FEBRUARY 2007 NEWS
Wednesday 28 February 2007
Barber of Suffolk
Jim Adams has started a petition against possible tolls on the Orwell bridge, Ipswich - Evening Star - "Petition formed over Orwell Bridge toll".
Ken to save Planet
Yesterday the Mayor sent out this Press Release - "Mayor unveils London Climate Change Action Plan". According to today's Guardian - "While the UK has struggled to prepare the ground for road pricing, London's congestion charge has cut transport emissions within the zone by 16%."
We wonder how much Londoners pay for Ken's spin doctors? It must be a fortune for the remarkable job that they do.
Transport for London publish two sets of figures. The first set is "Air quality - emissions" - these figures are only their estimates.
The second set is "Measured air quality". If you take the latter set of figures then the fact is that for the first 2 worst pollutants:- Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter (pm10), there was in fact a marked deterioration in air quality after the Congestion Charge was introduced in February 2003. We would not of course claim that was due to the Congestion Charge! Over the last 2 years air quality according to Transport for London measured figures has now improved, and is back to the levels before the Congestion Charge was introduced. This change may be a real one, but when the authorities get results that they don't like, they can adjust them in various ways - so the more recent figures may not really be comparable. Whichever way you look at it the claim that air quality has improved is just another myth.
Josie Appleton in Spiked gives her view - "Red Ken’s green tyranny".
Peter Roberts petition count is now 1,808,300 signatures.
The Telegraph reports on yesterday's "launch" of the Social Market Foundation report - "How road pricing could be used to hammer the 'gas guzzlers'". The position of the Telegraph on this issue is a bit of a mystery. It seems to be broadly against road pricing, but usually repeats without comment the rubbish that it is fed by the spin doctors, and then "balances" that with a quote from the RAC Foundation - the very organisation that has been pushing the idea of road pricing.
Two sides from USA - To Toll or Not to Toll
USA Today presents two opposing views - Alabama - "Commissioners Step In Toll Fare Protest" Texas - "Opposing view: Add roads, not tolls".
Toll on Speed
A Kansas senator has a novel idea for tolls - the faster you go the higher the toll, with speed based on how long it takes you to travel between toll booths - 40abcnews - "Senator considers speed-based toll for turnpike drivers". This seems to the reverse of a congestion charge!
"London's congestion tax may not suit Toronto"
According to a Toronto official, the London Con has been a tremendous success - "Diesel fumes were clouding your eyesight five years ago. And today it's been quite amazing. The air conditions have actually been quite nice.". Despite this delusion, he still thinks it would not suit Toronto -
CBC. Despite this the trolls are still pushing tolls - Toronto Star - "Car fees touted as solution".
We reported on the 23rd about Hungary's plans to collect tolls from lorries using satellite based toll collection system. Here is another report - Budapest Sun - "Satellite toll-paying system demonstrated". No doubt the system will be operated in such a way that the authorities won't know where the vehicle is!!!
USA round up 28th Feb
Massachusetts - "Turnpike board extends Fast Lane discount" New York - "Bell tolls for the tolls - Thruway Authority exposed" New Jersey - "Public to have say on toll roads' fate" Texas - "Fireworks ahead" Texas - "Toll backlash could delay projects here" Florida - "Study says toll road not needed" California - "Treason Abounds ~ Gov't Cabal Plots North American Union (NAU)" Massachusetts - "Why should others have to subsidize Pike riders?" "A million digital eyes are watching - Modern technology makes life easier, but also raises lots of questions about personal privacy" New Jersey - "New Idea for the Turnpike: Let the Pension Fund Run It" Alabama - "Commissioners Step In Toll Fare Protest" Texas - "Spanish company wins North Texas toll road contract" California - "South Bay Expressway tolls will be $11.25 for trucks" Florida - "Counties cautious about transportation authority" Florida - "Jolley bridge toll" Texas - "Spanish company offers nearly $3 billion to manage Highway 121 toll road".
Tuesday 27 February 2007
Dartford oppose toll increase
Dartford Council are opposing the Government's planned toll increase on the Dartford Crossing - News Shopper - "Council says toll rise won’t cut congestion".
The Spin goes on
The Social Market Foundation is one of the bodies behind the push for road pricing. They have been busy issuing 3 press releases in the last week or so. They have started (last Friday) another petition to PM backing road pricing. (As of this morning it has 121 signatures.)
They have also published another report - "Road User Charging: A road map". The report has been funded by Deloitte and the "Esmée Fairbairn Foundation" and according to a press release this morning it was being launched again today (the SMF also had a press release launching the report on the 18th). This relaunching is by Doctor Ladyman the (No) Roads Minister who according to the press release would impromptu say - "Congestion is not going to go away - despite our ambitious plans to invest in transport infrastructure in the coming years it will still be 25% worse in 2015 if we don't find a solution. Road pricing could make a real difference, which is why we are developing pilot schemes in local areas to see how it works in practice, alongside other improvements such as better bus services. We fully understand that people want to see the benefits for themselves, and local pilots will ensure they can. They will also help to inform our thinking on a potential national road pricing scheme.""
This seemed like a case of Deja Vu and we thought that we may be dreaming, particularly as it was ignored by the news media, but then someone spotted this on the DfT web site - text of today's speech. It is obvious that the Government and their backers are still trying to deceive people and continuing to conceal the cost of implementing and running a road pricing system. A system which is only wanted by the hair shirts, politicians, wealthy and suppliers of tolling equipment. We issued this press release to the four winds -
The Minister tried to give the impression that no decisions had been made on road pricing and denied various "myths" which he said
came from those opposed to road pricing.
The fact is that the myths are coming from the politicians.
One of these myths has only emerged because of the success of the Peter Roberts petition. This is the myth that they are only
thinking about road pricing!
The reality is that as soon as Douglas Alexander was appointed, he said that the debate on road pricing was going to move from the
"why" to the how".
This was reinforced today by the Social Market Foundation's own press release which says the report launched today argues that "it
is now time to move the debate forward from the why to the how by setting out a clear map for the introduction of road user
charging. It sets forth a plan to secure the public's acceptance of road pricing..".
It is clear that the Government road pricing plan is proceeding as before. The Prime Minister has said that the Government still
intends to go ahead with the road pricing experiments in 10 English cities.
The biggest of the old myths is that there will be no additional taxes, but only a move away from fuel and other road taxes towards
tolls. All the politicians know the cost of implementing and collecting this new tax would average about £10 billion a year. Where
is this money to come from? Will it fall from the sky?
The unpleasant and unfortunate truth is that the politicians are still busy trying to take the British voters for a ride.
Other Road Pricing News
Peter Roberts petition is now up to 1,807,800 signatures.
In Cambridge there seems to be a split between the bosses orgnaisations that were backing road pricing -
Cambridge Evening News - "'Road pricing WOULD cut down congestion'".
Backing for Con charge in Norwich, providing any surplus is NOT spent on roads - Norwich Evening News - "Charles Clarke supports city congestion charge".
Bikers "SLAM ROAD PRICING" according to Inside Bikes. Or to be more correct they object to it for motor bikes, but don't care about any one else.
New Zealand regresses
Citizens Against Privatisation are complaining about taxes designed to hit the less well off - including "congestion charges and road tolls - still being pushed despite mass public opposition" - Scoop - "CAP predicts more cost burden for average earners".
USA round up 27th Feb
New Jersey - "Public will have input if N.J. leases toll roads, treasurer says" Texas - "Spanish company wins 121 toll contract" Texas - "political force against reform" West Virginia - "unhappy with recommendations in Turnpike study" Florida - "embattled X-way agency will do U-turn" New Jersey - "Legislature should stop rush to sell state roads" Missouri - "Per-mile could replace per-gallon - Big Brother may one day watch how far you drive" Pennsylvania & New Jersey - "What's a turnpike worth?" Florida - "Foreign group to build toll road" Florida - "Faulty sensor leads to overcharges on Florida toll road" New Jersey - "Toll road leasing decried as top officials urge patience, caution" Massachusetts - "Patrick wants FastLane discount to stay" California - "Study says perks would boost FasTrak" California - "Discounts could increase FasTrak use".
Monday 26 February 2007
Peter Roberts petition is up to 1,807,200 signatures. Peter has asked can he email the 1.8 million that the PM emailed. The answer is no - Shropshire Star.
The email from the PM gave links to the various organisations backing road pricing (though they were supposedly "independent") and also to a website that has just been set up by Peter Roberts.
Safe Speed have today issued this Press Release mentioning the Peter Roberts web site -
"The Prime Minister's response to the road pricing petiton warned darkly that
motorways cost up to £30m per mile.
Department for Transport reports that we have 2,200 total miles of motorway
DfT estimate of costs to create the roads pricing infrastructure is £62 billion.
So it only takes a simple calculation to show that the total installation cost of roads pricing
are about the same as the present day cost of our entire motorway network.
It is hard to believe that anyone is stupid enough to believe that roads pricing would be anywhere
near as effective at managing traffic as a doubling of our entire motorway network.
The Prime Minister warned darkly of the costs of building motorways while
glossing over the costs of roads pricing. How barking is that?
The 'Toll Tax' is a crazy grand design beloved of no one except politicians
and technology suppliers.
All roads users should get along to www.traveltax.co.uk today."
The Sunday Times reports that "Ministry rebels sign road e-petition".
As we reported yesterday, the Sunday Express took the opportunity of the road pricing issue to have a go at Labour, while the Tories and Lib Dems did am impression of Pontius Pilate. We sent out a press release as below, which for some strange reason the news media did not use -
BRITISH VOTERS BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE
People are still being misled on the issue of road pricing.
The Prime Minister's email to the 1.8 million people who signed the Peter Roberts petition misled them by saying it was giving them
"Independent views on road pricing - for and against". Apart from Peter Roberts the views were from organisations that support the
principle of road pricing. The "against" views of the Association of British Drivers and the National Alliance Against Tolls were
Now voters are being misled by the Lib Dems and Tories who are trying to give the impression that this unpopular policy is nothing
to do with them. On the contrary the only reason this policy is still around is that it has had all party backing since it was floated in July 2004.
