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GENERAL ELECTION MANIFESTOS 2010 (page created 20 Apr 2010, revised 30 Apr 2010)
Roads are the most vital part of the economy and 80% of those eligible to vote can drive (37 million full licences and 46.5 million on electoral register). You would think that any party would be committing electoral suicide if it was known that drivers were to be the ones who will be filling the hole in the public finances. In practice drivers are treated as if they didn't have a vote, as the news media makes sure that drivers are largely kept in the dark.
Whoever forms the Government after the election, based more on the parties' track records and on leaks than on what is in their manifestos, we predict that motorists, and businesses that rely on transport, are in for a very rough ride, including -
cuts to the already tiny budget for roads,
more taxes on vehicles and fuel,
more measures against roads users, such as lower speed limits,
reductions in road space, except for cyclists.
on tolls, there will be the sale of the Dartford Crossing, increases to existing toll charges, and the building of a few more new toll roads or crossings. There will not be any new congestion charge zones on the London style, but there may well be toll cordons.
One group of roads users that will benefit will be those who buy electric powered vehicles and will receive massive subsidies and tax exemptions. This is because politicians do not seem to realise that, at the margin, all electicity comes from burning fossil fuels.
The biggest gainers on transport will not be road users but the train companies and those travelling by rail, as all parties promise them that there will be massive investment and subsidies.
Labour - the only thing that have said about tolls in their manifesto is that they would not introduce road pricing in the life of the next Parliament. Though they have said elsewhere that they will sell off the Dartford Crossing, which means that the tolls and resulting queues will continue for the foreseeable future.
The Tories are silent about tolls in their election manifesto, but if the hints from David Cameron are taken, then his party will toll any new roads, and may toll some existing roads, though not with "spy in the sky" technology.
Some Conservatives have also been arguing for the privatisation of roads and it is possible that they will also sell off most of the existing motorways in England, which will then be tolled. The experience of the M6 Toll is that most drivers will avoid tolls if there is a choice, with the result that the Company that owns the M6 Toll concession has lost a very considerable sum of money. So it is certain that if new roads or crossings are to be tolled by any party, then any viable alternatives will also have to be tolled. To maximise the sale proceeds they would have to introduce measures to discourage drivers from switching to alternative routes - one such measure would be to also toll them.
The Tories have promised a "Fair Fuel Stabiliser", i.e. tax would come down when the non tax price is high, and go up when the non tax price is low. Not many people would bet on the tax reductions being greater than the tax increases.
The Lib Dems manifesto is more revealing than the other parties and says that they will "Undertake preparations for the introduction of a system of road pricing in a second parliament". They say that this will be balanced by cuts in other
driving taxes, but this is disingenuous, as tolls and congestion charges are very expensive taxes to administer and enforce. One example is the London Congestion Charge where up to March 2009 it had cost nearly one billion pounds to collect just over 1.3 billion pounds in charges and fines.
The Lib Dems transport spokesman has also said that his party would start by tolling all the motorways and dual carriageways. If the Liberal Democrats are in coalition with Labour or the Tories, then it is likely that the Lib Dems would take the Transport portfolio.
Tolling technology for new tolls would probably in most cases be a barrierless system with drivers being offered substantial toll discounts if they have their vehicle tagged. The tags would probably rely, at least initially, on roadside detectors rather than satellites. As not all drivers will agree to be tagged, there will have to be a backup, probably in the form of cameras, though in some cases they might still have barriers that are only raised as the toll is paid.
The only silver lining to this doomsday scenario, is that the new Government may be unable to go very far down this road before there is another General Election. Perhaps by then drivers will realise what is happening to them and the country, and will vote accordingly.
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Labour Conservative Liberal Democrats UKIP Plaid Cymru SNP English Democrats Greens
One might have expected in the manifestos a few promises about roads investment and no more tolls and taxes from at least one of the parties, but in practice it seems to be assumed that drivers can't read.
"A future fair for all" pdf.
All that there is in this nearly 80 page document is on page 1.8. under "Rebuilding our transport infrastructure" -
".... Tackling road congestion is a key Labour priority. We will extend hard-shoulder running on motorways, alongside targeted motorway widening including on the M25. Too much disruption is caused by local road works: we will increase tenfold the penalties on utilities who allow work to overrun.
We rule out the introduction of national road pricing in the next Parliament....
Through our investment, Labour has put Britain at the forefront of electric and lowcarbon vehicle manufacturing. To promote the rapid take-up of electric and low-carbon cars, we will ensure there are 100,000 electric vehicle charging points by the end of the next Parliament."
Tory Party - "Invitation To Join The Government Of Britain" pdf low res version.
There is nothing about investment in roads, and there is no promise not to introduce "national road pricing in the next Parliament". There is in fact nothing about any form of road tolls.
All that they do say on roads, in their 120 page document is -
Under "Create a modern transport network" on page 24 -
"Britain has the chance to lead the world in making our transport system greener. So we will introduce incentives for electricity network operators to establish a new national car recharging network, making it much easier for drivers to move to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. We will support sustainable travel initiatives that work best for local communities by:
giving the concerns of cyclists much greater priority;
encouraging partnerships between bus operators and local authorities; and,
helping people cut down on work-related travel.
We will stop central government funding for new fixed speed cameras, and switch to
more effective ways to make our roads safer, including authorising ‘drugalyser’ technology for use in testing for drug-driving. We will make companies that dig up our roads accountable for the congestion they cause and crack down on rogue clampers. Councils will get more powers to get traffic flowing more smoothly.
