as vehicles merge into the narrow toll booth lanes. The gates are used to slow traffic as vehicles approach the tollbooth lanes."
Kathleen Ingley in the Arizona Republic writes at length about Arizona's traffic problems and suggests various solutions, including more money - "Tolls are a non-starter in Arizona, so there's just one logical answer: Raise the gas tax." "Crucial freeways crippled".
Patrick Driscoll in the San Antonio Express reports on the "non-compete" agreements that Texas is signing with toll road developers "Toll roads are being pushed as the next best thing to a road fairy bearing cash, but there's a built-in irony that many motorists don't know. To sell bonds to build tollways to relieve traffic congestion, there usually needs to be some guarantee that there will be ... traffic congestion on nearby free roads to make drivers want to pay tolls to travel faster." "Toll roads will limit improvements to free roadways".
In a separate article, Patrick dicusses at great length both sides of the Texas Toll debate. Though it is rather one sided debate as the trolls have all the money and influence, and can hide or distort the facts about how much could be raised through gas taxes:- "Gas taxes can't fuel all road projects".
3 December 2005
Florida is almost sinking under the weight of toll roads and David Kramer from Palmetto writes:- "I oppose any tax hike when government is rolling in wasted taxpayer money. Yet we need taxes to pay for the infrastructure we all use. I would favor whatever gas tax is necessary for roads and bridges. A gas tax makes people who use roads more pay more. It is better than tolls, which force cars to stop and start, clogging roads and bridges, wasting time and fuel and worsening pollution." Herald Tribune - "Gas tax should go only to roads".
Tory Death Wish?
Today's Telegraph says of David Cameron, likely next Tory leader:- "What sets him apart from many other politicians is his ability to listen. In Chippenham, he seems perfectly happy to stand in the rain while a motorbike mechanic lectures him on road pricing.". We wonder if David just listened, or did he admit that more tolls was one of the few policies that he has.
George Osbourne, the Tory shadow Chancellor and campaign manager for David Cameron, today says in the Financial Times how the Tories will cut taxes - "Substantive areas where you could reduce state activity" include future road projects - which he believes could be funded by tolls on users - and tax credits.". Difficult to see how this will please anyone other than Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown. Do they want to lose another election?
2 December 2005
More Electronic tolls "to lighten the crush"
Every day, America is flooded with reports of more toll roads, selling off roads, and increasing tolls. By way of variety we have also been seeing a lot of reports on the switch to electronic tolls- "to lighten the crush of cars at the toll plaza and those frustrating delays" :- Fox Reno - "Caltrans Shuffling Bay Bridge Toll Lanes Again". It is amazing how much pain people will suffer without complaint. We know many Americans think that the gas tax is a better way to pay for roads, but most of the politicians listen to the trolls. Electronic tolls may ease the queues, but they will not stop them, and can bring their own problems with lane switching, toll dodgers, and faulty equipment.
Clifton Suspension Bridge Toll Objection
Today was the last day for submission of objections to a toll increase on the Clifton Suspension bridge. We and others have objected:- BBC - "Last day for toll fee objectors" This is our submission (pdf file).
We reported on the 23 November that the Burns Inquiry looking into taxation of lorries on British roads had completed it's work and had submitted a report to the Government. For some reason the rest of us couldn't see it till now. Here is the Burns report. Again for reasons that we don't understand it has been issued without any further press release. The report comes to the conclusuion that British hauliers are being unfairly treated and makes various recomendations, some of which seem a bit like the daft Lorry Road User Charging scheme that the Government dropped.
The United Kingdom Independence Party are today protesting against tolls on the Dartford Crossings:- BBC - "Protest over Dartford toll charge". We do not know why this got a mention, when the earlier call (see 8 November) from the Freight Transport Association did not. The Government have told the BBC that they have kept the toll to reduce congestion, this is obvious nonsense to those who have to queue to pay the toll. Other vehicles travel the long way round the M25 to avoid the toll. The FTA called for a trial suspension of toll collection on the Dartford Crossing in order to investigate the delays and queues caused as vehicles filter through to pay the charge. Why don't the Government test their reduction of congestion claim, by lifting the tolls for an extended period?"
They are building a new road - State Highway 20 - near Auckland. The authority responsible now says that they can't finish it unless they borrow the money - and repay it using tolls!
1 December 2005
Situation Normal - All "Fouled" Up
Tolls are back on the Cross City tunnel in Sydney with predictable results:- The Australian - "Tunnel toll's back ... and so is traffic chaos".
DC back to backing Tolls
We have reported before on the views of David Cameron, the likely next Tory leader. We thought he might be swinging away from tolls,but today he told the Reading Evening Post that "I support the principle of congestion charging" So now we and the people of Reading know, but I wonder how many of those in other parts of Britain will know what he has in store?
Tolls the Greater Evil
We reported on 27th November that Oregon was thinking about toll roads as income from gas tax was so low. The Oregonian now reports that if there is a straight choice between higher gas tax and tolls, then people say that higher gas tax is the lesser of two evils:- "Road woes: more crowded, more costly".
In Texas, the great toll road plan rolls on. The San Antonio Express reports that some construction has started. One motorist says "It should have been done a long time ago. But if it's a toll road, that's a bunch of crap." He intends to "scout for the best alternate free road though it will add 8 miles to my journey"
Your toll or Your Licence
Ireland is considering severe measures to enforce tolls when barriers are removed from the West Link toll. The barriers are to be removed because of the severe congestion that they cause on the bridge:- RTE - "Cullen open minded about Westlink plans".
There have been numerous reports in the last few days about the pilot schemes for road pricing.
Here is one from the BBC:- "Plans to roll out traffic charge".
And here is another where businesses in the Sunderland area are worried about the Tyne and Wear authority plans. The city centre manager said ""It does seem to be another attack on drivers which could impact on shops and other businesses" We very much doubt that this will have any effect on the anti car fanatics who are in control:- Sunderland Echo - "Congestion-charge disaster warning". The paper also got the views of private motorists:- "Drivers say no to charges".
The Independent reports that Government officials "are now working flat out to speed up" the introduction of road charging.
The Forum for Private Business have demanded that the issue be put to a referendum:- FPB Press Release.
There are conflicting views in Oldham, that might be affected by the toll plans of Greater Manchester Transport trolls. It seems that if the charge doesn't cover Oldham, they would not mind as much, as it might divert business to them from the centre of Manchester:-Oldham Advertiser - "Not in our backyard".
Wales generally goes it's own way and is not part of the Government toll pilots. Today Cardiff Council said that they had no immediate plans for tolls. By that we take it that they mean that they will as soon as they can con the people:- South Wales Echo - 'No congestion charging before 2008'.
The Seven Pilot schemes
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