The Liberal Democrats have even previously criticised the Government for not pushing ahead faster with road pricing.
The Lib Dems and others are suggesting that the thing to do to win support for road pricing is to tell people that "the money raised
would be instead of fuel duty and road tax, and not on top of them". But as all the politicians know the cost of collecting this new
tax would be about £10 billion a year. Where is this money to come from? And for what rational reason are the Lib Dems and other
"green" organisations proposing to remove fuel duty, and replace it with a tax that would penalise drivers with smaller cars?
The Tories in Scotland have recently come out against this toll tax, but in England the Tories support the principle of this new
toll tax. Even worse, whatever happens with road pricing the Tories are backing the creation of tolled lanes on motorways, and
according to a recent leak were even considering selling off all the motorways to private toll operators.
The unpleasant and unfortunate truth is that all the parties are busy taking the British voters for a ride.
It seems that the EU is paying for research into the use of robots to reduce congestion. Not quite sure how this will be achieved. Perhaps the authorities will press a "berserk" button and it will go round seeking and attacking drivers - Engineer on line - "Face of the Future".
Today's Daily Mail reports that - "Last year ministers and officials drove half a million more miles than the previous year - a total of almost 3 million, equivalent to going to the moon and back six times." - They are obviously doing their best to prove that we need some form of congestion charging!!
The Telegraph reports on a "You Gov" survey of over 2,000 people - Telegraph - "Pay as you drive is a dead end for Labour" Telegraph - "Poll blow for road pricing plans fuel dissent in Labour ranks".
The survey indicates that people are very strongly opposed to road pricing and do not consider it to be an appropriate answer to road congestion. This result is even though they do not know how they have been misled by those pushing for road pricing. What would they do if they knew the full truth?
It has been argued that the 1.8 million people who signed the Peter Roberts petition were all "petrolheads" and unrepresentative of the population as a whole. This survey indicates that is not so. But then as we have frequently pointed out, the Government's own surveys "published" in March and June last year showed the same result. The Government chose to ignore this, we wonder why all the news media also ignored it, and continue not to mention those surveys?
Other reports - Guardian - "Cities push for more control over transport".
Another view from over there
Washington Post - "The London Model".
A Language difference
Apparently the French are saying "Non" to Congestion charges, but will find others ways of hitting drivers -
Globe and Mail - "Paris takes the hard road on traffic".
This arrives here in a roundabout way - a report on USA in London's FT and reprinted in Gulf Times - "Get ready for a smoother driving experience". The beauty of these toll systems is that the driver is unaware of what he's paying. Drivers are usually lured into these automatic tag systems with discounts on the cash tolls. But these are later reduced or removed - Texas toll tag users currently pay only 50 percent of the cash rate, but on Thursday this rises to 90 percent. The more people that use the tags the lower the discount will be.
USA round up 26th Feb
New Jersey - "N.J. toll road leases disputed" Texas - "Tollapalooza coming Thursday" "New Jersey Governor Bankrupting New Jersey" New Jersey - "Legislators to move against toll road leases" California - "Lawsuit Possible Over Excessive Toll Road Fines" New York - "Removing tolls, more aid to seniors on Yonkers' wish list" Massachussetts - "Where do you stand on toll increase?" Arizona - "Go hybrid, not toll lanes" Texas - "TTC Sinkhole" Washington State - "Senate approves fine for drivers who skip bridge toll".
Sunday 25 February 2007
The Peter Roberts petition is now up to 1,806,400 signatures.
One of Scotland's Sunday papers sends their Westminster correspondent back up north to the "road warrior"'s Wrekin lair - Sunday Herald - "‘If life demands that you need to go from A to B in a car then you shouldn’t feel guilty …".
The Sunday Express says - "BLAIR'S ROAD TAX LIES EXPOSED". The truth is that politicians from all parties have been misleading people on this issue. Nearly all the news media have turned a blind eye to it.
The Sunday Express quotes Lib Dems as saying - "“If Gordon Brown gave a guarantee that the money raised from a national scheme would be instead of fuel duty and road tax, and not on top of them, a lot of the concern would be allayed immediately." As both Gordon Brown and the Lib Dems know, the cost of collecting this new tax would be about £10 billion a year. And even if you fell for the politicians misleading you on this, how many would believe that the Lib Dems would remove fuel duty?
The Sunday Express also quotes the Tories and tries to give the impression that they are opposed to road pricing. A dificult impression to give as it is not so, apart from the Scottish Tory party. Even worse the Shadow minister being quoted in the Sunday Express is the one who in October was backing the creation of tolled lanes on motorways and said that "poorer drivers were more likely to use the (toll) lanes because they had less control over the time that they made their journeys .... the poor are less able to get off work early and may have more time constraints on childcare.". Presumably the Tories are not expecting to get many votes from "poorer drivers".
The unpleasant truth is that all the parties are taking voters for a ride, and the news media, except when it suits their own party political ends, are letting them get away with it.
This is a typical newspaper report from one of the papers. The writer says that he doesn't believe what the PM says, but in fact like almost every single story that has appeared in the press, they have fallen for what the politicians want them to think - Sunday Press - "Road rates rage".
Canadians like it cool
The usual interests are still pushing tolls. It's either to stop congestion or it's to save the planet - Toronto Sun - "Climate taking a toll" The Planet - "GVRD votes to continue study of road tolls".
Adrena from Virginia wrote this letter to the Richmond Times Dispatch - "I pay tolls for the car behind me whenever I can. Several years ago, I was traveling over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and I was pulled over just a half-mile after crossing the bridge. I was puzzled as to what my offense was, but I got out my registration and driver's license. This Maryland state trooper came up beside my car with tears in his eyes and said, "Ma'am, did you pay someone's toll back at the bridge?" I said yes. He said, "Well, ma'am, I am on my way for my last day at the barracks on this side of the bridge. This tour has been my worst ever -- I almost gave up this profession I love! Your paying my toll has been the highlight of my tour; thank you, ma'am, thank you, and have a great day!""
USA round up 25th Feb
New Jersey - "Lawmakers to discuss anti-Turnpike lease bills" Texas - "Lucrative toll contract for 121 to be awarded" Texas - "Few expected to use TTC tollway" Pennsylvania - "Leasing the future" Illinois - "New Crosstown project has key difference--tolls" Illinois / Missouri - "Can't figure out Missouri" Florida - "X-Way chief may quit" Pennsylvania - "Spinning toll roads' asphalt into gold" Pennsylvania - "A Congestion Fee" North Carolina - "No excuse whatsoever" Massachusetts - "Pike tolls worth shouting about - but who will listen?".
Saturday 24 February 2007
Humber Bridge heats up
The Humber bridge is Britain's most expensive crossing, and renewed pressure for the scrapping of the tolls is building up. If you live on Humberside and can help in the campaign against the tolls , please contact us.
Some recent articles - Hull Telegraph 20th Feb - "IT'S TIME TO SCRAP THE TOLLS" Hull Telegraph 20th Feb - "HOW COSTS BALLOONED" Scunthorpe Telegraph 20th Feb - "COUNCILS UNITE TO SCRAP BRIDGE TOLLS " Scunthorpe Telegraph 17th Feb - "STILL WAITING FOR ANSWER TO BRIDGE TOLLS QUESTION" Scunthorpe Telegraph 16th Feb - "BRIDGE DISCOUNTS ASSESSED" Scunthorpe Telegraph 15th Feb - "STOP TAX ON SICK PEOPLE" Hull Telegraph 25th Jan - "HUNDREDS BACK BRIDGE PROTEST" Hull Telegraph 25th Jan - "ATTEMPTS TO HAVE DEBT WRITTEN OFF HAVE FAILED" Scunthorpe Telegraph 24th Jan - "500 SIGN E-PETITION " Scunthorpe Telegraph 17th Jan - "WORK TOGETHER TO GET BRIDGE TOLL CUT" Scunthorpe Telegraph 17th Jan - "MP TOLD OF 'UNFAIR' BRIDGE CHARGES" Scunthorpe Telegraph 15th Jan - "BID TO CUT BRIDGE TOLLS" Scunthorpe Telegraph 15th Jan - "PETITIONS URGE PM TO CANCEL BRIDGE DEBT".
Though it closed on Tuesday night, people clicking on signature confirmation email links means that each day the Peter Roberts petition is still getting more votes than live petitions. It has now passed 1,805,500 signatures.
Femail First - "We Will Listen Say Government On Road Pricing" .
On Thursday the DfT launched a Road Pricing
The "Obligation" is that by 2010, 5% of all the road vehicle fuel should come from a renewable source. Putting aside the question of the dubious reasoning behind this policy, how will they encourage the use of one fuel over another if the emphasis has switched from fuel duty to tolls? Not surprisingly the 103 page document does not once mention the effect of road pricing.
Canadians only "investigating" road pricing
Following up on our item yesterday on opposition to Canadian road pricing plans, it may be growing - Vancouver Sun - "GVRD rules out tolls, for now".
USA round up 24th Feb
Maine - "Turnpike exemptions proposed" West Virginia - "Job cuts unfortunate, but tolls must go" New Jersey - "On road, lawmakers debate turnpike sale".
Friday 23 February 2007
A lot has been going on this week in Scotland. It is clear that the Executive will find any excuse at all to cling on to the remaining two discredited bridge tolls. They are also joining in the push for tolls on most roads, and even seem to be volunteering Scotland as guinea pigs for the toll tax. The Tories north of the border have now come out against existing bridge tolls and proposed road tolls. What a pity that their colleagues south of the border give the impression of being even keener on tolls than New Labour. You can see more on all this on our Scotland news page.
The Peter Roberts petition has now passed 1,804,000 signatures as people click on signature confirmation email links. When will it stop!
Murdoch's Troll Times today has one of their columnists saying "Reading the Times investigation into the Association of British Drivers, the shadowy group charged with organising the anti-road-pricing petition, I found myself lamenting the passing of Michael Wharton ... the journalistic genius responsible for The Daily Telegraph’s Peter Simple column ... The ABD is a wonderful example of life imitating Wharton’s art. He created the immortal figure of J. Bonington Jagworth, leader of the militant Motorists’ Liberation Front and defender of “the basic right of every motorist to drive as fast as he pleases, how he pleases”.