We will consult on the introduction of a ‘Fair Fuel Stabiliser’. This would cut fuel duty when oil prices rise, and vice versa. It would ensure families, businesses and the whole British economy are less exposed to volatile oil markets, and that there is a more stable environment for low carbon investment."
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"Change that works for you" pdf.
The Lib Dems are more honest than the other parties in that they admit that they will introduce road pricing and also cut spending on roads ("Switch traffic from road to rail by investing in local rail improvements .. , paid for by cutting the major roads budget." on page 78). But they are dishonest when they imply that road pricing will cost no more than present taxes, and when they say nothing about their intentions on introducing tolls on motorways and other main roads as a warm up to national road pricing.
Most of what they say on roads, in their 100 page document is in a section called "a fair deal for motorists" on page 80 -
Our planned expansion of public transport will provide much-needed alternatives to private cars, and cut carbon emissions. However, in many places there will always be a need for car travel, so we need to ensure that it is as environmentally friendly as possible. We will:
Work through the EU for a zero emissions target for all new cars by 2040 and extend targets to other vehicles.
Undertake preparations for the introduction of a system of road pricing in a second parliament. Any such system would be revenue neutral for motorists, with revenue from cars used to abolish Vehicle Excise Duty and reduce fuel duty, helping those in rural areas who have no alternatives to road travel. Some of the revenue from lorries would be used to fund further extensions of high speed rail through
the UK Infrastructure Bank.
Introduce a rural fuel discount scheme which would allow a reduced
rate of fuel duty to be paid in remote rural areas, as is allowed under
UKIP Manifesto April 2010 (pdf).
There is a bit about investment in roads, but no figures. There is nothing about any form of road tolls, though in the past UKIP did oppose some tolls such as Dartford.
All that they do say on roads, in their 15 page document is -
On page 11 under "Energy & theEnvironment they say that they will "Incentivise and support electric road vehicles ..,
Also on page 11 under "Transport" they say -
"Invest in an enhanced and safer road network, building new bypasses and widening major roads,
Offer a ‘Windfall Return’ on fuel duty above a set world dollar oil price. When this level is reached, government receipts from oil duties will be returned to motorists as fuel tax cuts,
Be fair to motorists by subjecting parking charges and revenue-raising devices, including speed cameras, to greater democratic control,
Repeal EU-generated road directives that impose unnecessary and expensive burdens, such as the new Road Transport Directive,
Introduce a ‘Britdisc’ which foreign lorries will have to pay for using major British roads. Currently, many of these lorries pay nothing for the wear and tear they cause."
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Plaid Cymru Manifesto "Think Different - Think Plaid" pdf.
There is almost nothing about roads and nothing about any form of road tolls, including the toll charged for crossing into South Wales.
All that they do say on roads, in their 34 page document is on page 31 under "Sustainable Travel -
"Because Plaid Cymru recognises that in many parts of Wales road travel is unavoidable, we are committed to upgrading key major road routes, especially north-south links."
"Elect a local champion" pdf.
Though it was mainly due the SNP that the last tolls were abolished in Scotland, the only mention of them is where they list Scottish 2007 election commitments that they have met including "Abolishing tolls on the Forth and Tay Bridges".
The only other roads issues mentioned in their 30 page document are -
On page 12 under ""Focus on jobs and recovery" -
SNP MPs will join with the Scottish Government to press for Scotland to have the ability to borrow, just as Northern Ireland does, to allow additional investment in infrastructure and jobs. It makes sense for us to be able to spread the cost of new roads or hospitals over a longer period, in the same way as families do with their mortgage. It would mean thousands of additional Scottish jobs."
On page 13 under "Protecting local services and the most vulnerable"-
We will argue for a fair deal for motorists. There should be a fair fuel regulator so that when oil prices increase motorists are not doubly punished with soaring taxes and prices at the pumps. and the UK should also adopt the same sort of tax derogation on fuel sold in our island and remote communities as exists elsewhere in the EU."
The party have not issued an election manifesto, but have a standing one. Their policies on transport are set out at - paragraph 27.
"Fair is worth fighting for" pdf.
The Greens are more honest than the other parties about their intention to clobber drivers. They also go into more details in their 100 page document, including on page 37 to 39 under Transport" -
To encourage walking and cycling for shorter journeys and improve road safety we would:
Reduce speed limits (e.g. to 20mph in built-up areas, including villages).
Make streets safe; make them public spaces again. Plan for mixed-use developments where shops, housing and businesses are closely located and connected by pavements and cycleways.
Introduce a maximum speed limit of 55mph on motorways and trunk roads, and
40mph on rural roads, to make them safer for all road users.
Introduce schemes such as Home Zones, Safe Routes to School and pedestrianisation.
Ensure that at least 10% of transport spending is on securing a shift to more active travel like walking and cycling.
Reallocate the £30 billion the Government has earmarked for road-building over the next 10 years. Spend the money on a programme of investment in public transport over the Parliament.
We would make the cost of private cars more effectively mirror their environmental cost to wider society:
Abolish car tax and replace it with a purchase tax on new cars that reflects their emissions. That way we would affect the types of car chosen at the time that matters, when they are bought new.
Prioritise public transport, then if necessary work towards the introduction
of road pricing schemes like the London congestion charge.
We would divert money currently being wasted on huge road projects and put more of the UK’s transport budget into public transport, and especially into local schemes for walking, cycling and bus travel.
Introduce road user tolls for heavy lorries."
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