We are relieved that the London press don't recognise the existence of the NAAT, or no doubt we could expect the same treatment.
Some of today's other reports - Telegraph - "Minister equivocal over road pricing 'benefits'" Independent - "Consumers' revolt: Power to the people".
"'Road pricing' just a fancy term for another tax grab"
The usual alliance of greens, mass transit advocates, and big business interests have been pushing for road tolls in the big cities. There is some opposition - The Province.
Tolls deal to bring a smile to your eyes
The Irish Government are buying the West Link toll bridge on the M50 from National Toll Roads. The bridge cost 38 million to build, but as it is part of the motorway, the owners probably get that much every year in tolls. The Government are paying 600 million euro for the bridge and the right to collect future tolls - Fin Facts. It might of course have been cheaper to divert the motorway and build another bridge but trolls are usually guaranteed funneling (traffic will have no choice) in secret clauses in contracts with Governments.
PS It was later reported that the Roche family, the main sharhoders in NTR are now billionaires.
Update on Hungary joining Germany in collecting tolls from lorries using satellite based toll collection system - Caboodle - "Magyar Telekom subsidiary lobbies for satellite toll scheme" Press Release. This Beggar My Neighbour system spreading round Europe is mainly intended to charge "foreign" trucks crossing a state in the not quite so United Europe. The policy is encouraged by the eurocrats, partly in the hope of generating some income for the Galileo spy satellite system when it comes into operation; though Austria is charging lorries based on microwaves from overhead gantries.
"Londoners wail anew as mayor hits choked streets via wallets"
View from over there - Pop Matters.
More on our diplomatic image - NY Times - "France Enters the Fight Over London’s Road Charges".
USA round up 23rd Feb
Some of today's stories - Texas - "$105.6 billion
(cost of building the first 14% of the new toll corridor)" New York - "Peace Bridge Tolls" Georgia - "Toll Violators Get Discount" Florida - "SunPass glitch takes toll on drivers' accounts" Illinois- "Buying a new I-PASS at Jewel might be convenient, but soon it will cost you" New Hampshire - "Area toll bridge idea halfway home" Massachusetts - "Raise Tolls Or Gas Tax?" Alabama - "Emotions Running High On Rate Increases For Local Toll Bridges" New Jersey - "DRBA won't hike bridge roll" Florida - "go-ahead for bridge toll study".
Thursday 22 February 2007
Due to people still clicking on signature confirmation email links, the Peter Roberts petition passed 1,800,000 signatures late yesterday. This morning it stood at 1,801,000.
Press Release from Safe Speed pointing out some of the subtle and not so subtle ways the Government are trying to influence people who look at their response to the Peter Roberts petition. Welcome to the world of Big Brother and remember what you are told - "WAR IS PEACE", "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY" and most of all "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH".
More sowing of false information by the Government spin machine - Financial Director- "Motor tax cuts could follow road pricing plans". This first appeared in the FT but has been reported elsewhere. The phrase "revenue neutral" is meaningless. Even if the Government get no more net tax than now, they will have to raise overall road taxes by about £10 billion a year to cover the cost of implementing and running the scheme.
The Register comments on the Prime Minister's statement that the road pricing system would have to give guarantees of privacy - "Road pricing - Blair's shock 'privacy guarantee'". To the points that John Lettice makes we would add that when the PM says that it could be like mobile phones does he not know that the authorities already use the mobile (cell) phone network to track some people?
The Reading Evening Post claims that Peter Roberts comes from there (let's hope that this revelation does not mean that British troops are sent in). Reading is also scheduled to be one of the pilots for road pricing. An odd coincidence is that Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire where Peter now lives is also one of the pilots. (Is it Peter that is causing all this congestion?) Peter says that there are too many bus lanes, traffic lights and other negative road "improvements" - "Reading's roads are some of worst".
The Institution of Civil Engineers are backing road pricing and one of their regions has issued another press release saying "that the UK needs road pricing". They believe that the toll tax will be spent on new roads and railways etc. Sweet dreams.
Big Bosses organisation, the CBI, one of the Governement's "independent" consultees on road pricing has today pushed out a statement reiterating its view that -
"We can't simply build our way out of trouble." It wants drivers to be charged "for the road space they use, at prices that reflect demand in different locations and at different times of day". Surprise, surprise!
A selection of some of today's other stories - BBC - "What's the cost of e-mailing 1.8m people?" Yorkshire Post - "Say no to road charges ... and yes to a proper transport system" New Statesman - "Persuasion is a science" Car Keys - "The Road Pricing Debate" Mike Rutherford in Auto Express - "We can all relax now that road toll tax has been scrapped. Er, no...".
Tolling along the Thames
Today's Harrow Times reports that the Mayor on a visit to the area this morning said - " the congestion charge would not be extended out to Harrow and that a blanket charging scheme would be a real sledgehammer to the town". Those not yet using duvets will be relieved, but perhaps the rest of us may wonder how far the Mayor does intend to extend his "congestion charging".
More embassies are now refusing to pay the C-Charge - BBC - "Embassies suspend paying C-charge" Now that around 60 embassies won't pay the toll tax will the Mayor say that they are like a "like a chiseling little crook", or is his anger reserved for the Americans?
Capita, the firm that runs the Con charge and other services for government made £200 million profit last year - Reuters.
It seems that the London Zone had to be extended to the west as a matter of social equity, as the original zone was hitting the "much poorer" south east of London - Guardian Comment - "Resistance is 4x4 futile".
FTA press release of a week ago, that we missed as it went unreported - "London congestion charge - no benefits to industry".
Some other stories - Independent - "Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess - Why I love the congestion charge (don't kill me!)" News Shopper - "Calls to reopen bridge enquiry" Ealing Times - "Leader reclaims bus lanes"
USA round up 22nd Feb
A few!! of today's stories - Massachusetts - "Mass Pike toll hike expected for 2008" syndicated - "Privatization of toll roads gaining momentum" New Jersey - "States turn to private industry to maintain, manage toll roads" New Jersey - "DRBA closer to adopting budget" Massachusetts - "Pay for new commuter rail by charging car owners a "green" fee" Michigan - "Toll road leases sought - Cash-strapped states ready to make deals" Texas - "Senate committee grills two commission nominees over toll roads" North Carolina - "Toll road might be coming to Davidson Co" Pennsylvania - "Think twice before selling a highway" Virginia - "Chesapeake one step closer to new toll road" Illinois / Missouri - Illinois press release New Jersey - "Who is really pushing this turnpike sale?" Texas - "They Get Us Coming and Going" The Trucker - toll debate Utah - "Toll Tale" Illinois / Missouri - "Board endorses plan for coupler bridge" New Jersey - "Toll-road sale just a ploy to avoid tough decisions" Alabama - "Firm seeks to raise toll bridge fees in state" Illinois / Missouri - "State officials to outline plan for I-70 bridge" California - "Why give the state our cash cow?" New Jersey - "Toll road sale would not be a good gamble" Massachusetts - "Pike’s next boss" Virginia - "New Tolls On Chesapeake Roads?".
Wednesday 21 February 2007
Doubly Done at Dunham
We reported last Friday that it had been announced that the Minister had approved a toll increase on the privately owned bridge where the A57 crosses the River Trent at Dunham. Gerry Watt from Lincoln had put in an official objection to the increase and there was an inquiry last October at which we backed Gerry's objection. our version of what happened at the Inquiry.
Neither Gerry nor the NAAT heard anything direct from the DfT, and it has today emerged that the Inquiry Inspector recommended that the tolls go up and the Minister apparently agreed. The Bridge Company were told in January that they could put the tolls up. But the Minister has not yet signed the Increase Order, no official letter has been sent out giving his decision, and the objector at the Inquiry was told nothing. In the meantime the Company has posted notices at the bridge saying that the tolls will go up from the 1st March.
There would not have been an Inquiry without Gerry Watt's intervention. For this to be dealt with in this way shows the Government attitude towards those who have to pay existing tolls. The important thing seems to be that drivers should pay more and should do so as soon as possible. What does this tell us about how road pricing would be introduced?
Road Pricing EXTRA
The PM's reply has now appeared on the petition web site - "PM emails road pricing signatories". Nothing remarkable about that. What is remarkable is that the Government seems determined to continue to mislead. It has various "extras". Not surprisingly they are largely roads pricing propaganda, but even Goebbels would have been proud of the section headed "Independent views on road pricing - for and against". Apart from Peter Roberts the views are from organisations that support road pricing to various degrees, some of them fanatically. If this is what the Government claims is independent for and against, then watch out for their next trick.
PS Most people will be pleased that the PM has been able to announce that 2,000 troops will leave Iraq "soon". But is it a coincidence that this was announced on the day that he knew he would receive a 1,800,000 signature petition against one of his main policies? A policy, that when the Transport Secretary was appointed last May, he was instructed by the PM in writing to make his priority.
The Peter Roberts petition closed with an official 1,791,942 signatures, but the figure will change slightly. This was an increase of 134,000 on the previous night. As there have been some problems on the website and as the signature does not count till a link in an acknowledgement email is clicked on, the number of people who have tried to sign and been locked out or the process has not completed will be many many more. People can however still click on the link in the acknowledgement emails from Downing Street and increase the count.
PS Due to people clicking on email links, the number signing is now over 1,800,000.
The PM's reply to petitioners was published early this morning and this story appeared on BBC website - BBC - "PM denies road toll 'stealth tax'" and "Blair's statement in full".
The PM's reply did not appear on the petition web site till late today, though in any case early this morning the system was down.
The PM said "we have not made any decision about national road pricing". Really?
The Government propaganda machine and their allies have been busy pushing this. The preface to the 10 Year Transport Plan published in July 2004 said - "Government will lead the debate on road pricing, working with stakeholders to establish and explain how and when pricing might provide the reliability and standards road users want." preface to the plan.
The momentum of this push has gradually increased till in December (4th) 2006 we reached the position where at a conference on "Steering Through Change: Winning the debate on road pricing" the Transport Secretary told the faithful - "As I said in my first week as Transport Secretary, we need to move the debate on from the 'why' to the 'how'. Rod's (Eddington) report strongly shows why this is important, indeed necessary in the national interest. This is why the government has been determined to build the case for road pricing.". full text of speech.
The Government continue to be economical with the facts. The PM completely ignores the cost of implementing and running road pricing and tries to give the impression that road taxes are being shifted from one area to another.
The Government should abandon this unwanted toll tax now and start to do something to tackle congestion by improving the road system and doing the 1,001 other things that would help reduce congestion.
The Tories have issued a press release saying that the PM is misleading people. Unfortunately the Tories are also misleading people. They do not say that they themselves support road pricing. They must know that this would waste billions in collection costs, but like the Government their lips are sealed on this - Tory press release.
The Tories north of the border must have done a UDI, as by coincidence they today launched a campaign that is strongly against road pricing.
We all fell off our chairs when we saw this one. The BBC has a website item about road pricing and they mention us and give us a link - "Q&A: Road pricing". Pity that they get our name wrong. But you can't have everything!! Pity as well, that they haven't had a link to us in other recent road pricing stories. Who knows a Minister at the DfT might have looked at our Reasons why idea is Daft page and had a Damascene conversion. Or would they have cut our links off? (Internet that is).
We didn't fall off our chairs when we saw that included in those campaigning against road pricing as well as us and the Association of British Drivers were the "AA Motoring Trust" and the RAC Foundation. The Trust no longer exists, and the Foundation has been in the vanguard of promoting "road pricing" and their criticism has not been of road pricing but that the Government should make a better job of selling road pricing.
Paul Smith of SafeSpeed has today issued a report on "Road Pricing - Money for nothing
(except pricing the poor off the roads)".
The papers are unfortunately still being duped. They now quote the views of "motoring groups". What they usually mean by this is various organistions that have not a single member and who have been helping the Government to push road pricing - "PM urged to set out road fee plans".
What the PM's spokesman said at yesterday afternoon's press briefing (first item).
What the papers said -
Guardian / AP - "Blair Seeks E-Opinions, Gets 3 Million" (this story was syndicated in America) IT Week Blog - Lem Bingley Guardian Unlimited - "Bashing the masses" Guardian Unlimited - "The people can't be wrong"" Guardian Unlimited - "E-petitions: Marketing, or e-democracy?"" Reuters - "PM says road pricing not "stealth tax"" Shropshire Star - "1.8m back road fee fight" Guardian / PA - "Road toll not stealth tax, says PM" (update) Reuters - "Blair emails 1.8 million people to defend road tax"" Guardian / PA - "PM urged to set out road fee plans" Reuters - "PM says road pricing not "stealth tax"" Evening Standard - "Blair dismisses 1.8m road-pricing protests by email" Evening Star (Suffolk) - "Driving petition misconceived" Telegraph - "Blair rebuffs 1.8m who signed road petition" Herald (Glasgow) - "Warning: major road row ahead" Net4now - "Government website becomes a hit" Guardian / PA - "Road toll not stealth tax, says PM" Guardian / PA - "Road toll petition fails to move PM" Guardian - "Blair to hit back at 1.7 million toll protesters" (includes denial by Peter Roberts that there was anybody else behind his peition)
Traders in Greenwich are worried that the Toll Wars will soon come to them, with propsals for congestion charging and river crossing tolls - Bexley Times - "Traders slam absurd’ road charge plans".
USA round up 21st Feb
North Carolina - "Tolls considered for Yadkin River bridge" New Jersey - "State shouldn't give up toll roads for a lifetime" Virginia - "Boycott the Greenway" Illinois / Missouri - "Blunt hails bridge proposal, Ill. says no tolls"" New Hampshire - "Lynch plan for funding roadwork debated" Texas - "Tolls, taxes or time ... we'll all pay for traffic growth"
Tuesday 20 February 2007
Midday today the BBC were saying "Road fees scheme 'not definite'". This was difficult to reconcile with the story first thing today that was headed -
"Minister resolute on road tolls".
An updated version of the "not definite story" and BBC News bulletins say that based on a BBC survey 74% of people are opposed to road pricing but that most people accept road pricing once it has been explained to them that the "money raised was used to improve public transport". Does the BBC not know what this scheme will cost to implement and run? If not, then why not? If so, then why do they not mention it?
PS The BBC are not alone, most British newspapers either ignored the impending disaster of road pricing or were advocates of it. The success of Peter's petition has meant that more people have discovered the facts.
The people of Britain have been subjected to one of the biggest attempted deceptions ever. You won't see it in any papers, so here is our final press release before the Peter Roberts petition closes -
The tremendous success of the Peter Roberts petition shows that people don't want tolls in any form.
They will not be fooled by calling them "congestion charges" or "road pricing". They recognise this as a ploy to get money from
drivers who are already paying seven times over for their use of the road. (£50 billion taxes compared with £7 billion roads
They will not be fooled by assurances that most drivers will pay the same or less than now, and only "other" drivers will pay more.
They know that these systems cost many billions to set up, and billions more to run. (Implementation cost according to Government of up to £62 billion and running costs of £5 billion.)
They will not be fooled by assurances that this scheme is not meant to try and force less well off drivers off the road. MPs and others who claim expenses and the drivers of big luxury cars are not the ones who will be chased off the road.
They will not be fooled by assurances that vehicles will not be monitored. If they were to believe that they might as well believe
in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and WMD.
You only have till midnight tonight to sign the Peter Roberts petition. Though many people will not be sure whether they have signed or not, due to some problems at the website. As at 12 last night there were 1,658,000 signatures.
What the PM's spokesman said at this morning's press briefing ("road pricing" is first item). Despite what was said to the press, the PM's reply should be immediately available to everybody on the 10 Downing Street website. This would take moments for them to do, if they don't then what is their motive?
More reports - Dorset Daily Echo - "For whom the road tolls…" Guardian Unlimited - "A road test for democracy" Times - "Privacy row as checks on phones and e-mails hit 439,000" Islamic Republic News - "Overwhelming opposition to UK road toll plans" Guardian Unlimited - short quiz South Wales Echo - "‘Our poorest commuters will lose out’" East Anglian Daily Times - "Road pricing will breed resentment" East Anglian Daily Times - "Road pricing will breed resentment" Evening Standard - "Blair to email millions of road charge campaigners as petition closes".
On News Night last night there was another "debate" on road pricing. The case was championed by a Minister, assisted by the usual suspects. Those who oppose them are shouted down and interrupted. And of course the Minister again referred to "myths" spread by opponents of road pricing. There was the usual mantra that there would be no overall increase in taxes, money for better transport, that the sytem would not be able to track vehicles and that many people will pay less. How will this feat be achieved when the implementation cost alone could be £62 billion? Who is writing this script? It is turning into a fantasy greater than WMD. BBC - "Minister resolute on road tolls".
Our coordinator briefly came up from the bunker to give our views on Guardian Unlimited - "On the wrong track".
The politicians have obviously decided to try a new tactic - they are now trying to persuade drivers that they needn't worry about road pricing, it will only hit "other" drivers - BBC - "Road charges may be in south only".
That story related to Welsh drivers, by coincidence there is another story, that did not come from the Government's spin machine - Western Mail - "Valleys commuters may bear cost of road pricing, warns transport study".
Other reports - Telegraph - "Army of enforcers will police road charging" Shropshire Star - "MP adds to Motoring protest" Daily Mail - "We need more people power" Mirror - "BLAIR DRIVEN TO A RETHINK" Guardian Unlimited / PA - "Anti-road charging petition closes" Telegraph - "We must act on road e-petition, says Blears" Guardian Unlimited - "PM refuses to be swayed by road pricing petition" Evening Standard - "Loyalists revolt against Blair on pay-as-you-drive" Times - "Future Shock" Times - "Of course we need more roads. It’s a no-brainer" Times - "Make a start on road pricing or lose out on £1.4bn, councils told".
Last night's edition of "Tonight with Trevor McDonald" on ITV was about road pricing. They took a group of 10 employees at a North East factory. They were told "all" about Road pricing - by advocates of it. They were also told, based on various assumptions, that it would save some of them money and that most of the others would pay little more than now. After all that all 10 of them still rejected it, and said that if it was implemented they either could not or would not change when and where they drived. They had not fallen for it. At the end of the programme Doctor Ladyman, the Roads Minister, was interviewed. He again said that it would cost no more than existing taxes. Perhaps someone will ask him where the billions of running costs are coming from. Has the Department for Transport arranged to win the Lottery - every week?
What the PM's spokesman said at yesterday afternoon's press briefing (scroll down to "road pricing").
Canada on the brink
If you are thinking of emigrating to Canada to escape the Con charge, then think again - Toronto Star - "Councillor to study London road tax".
C day plus one
Local London - "C-charge misery for Battersea residents" Ealing Times - "Bus lanes used in C-charge protest" Guardian Unlimited - "Protest greets congestion charge's westward push" Independent - "Congestion charge: Chelsea's motorists sing the blues" Independent - "Congestion charge: Green lobby hails road-toll extension" Telegraph - "Labour's poll tax" Christian Science Monitor - "Reporters on the Job - Bigger Toll, Less Traffic" Christian Science Monitor - "London doubles size of its controversial pay-to-drive zone" Evening Standard - "C-charge is here but we're not giving in".
The long arm of the Mayor
Sky - "Ken goes for fuel cut" Telegraph - "Livingstone's transport empire may extend"
USA round up 20th Feb
"4 private Alabama toll bridges to raise charges for using" New Jersey - "No sale - Manzo opposes lease of Turnpike and Parkway" New York - "THE BELL TOLLS FOR THE TOLL ~ THURWAY AUTHORITY EXPOSED" New York - "Peace Bridge tolls to go up in April" Virginia - "General Assembly approves tolls on Dominion Boulevard" Illinois - "Missouri says no to Illinois offer on bridge at St. Louis" California - "Private investment, public benefit" Alabama - "Tolls rise for area bridges" Kansas - "Senators eye ways to repair schools" Florida - "The Guetzloe Files: Silence Is Golden" Pennsylvania - "Can the state be efficient?".
Monday 19 February 2007
With 48 hours left to sign the Peter Roberts petition there can't be many people left to sign. As at 12 last night there were 1,587,000 signatures.
The London Congestion Charge zone was extended westwards from 7 AM today. As with the introduction of the initial zone they chose a half term when the roads are quiet anyway.
Later or updated reports - BBC - "Views split at C-charge epicentre" BBC - "Congestion charge zone increases" Guardian / Press Association - "Division over new congestion zone" Ealing Times - "Residents' dismay as C-charge extends" Guardian - "Livingstone praises congestion zone extension" Guardian Unlimited - "Don't be scared to confront people like me over car use" Guardian - "Bigger new congestion zone launched".
Press releases - The Mayor Friends of the Earth Freight Transport Association Federation of Small Businesses.
Some of those who oppose the extension of the zone support the principle of charging. They say that the London scheme is too "blunt" and needs to be more like the Singapore "Electronic Road Pricing" scheme.
For a different view of road pricing in Singapore see - Our road pricing page.
The real reason for pushing electronic automatic tolling was revealed by the boss of toll giants Macquarie at a conference last September - "I call it the 'mobile phone effect'. How many people out there know the cost of a call on your mobile phone? Well, it's very expensive, I can assure you of that. It's the same thing with tags. You go through, you hear the beep, you don't think about it. You pay your bill once a month. It's amazing how reaching into that pocket to get that three bucks seems a lot more painful than hearing that beep.".
Earlier reports - Guardian / Press Association - "Bigger new congestion zone launched" Guardian - "Congestion zone could fuel voter revolt against Livingstone" Reuters - "London widens congestion charge zone".
The Transport Committee chair has been giving her views - Hemscott. On the Jeremy Vine show at lunchtime, we pointed out to her that drivers would have to pay more than now as the cost of implementing a road pricing scheme could be up to £62 billion. It was not clear whether she understood this. It was then pointed out to her that her Committee had said that they wanted drivers to pay more on top of the £62 billion collection costs, to produce a surplus. She agreed that was what they wanted, but that the Government would not agree! So that's alright then we only have to pay an extra £62 billion for the implementation and then whatever it costs to run the scheme.
Jeremy Vine then reminded her that the people of Edinburgh had rejected tolls by a three to one vote. Her answer was that people would always reject an extra tax, if the question was worded that way. If she cares to check what happened in Edinburgh she will discover that the question that was put to the people was not whether they wanted "an extra tax", it was - "The leaflet enclosed with this ballot paper gives information on the Council's transport proposals for Edinburgh. The Council's 'preferred' strategy includes congestion charging and increased transport investment funded by it. Do you support the Council's 'preferred' strategy?" The people of Edinburgh saw through this and still voted No. We suspect that the MPs who want road pricing etc needn't worry too much about the ballot question, as the Government probably intend that the people will not be asked again.
Knock on effect around Britain - BBC - "UK's congestion schemes". The submissions made by local authorities around Britain can be found from here - Pilot schemes.
There was another protest this morning. A march down Walton Street in Chelsea SW3 assembles at 10 AM for a 10.15 start. (More details at the top of the London page.)
This is part of our press release immediately prior to the extension -
" DRIVERS who have been protesting about road pricing, get another taste of what is in store today.
The move west into Kensington and Chelsea has doubled the size of the zone, and affects hundreds of thousands of residents, local businesses and drivers. It will reduce visitors and harm small businesses in the charge area.
Though Transport for London continue to claim that the existing charge zone has been a success, this is largely a myth. The only change is that drivers now get "charged for the congestion that they we once got for free!"
This situation is not unique to London. Singapore has a more sophisticated "Electronic Road Pricing" system which it has been suggested that London should eventually copy. But last Friday Channel News Asia reported thatMP Low Thia Khiang told the Singapore Parliament - "Is the ERP just a means to squeeze money from the motorists who face the same jam?"
Instead of using the weapon of a toll tax, the authorities should use the billion pounds a week that they already get from drivers to improve public transport and roads - We want positive measures that will help traffic to flow, not charges and road restrictions to force it into smaller and smaller areas of road space, which inevitably leads to more congestion.
Peter Roberts, who started the Petition against road pricing, was on Breakfast tv this morning saying why he opposes all forms of Road Pricing. Speaking for tolls and backing the charge zone extension was a spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth. She finished by saying that road pricing has halved the traffic in Singapore. Perhaps FOE should have a chat with the Singapore MP.
John Redwood, one of the people deciding what Tory policy will be was interviewed today in the Independent. Asked about road pricing he said - "It is a pity the Government has failed to debate road pricing properly. If it had said road pricing would not lead to any overall increase in motoring taxation, and it would be linked to improvements in our road system it may have got a better response. Instead we all see it as yet another tax for using increasingly inadequate roads.". Presumably he knows that the implementation and running costs of a road pricing system could be about £10 billion a year. So why does he say that there could be no overall increase in tax? Is it linked to the rumours that he is proposing that Tory policy should also include privatising the motorways?
Some reports today - BBC - "Force enters UK road pricing row" Telegraph - "Drivers face £600 bill for an in-car road pricing black box" Telegraph - "Where the streets are paved with gold" Guardian Unlimited - "'prat' or pioneer?" Dutch News - "Ex-minister warns on road pricing" Spiked - "Steering the debate in the wrong direction" Shropshire Star - "Car charging - your views" Norwich Evening News - "Fears over Norwich congestion charge".
USA round up 19th Feb
Denver - "Toll road is costly" Indiana - "Some question who will determine route of proposed toll road" Georgia - "Atlanta must fix road woes now, by itself".
Sunday 18 February 2007
Brian Rudnam asks - "Which part of "no to road pricing" do Transport Minister Annette King and her bureaucrats not understand? Despite overwhelming opposition from Aucklanders to curing road congestion by pricing the poor out of their cars and into public transport, the Government is continuing to research the concept." - NZ Herald - "No means NO when it comes to road charges". In Britain of course the politicians are wise, fair, logical, listen to the people and are not "economical" with the truth. (Or at least that is what it said in the news so it must be so, mustn't it?)
"The wrong road to take"
We reported on Friday on the "first road-charging scheme in the Middle East". Today Nicholas Coates in the Gulf News gives his view.
USA round up 17th and 18th Feb
West Virginia - "Bill takes aim at toll hikes" (Opinion of Former Kansas Governor and president and CEO of the American Trucking Association - published in various states - "Taking a toll on our highway system" Indiana - "Where Illiana dreams will meet toll road reality" California - "Minimum Fastrak fees looming" South Carolina - "Federal backing for I-73 strong".
There were syndicated AP reports in most USA papers on the C Charge extension, usually with the headline "London's lefty mayor fights traffic". Reports are more about the Mayor than the charge, and refer of course to his "a chiseling little crook" remark.
C Day minus one
Following yesterday's protest, Hammersmith and Fulham Council issued this - press release
Reports on yesterday's protest and tomorrow's extension - BBC - "Road charge expansion to begin" New York Times - "London Adds to Its Zone for Road Tolls".
Some background to the extension on - Kensington & Chelsea Council website
After today, there will only be 48 hours left for people to sign the Peter Roberts petition. That is if there is anyone with email access who has not already signed it!
As at 12 last night there were 1,558,000 signatures. Our estimate of the final official total is 1,750,000, though many of those who think that they have signed it may not be counted due to failures at the epetition web site.
Scotland suggests that it could go it alone and bring in road pricing, while abolishing vehicle excise duty and cutting fuel duty - Scotland on Sunday - "Ministers plan to scrap car tax as sweetener for road tolls". Judging by the comments posted by readers below this story, they have not fallen for this troll fantasy.
A Sunday Mirror writer says that those who oppose road pricing "manipulate statistics" - "A DEAD END ON ROADS"
Christopher Booker writes in his Notebook on the 4th dimension to road pricing - the Galileo system - Sunday Telegraph - "A fiasco on this scale could be seen from space". Which is the chicken and which is the egg? Does road pricing need the spy satellite system, or is it the other way round?
A lot of the pronouncements from the authorities seem like fiction but we are supposed to accept tham as fact. Is there now a new twist, fact masquerading as fiction? Spoof - "Government To Tax Non-Drivers".
Your Money / Taxpayers Alliance did a programme on road pricing on the 14th - 18 Doughty Street (this is a tv programme lasting 30 minutes, though you can stop it at any time). Warning to viewers! Young children, the Mayor of London and those who believe that road pricing is a good idea may have nightmares or worse if they watch this!
Some "observations" on road pricing - Observer - "Hard sell in snarled-up Britain". It seems that the RAC Foundation are still acting as the ringside trainer to the politicians who want more road charges. The Observer says that the RAC have - "suggested that the government could even rebrand road pricing as UK Drive Time to advertise potential benefits. You would then show that actually this system does work, it's not a big brother, it's not extra tax, and people will see the benefits." Isn't it time that the RAC through the towel in?
We are not sure if this story is a spoof or not. The Observer suggests that road tolls will be voluntary - "Drivers to be offered trial pay-if-you-like toll scheme".
The PM outlines to the Observer what he will tell the petitioners - Observer - "The e-petition shows that my government is listening" BBC - "Road petitioners get Blair reply".
This is from the 10 Downing Street website - original text of what the PM told the Observer.
The Government and the BBC again speak of those opposing them as "spreading myths". It is the politicians who are
themselves guilty of this! It is suggested that road tolls would be offset by reductions in fuel duty. This is absolute nonsense. The consultants commissioned
by the Government calculated that the cost of implementing road pricing could be up to £62 billion. Where is this to come from? And is anyone "green" enough to believe that a Government which says it wants to cut down on burning of fossil fuel will reduce fuel duty?"
Some other reports - Female First - "Blair Admits Road Pricing Is "Just A Tax"" Times - "Wheel to wheel combat" Troll Times - "Road pricing will be accepted from councils".
North of the Border
Some reports on Road pricing and petition that escaped from our Scotland news page - Scotland on Sunday - "Web revolutionaries harness broad band of discontent with Holyrood" Scotland on Sunday - "Over a million object but road plans go ahead" Scotland on Sunday - "Car number plate cameras 'first step towards tolls'".
Mungo McKay in Scotland on Sunday reveals what the First Minister was doing this week. The entry for Tuesday is - I have never seen Jack so happy. He'd been up since 5am at his computer. "So far, I've managed to obtain 60 e-mail addresses," he said. "What for?" I asked. He looked at me as if I were stupid. "The Downing Street petition! Haven't you heard? Millions of people are signing up to this campaign against road tolls and it's completely ruining Douglas Alexander's career!".
Saturday 17 February 2007
Go slow Day
Protests against Monday's zone extension - There was a "go slow" drive organised by West London Residents Association and others this morning - BBC- "Leafy Kensington shows its anger" This is Local London - "'Go-slow' congestion charge protest held" Guardian / PA - "Congestion zone expansion protest" BBC - "Go-slow protest over road charge" Wharf / PA - "Congestion zone expansion protest'" Metro - "Congestion zone expansion protest" Telegraph - "Congestion zone 'may trap unwary motorists'".
The Enfield Independent say that - "Enfield councillors will oppose any congestion charge plans" for their borough.
Train congestion - Times - "Don’t expect a seat, says Go-Ahead chief".
With 3 days to go, the Peter Roberts petition had 1,538,000 signatures at 12 last night.
The "Troll" Times has launched an attack on the Association of British Drivers, the organisation that Peter Roberts joined shortly before he started the petition - "On trail of the men behind million voices who oppose road pricing". It is interesting that the Times has this on its "Crime" pages. Does this mean that the Police bosses who are threatening ordinary police officers who signed the petition are now turning their attention on others?
We sent a comment to the Times, just in case they don't use it, here it is - "The Times is a fervent advocate of road pricing, and the tone of this report is what would be expected. The petition which was started by Peter Roberts has attracted a phenomenal number of signatures and has obviously been of extreme annoyance to the establishment. Will the Times be doing a similar report on the background of those who advocate road pricing and are frequently quoted in the Times as "representing drivers" even though they have no members at all?"
This morning's Guardian - "Petitions, politics and prats: a cautionary tale for No 10" - suggests that the man behind the epetition system may no longer be regarded as a "prat" but as a hero. The reason is that the Government would normally respond to all those who sign, and according to the Guardian report can send up to two emails to all these 1.5 million people telling them why road pricing is such a wonderful idea. The petitioner can not email even one of the epetitioners.
As it happens, we contacted the administrators of the epetitions sytem in December. We pointed out that similar epetition systems, including the Scottish Parliament one, have a facility whereby those who sign a petition can tick a box agreeing that their contact details can be passed to the epetitioner. The reply that we got on the 22nd December was "Thanks for the feature suggestion about passing on information to the petition creator. I've added it to our list of features to discuss adding in the future.". We wonder what they will do?
Friday 16 February 2007
Done at Dunham
The Minister has approved a toll increase on the privately owned bridge where the A57 crosses the River Trent at Dunham. Or so it appears. Gerry Watt from Lincoln put in an official objection to the increase and there was an inquiry last October at which we backed Gerry's objection. The Minister has now told the Company that they can increase the tolls, but the DfT have not told Gerry or us.
The users of this bridge for the last 170 years must have paid for it a thousand times over. A bigger millstone round the area's neck, is of course the Humber bridge tolls. Gerry Watt at the toll increase inquiry gave an impassioned speech about the way both tolls hit the economy and affected people who had to cross toll bridges to get to hospitals and other facilities. This of course has made no impression on the Minister. It is a wonder that the toll operators don't ask for even more. Here is our version of what happened at last October's Inquiry.
The London Con goes on
Protests against the zone extension - There is a "go slow" drive organised by West London Residents Association and others which assembles at 10.30 AM on Saturday 17th February at Addison Road, and a march on foot on the Monday. (More details at the top of the London page.)
Today is the last day of freedom in West London, as the con charge zone (which only applies on week days) is extended from Monday. Protests have been organised - Evening Standard - "Fury mounts over C-charge extension".
The Guardian give space to someone called "Ken Livingstone" who says - "The doubters have been proved wrong: the congestion charge has given London less traffic and better public transport." - "Charging ahead". Mr Livingstone must have been reading too much TfL propaganda.
The International Herald Tribune / Associated Press give their view of the Mayor of London, who by coincidence is also
named "Ken Livingstone" - "Newt-lover and traffic-hater, London's mayor extends the congestion charge". This Mr Livingstone must obviously be kind to animals, just like all those with autocratic powers.
London Travel Watch, is funded by the London Assembly, and represents the users of both public transport, and roads - in theory. They welcome the charge zone extension, but would have preferred a different scheme which would have hit drivers and residents of the western extension even more, they also object to the charging time finishing 30 minutes earlier - "Watchdog fears worse congestion in charge zone".
London First, a bosses organaisation which backs the Congestion Charge and is a funnel for TfL propaganda, has issued a press release. In brief the bosses think that the charge is a "blunt instrument" a, they want road pricing introduced that would cover large areas of London.
The Forum for Private Business give their views on the extension - "FPB backs protest over expansion of congestion charge zone".
Transport for London tells the BBC - "Why the zone decided to go west". If nothing else, this must save on the TfL advertising budget!
MPs have just had to publish details of their travel expense claims. One local paper reports that their Tory MP is saving the taxpayer a few bob. If he is going to London for more than a day he uses his car "because it is easier and because my car is a hybrid I don't have to pay the congestion charge". So that's it, we will all have to go out and buy a Lexus - if we can afford one.
Con charge comes to the desert
Arabian Business says that the "first road-charging scheme in the Middle East" is to be introduced to Dubai. The charge is to be 4 United Arab Emirate Dirhams. This converts to one dollar or 55 pence. We wonder how many sheikhs that will force off the road and into the sand?
With 4 days to go, the Peter Roberts petition reached the 1,500,000 mark at 12 last night. For one reason or another the figure reported as signing has slowed down, though there were still about 54,000 signatures yesterday, a figure which only one other petition has reached in total over its life!
Following yesterday's story that Dorset Police are to discipline police officers for using official computers to sign the petition, we have in the Telegraph the views of a lawyer - "Threat to staff who sign road petition in office". He agrees with the Police and says - "If I use an employer's computer, there is the risk that the company or organisation could be liable for the consequences.". Perhaps we need another petition to stop the slide into a Police state where you are hampered from signing a petition on a Government web site, a petition which is not even party political.
PS Though it seems that the Police may be backtracking, going by this later report - Daily Echo - "Police staff in trouble over petition".
PPS There is a further report quoting the Dorset Police Federation, who supposedly represent police officers. They say - ""Dorset Police has every right to restrict usage of its computers if it wants to." Yes, but would the Police establishment be coming down hard on police officers if they had done anything apart from signing a petition against the establishment policy of road pricing which is aimed at forcing poorer drivers off the roads? This seems to be a case of yanking the chain round the serf's neck to make sure that they know who is master.
Some other stories - Times - "'Taxing issue of road-pricing petition" Silicon.com - "'Raise petrol tax instead of new road tax'" (we agree that fuel duty is far better than tolls, but drivers are paying more than enough road taxes anyway) Oxford Mail - "A testing time for motorists" Letter in News & Star (Cumbria) Argus (Sussex) - "Will road tolls help take cars off roads?" Guardian - "Pretending to listen".
The Royal Academy of Engineering for some reason have been pushing road pricing for some time. On Wednesday they issued this - press release. This includes - "Road pricing will not necessarily reduce emissions. The best way to do this is by a direct charge on the amount of fossil fuel used.". They don't say whether it should also be compulsory for drivers to wear hair shirts.
The Daily Mirror has been promoting the Peter Roberts petition, but today it has a piece on the recent UNICEF survey which put Britain bottom of the league for looking after needs of children. It says - "What kind of society is it that can raise almost 1.5 million signatures in a matter of days for a petition against tolls for selfish motorists, but fails its children in this outrageous manner? I'll tell you - a sick society.".
Road tax down
Singapore has the world's most advanced road pricing system, charging variable tolls on central and main roads. It is now reported by Channel News Asia that - "Road tax down by 8 per cent". The paper says that "Recent years have seen a declining percentage of expressways and arterial roads that are congestion-free at peak hours." Low Thia Khiang MP asks is the Eelectronic Road Pricing - "Just a means to squeeze money from the motorists who … face the same jam?"
Depite having had ERP since 1998 Singapore drivers drive more than 12,500 miles a year round an area which is less than half the size of London. For more on this "model" of road pricing see - Our road pricing page.
Back to the Past
The Editor of the OC Register from Orange County (California's toll capital) gives his views on more tolls and privatization. He reminds readers that they have already had a private toll road. It was bought out after the company sued the county when it improved safety on alternative routes - "Private-public predicaments".
USA round up 16 Feb
New Jersey - "Jersey Turnpike Could Be for Rent, Sale" New Jersey - "Corzine's old firm pushing road-lease deals" New Jersey - "Road sale gets cool reception" West Virginia - "Guills blasts merit of PRAG report" Arizona - Goldwater Institute - "Private sector can drive traffic, brake 'time tax'" New Jersey - "Lawmakers slam plan to sell toll roads" Florida - "Expressway Authority balks at private toll road proposals" Connecticut - "Resurrecting tolls on our highways the solution?" "Idea of using tolls as revenue source advances in Mississippi"
Tolls lifted to clear congestion
A snow storm has caused major traffic congestion in Pennsylvania, and the Governor has ordered that the tolls be lifted for 24 hours - "Governor Rendell Waives Turnpike Toll Fees".
Thursday 15 February 2007
The Road Pricing "Debate"
The Transport Committee of MPs has criticised the Department for Transport for failing to meet targets on congestion and other aims - BBC - "Transport targets 'not being met'"
Telegraph - "Road pricing 'won't end congestion problems'"
Transport Briefing - "DfT misses five of seven PSA annual targets" Evening Standard - "Transport Minister mauled over department's 'picture of failure'" In the News - "Department for Transport condemned" Guardian - "Road pricing will not end congestion, warn MPs".
We don't know which is more laughable, the suggestion that the Transport Committee don't want road pricing or the Tory Shadow Roads Minister attacking the Government when he is actually a strong supporter of tolls. The MPs on the Transport committee are mainly pro tolls and anti roads. A year ago they told the Government that they wanted road pricing not to be "revenue neutral" - that means that they wanted there to be more taxes to spend on trains and trams. As Road pricing would cost a massive amount just to collect, this further demand would mean that charges would be even higher than the figures suggested by the Government.
ABD Press Release - "Government Promise to Debate Road Pricing `A Sham`".
The Guardian ask "Is the price right?". They give various arguments as to why road pricing is a bad idea. Their solution is apparently to combine it with other sticks to beat drivers with.
Mick Hume of Spiked Online argues that we need more roads not more taxes - "The road to nowhere".
Report from Reading, one of the probable road pricing pilots - get Reading - "Drivers react to road pricing".
USA round up 15 Feb
California - "Transportation panel gives OK to Orange County talks" Illinois - "No bailout for CTA" Utah - "Group wants corridor but not with tolls"
New Jersey - "Won't buy the Brooklyn Bridge? How about the Jersey Turnpike?" New York - "Selling Our Assets To The Highest Bidder" West Virginia - "Turnpike report’s call for increase in tolls stirs anger in southern WV" New Jersey - "Talk of toll road lease part of Trenton's shell game".
New Zealand has a strong Trolls establishment but also has a strong tolls resistance movement - NZ Herald - "Government pushes road tolls study to second stage" Scoop - "Potential Danger lurking in Road Pricing Study" News Talk - "Aucklanders don't want road tolls".
The London Con
On Tuesday (see 13th) the Mayor issued a press release trying to mask the increasing congestion in and around the charge zone. Even the Times saw though this - "Livingstone’s £8 zone heads west, but traffic jams are as bad as ever", though they naturally get views from the RAC Foundation, a big advocate of road pricing!
Channel 4 said - "Shock news: London still congested". We wonder why this is a shock? They obviously have never read our London or News pages, but don't they ever walk round and see how the efforts of the authorities to force poorer drivers off the road have just created traffic snarl ups?
It seems that cab drivers though they are exempted from the charge are not happy with the extension of the charge zone. One pointed out to BBC tv today that drivers who want to avoid a charge will either have to use the Edgeware Road / Park Lane route or do a "MASSIVE, MASSIVE detour". How this will help congestion and reduce vehicle emissions only TfL knows. Though no doubt they will be happy if they drive some of the poorer drivers off the road or round the bend!
The London branch of the ABD issued this press release about it yesterday.
Yesterday the BBC reported - "Businesses voice views over c-charge". The two positive views are on the top, the two negative views on the bottom. Today the BBC only have the view of the business establishment who back the charge in principle - "Business tentative over c-charge".
Yesterday we were contacted by one Yorkshire driver with his recent experience -
"I live in Yorkshire and recently travelled inside the London congestion zone before 7am. I thought that because I entered before 7am, I wouldn't have to pay the charge, or I would be charged on the way out. I have now received a letter stating that I would have to pay £50 because I was photographed inside the zone and never paid the charge.I then checked their website and realised that unless you are local and have had the procedure drilled into you, there is no obvious way of paying the charges from the signage around the city. I assumed there would be some type of toll system, which there wasn't, and have now realised that you have to pay in advance online, or at a local garage etc. I am disgusted that although it lets you know when you are entering the zone, it does not make it clear on how to pay. I have now been fined £50.".
This may give some of those in London a chuckle, but the fact is that the charge is designed to be difficult to pay. Drivers should be concentrating on safe driving not worrying about tolls. A problem which is not unique to London, drivers using tolled crossings are presented with a bewildering volume of distracting tolls information when they should be concentrating on the road.
The Netherlands currently has only one toll (on a road tunnel), but has been under pressure to bring in road pricing. A report published on Tuesday suggests that there would be a substantial fall in traffic, with biggest effect on shoppers - "Pay-as-you-drive mainly reduces shopping trips".
5 days to go
The Peter Roberts petition at 12 last night had 1,445,000 signatures. It is possible that a LOT of signatures have been missed due to web site problems. Though by now it must be a question of diminishing returns, as most of those who have an email address will have signed (or think they have!!) It should still pass the 1,500,000 mark by 12 tonight.
Police officers are to de disciplined for using official computers to sign the petition as it is said that it is political activity - Dorset Echo - "Road pricing row police face action". This is the Trolls establishment at work. The 10 Downing Street website says - "Party political material - The Downing Street website is a Government site. Party political content cannot be published, under the normal rules governing the Civil Service. Please note, this does not mean it is not permissible to petition on controversial issues.".
Story this afternoon -
Herts Essex News - "Support for 'toll tax'".
Stories this morning - Guardian - "Worried about being watched? You already are" Guardian - "Want to see democracy at its best? Don't bother visiting the Downing Street e-petition website" Times - "The baby-boomers should learn from their grandparents" Times - "No, we don’ t really want politicians to listen to us" (This is from tolls fanatic - Matthew Parris, when the people of Edinburgh voted against tolls he said "Edinburgh residents should never have been asked" and referred to "This coalition of the apathetic and short-sighted".
Wednesday 14 February 2007
More Rush to toll
"Time to treat transportation funding as a business, DOT Secretary Peters tells U.S. commerce leaders" Connecticut - "Resurrecting tolls on our highways the solution?" "Solving New York's traffic problems" California - "The value of toll roads" "More Toll Roads May Come To California" Arizona - "Senate panel endorses proposals for toll lanes" Massachusetts - "Romney pick resigns from Pike board" Pennsylvania - "Fattah's 'congestion charge' getting a red light" West Virginia - "Turnpike report blasted".
Wisconsin's Governor Jim Doyle says in his budget address to the Legislature - "I don't know about you, but driving up from Illinois, I am so relieved when we hit the border, because there aren't tolls in Wisconsin. And let me be clear: as long as I am Governor, there never will be." The Governor has proposed a levy on oil companies that can't be passed on to consumers - Chippewa.com.
There's gold in them there bridges
The "Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District" are looking to see if they can get a Golden Gate Bridge sponsor to avoid raising tolls to finance an
$87 million budget deficit.
An odd story from the Daily Mail. The "hidden elements" are in the documentaion that you can get to through the links on our road pricing page. Even odder are more quotes from an "AA spokesman". Which AA is this, and how are they speaking for drivers? "Revealed, what Blair isn't telling you about road tolls".
OECD push Tolls
We reported yesterday that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development had reported that Dublin should have a "congestion charge". What we missed is that they also say that Britain should have road pricing!
Reading the runes
Report from Reading, one of the probable road pricing pilots - get Reading - "Tolls to drive through town?".
6 days to go
Early this morning the counter on the 10 Downing Street website seemed to be still stuck. Before it stuck about 130,000 people had signed yesterday. The counter was moving again by lunchtime today and reached 1,400,000 about 12.15. It looks as if it will end today on about 1,445,000 - an increase of 75,000 from last night. The web site looks as if it may still be experiencing problems and it is quite possible that a lot of signatures have been lost over the last 30 hours.
A few "reports" this evening from toll supporters - Times - "Blair to e-mail all who sign road charge petition" Guardian - "The problem with petitions - The clamour of the mob is often close to insanity" Guardian - "It's total gridlock".
Some of the reports which appeared about midday -
Mike Rutherford in Auto Express - "Rally round and prevent this pay per mile nonsense" Sunderland Echo - "Congestion charging" Epoch Times (USA) - "Environment Groups Back UK 'Pay-as-You-Drive' Plans".
Some the reports early this morning - Telegraph - "Debate on road pricing is 'a sham'"
Guardian - "Downing Street to send Blair emails to 2 million road pricing protesters"
Guardian - "A signature issue for government"
Guardian - "Caught in the headlights"
Troll Times - "Driven round the bend - at £1.50 a mile"
Troll Times - "Road Rage"
Western Mail - "English road-pricing plan 'not fair' on Welsh drivers".
Tuesday 13 February 2007
Yesterday the BBC had "Why I love the congestion charge". To balance that today we have - "Thumbs down for congestion charge". Almost no one wants this extension to the zone. It will harm businesses in the western extension and at the same time will increase congestion in the original zone because more people will be eligible for the resident's discount.
There is a chance to show the Mayor what you think of this extension by joining in the "go slow" drive organised by West London Residents Association and others which assembles at 10.30 AM on Saturday 17th February from Addison Road, or in another protest organised for the Monday. (More details at the top of the London page.)
Report on 24dash - "Go slow protest fights 'London's baby tax'".
Report in Surrey online - "Disabled couple's £750 congestion charge bill".
The London Mayor issued a press release about traffic being down due to the success of the C-charge. This is just propaganda. There may be less traffic entering the zone, but it is still congested as once it's in there is no incentive not to keep driving round, and all of London sduffers from increasing restrictions on the free movement of traffic. Traffic outside the zone is of course worse, due to the same sort of traffic restrictions compounded by traffic diverting round the charge zone. It appears that the BBC have not fallen for the hype - "Congestion rises in c-charge zone".
Rush to toll
Philly.com - "Fattah calls for studying Center City drive-in fee"
LA Times - "California's future may be paved with fees"
Charleston Gazette - "Toll hike recommended"
Indiana News Sentinel - "Bill giving Daniels authority to seek tollways clears Senate".
"We don't have tolls. We don't want tolls."
While most of America heads for more tolls and privatization of roads, there are a few dissenting voices - Green Bay Press Gazette - "Wisconsin official blasts road privatization".
Land of good neighbours
Indiana having privatized roads is using part of the proceeds to temporarily cushion drivers from the resulting toll increases. The money is running out and it is thinking of ways of making sure that out of state drivers pay the higher tolls without the cushion- Land Line.
Petition goes travelling
There has been wide overseas coverage of the Peter Roberts petition against UK road pricing, including in most of today's news media in America - AP story in Washington Post.
Peter Roberts Petition with one week to go
Again the 10 Downing Street web site seems to have had problems coping with the number of people wanting to sign. It looks as if Monday's record of around 130,000 signatures may be broken, but the count of signatures stopped updating in the early evening. It seems to be well on the way to 2 million signatures. How can the politicians ignore this and go ahead with their plans for road pricing and congestion charging?
As you might expect the Troll Times online tries to suggest that the figures are fake. It ignores the fact that as well as a unique email address, you have to give a name and address, which may be checked. It is probable that the real number of signatures is even higher than shown on the site, because of failures on the web site, and because many people will not have clicked on the validating emails, which at one stage were blocked by those using hotmail addresses till MicroSoft fixed a "bug" in their system.
The Troll Times online also report the views of the "AA". In fact this seems to be the AA Motoring Trust, which is also remarkable as this organisation no longer exists, having merged with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and supposedly now concentrating on safety issues. The "AA" or whoever it is, repeats the usual rubbish about "ringfencing" and ignores the fact that the cost of setting up this toll tax (according to the Government) could be up to £62 billion ($120 billion).
We reported yesterday on the Environmental Transport Association saying that most drivers would be better off under road pricing as fuel duty would be abolished. We thought it a bit odd that they were promoting the creation of more carbon dioxide, but today they went one better. They say that the satellites that communicate with the in car devices will not know where the car is!!! Really? If so, then perhaps there will be no need to worry about road pricing as there will be even more ways to avoid it - ETA press release.
The BBC report following the story in the Evening Standard about "Ministers raging at 'the prat' behind No 10's Net petitions" - "The petition, the 'prat' and a political ideal". Tom Steinberg from "MySociety" the independent organisation that runs the petition site tells the BBC - "Research shows people are more willing to sign a petition than engage in any other kind of political activity. It's a simple process and clear what you are doing - putting your voice to a statement.".
The wonderful minds in the Friends of the Earth have issued a press release. They say "The biggest transport problem we face is not congestion, it is climate change. Emissions from transport are growing and tough action is urgently needed to tackle them." Presumably this is why they want to move away from fuel taxes to road tolls!!!
Motorcycle News have started a beggar my neighbour petition - "MCN charges petition". Let's hope that bikers (many of whom also drive cars, vans or lorries) realise that this is just the sort of thing that the Government wants to divide roads users and they will not sign this.
Peter Roberts comes from Telford, Shropshire. The council wants to be a pilot for road pricing and a local Tory MP has started a petition against the idea -
Shropshire Star - "MP in call on road charge plan". Is this MP the only one in the country who has not heard of Peter's petition? Or is he happy for there to be road pricing everywhere but there?
Some others of today's other reports - icwales - "Road charges not 'immediate' concern" Guardian - "Minister issues eco warning after online road toll protest hits No 10"
BBC - "Kelly hits back in petitions row"
Mirror - "BLAIR FACES TOLLS FIGHT - HIS MPS SLAM PLAN" Guardian - "Minister issues eco warning after online road toll protest hits No 10" Telegraph - "Road tolls could be Labour's poll tax" Independent - "The road to nowhere: Government urged to stick with plans for road pricing".
You'll wonder where the money went
The Southern Daily Echo reports that tolls on the Itchen Bridge will stay because the bridge which opebed 30 yaers ago is still not paid for - "STILL taking its toll". Strange when you consider that the construction cost is only the same as the toll income for one year!
The latest report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says that Dublin should have a "congestion charge". They also want Ireland to start charging for water - this should be good news for Guinness.
Where Europe is on road pricing
Scroll down to "Road pricing: one size does not fit all" - press release from research firm.
Monday 12 February 2007
Petition dominates news
Today, toll news has been dominated by Peter Roberts's petition. Despite apparent problems on the Downing Street website, it looks as if around 130,000 people will have signed today - a new record.
In the news media there has been the usual misinformation and lack of real information, we issued a press release which we will post here tomorrow - it is likely to have been ignored by all the news media.
Some papers have reported that the Government have said that road pricing will be scrapped because of the petition. But according to the Troll Times an official said today - "The Government's approach on road pricing has been set out many times in recent months. Doing nothing is not an option. We have been clear that we welcome all debate - but it must be based on fact and not fallacy. The first step to achieving this is to demonstrate through local pilot schemes how road pricing can tackle local congestion.".
Tonight the BBC had a mini debate on the road pricing petition. Arguing for road pricing was a spokesperson for Transport 2000 and against road pricing was a spokesperson from Motorists Voice. The only argument advanced against road pricing was that public transport was inadequate and that more should be spent on it before a decision was made on road pricing. The Motorists Voice organisation seems to have sprung from nowhere and has little on its website apart from a request for money. We wonder how it is determined who it is that should speak for those opposed to road pricing?
According to the Evening Standard - "Ministers rage at 'the prat' behind No 10's Net petitions". We thought at first that this was an attack on Peter Roberts, but it refers to whoever thought up the epetition system. A system which is currently struggling to keep up with the number of people who want to sign - though perhaps Ministers would be happiest if it fell over completely!
The Guardian is anti driver and pro tolls, though one of their web contributors (their Environment editor) today says that the Government are - "Driving to disaster" with their toll tax plans.
One of our spokesman was on local radio at lunchtime talking in favour of the Peter Roberts petition aganst road pricing. The spokesman who was arguing against the petition was from a Green organisation (Environmetal Transport Association) that mainly campaigns on reducing carbon emissions and " aims to raise awareness of the impact of excessive car use and help individuals and organisations to make positive changes in their travel habits". They said that they road pricing would cost less for 90% of drivers as only those in the South East would pay high charges and that fuel duty would be scrapped for everybody. To many people this may not make any sense, but Greens look at the world through some very, very strange green glasses.
Following what was said by Douglas Alexander on the BBC this morning, some reports are still saying that the Government will drop road pricing plans if that is what the people want, referring to the Transport Secretary's apparent pledge to the Mirror that plans would not go ahead without public support. But in Press Association reports, a spokesman for the Department for Transport "quickly moved to clarify the Transport Secretary's comments, claiming that it would not be the case that the public could block a charging scheme, but rather a call for more debate." Does this mean that they will shout louder and make more statements about the "fictions" from those who oppose them?
Telegraph - "Road-pricing protesters are 'peddling myths'" epolitix - "Alexander takes on road price critics" Intranetics - "Critics challenged to offer road pricing alternative".
The Lib Dems who back more road tolls are playing it both ways. Their Transport spokesman says that the Government "must be honest" but also says that "this petition misrepresents the case for Road User Pricing. It is an old political trick that if you do not like an idea, you misrepresent it in order to oppose it. That is all this petition does."
The Transport Secretary on the BBC this morning said "if you look at the petition itself there have been a number of myths that have been perpetrated" and he was "concerned about some of the myths that have been perpetrated around this petition" and refers to "an email that contains a number of fictions". In the Mirror he refers to "false allegations". The Peter Roberts petition which over one million people have signed is very short and simple, it does not contain any "fictions" or "myths". All the misleading of people has come from the politicians.
Reports in this morning's papers - Telegraph - "Downing St to email road pricing protesters" Mirror - "GOVERNMENT AXE TOLL TAX AXE VOW" Mirror - "TOLL WOULD HIT POOR HARDEST" Mirror - "WE CAN'T DO NOTHING" Guardian - "Drivers may face road pricing in 10 areas outside capital" Guardian - "The price of pricing" Independent - "Critics seize No 10's petitions website to slate Government".
Though there are many people on the BBC who are trying to give a balanced view on this issue, the dominant view is to back the Government. This morning the BBC Transport correspondent said that the Government was "ahead of the public". Presumably we need to be educated till we agree with the Government. The BBC online news report as usual turns a blind eye to us though we have been campaigning against these plans since July 2004 - "More road-charging debate pledged".
Don't share, pay a toll
In it's drive to toll and privatize roads, the White House says that carpooling does not work - Washington Post / Reuters - "White House slams carpooling, new road fees better".
Secret plan to save the planet
According to the Sunday Express "Revealed: concerts to save planet", there has been a private meeting to discuss how to convince the public that drastic measures are needed to stop Global Warming. Those at the meeting included - Al Gore and representatives of Microsoft, the BBC and Sky.
'Why I love the congestion charge'
According to the BBC - "The chorus of voices against the extension of the congestion charge has been noisy and unrelenting.". Really? Strange that we haven't seen much about it, instead we hear from a tolls supporter - BBC.
"Heartless and greedy tax"
The Editor of MetroWest says "Toll roads are nothing new. They existed in Europe centuries ago, wherever someone who lived by a road was strong or well-armed enough to block a dirt path and demand payment for passage." and goes on to say why - "Congestion pricing won't end gridlock".
How to pay for new Interstate
A report on the poor condition of the Interstate Highway system - Daily Item - "A victim of its own success".Usually these reports go on to extol tolls and privatization, but here there is actually a suggestion that there should be a substantial increase in the gas price.
Sunday 11 February 2007
A petition asking for the Darford tolls to be scrapped closed on 28th January. The Prime Minister's Office have now replied
- epetition reply. This is the usual turning of facts on their head. No doubt the petition from Peter Roberts will get a similar reply. What then will be the response of the people to the politicians who want to drive less well off drivers off the road?
More on "that" petition
Government surveillance plans are leaked to the Sunday Telegraph - "Trust us, we'll never leave you alone". We suspect that this is not a leak but a deliberate plant. The infamous Government Minister, Alan B'Stard, refers to plans to give everyone mobile phones that will secretly be reporting people's whereabouts - in fact they already know where every mobile phone is at any time!
The Guardian and its Sunday sister the Observer are usually anti drivers, but even they seem to have been swayed by the phenomenon of Peter Robert's petition - "Don't ignore a million angry voices, Mr Blair".
The Evening Standard report that John Spellar, a former Transport Minister, is now opposing "road pricing" as it "would be a "tax" on hard-working Middle England voters, who need their cars to get to work" - "Now MPs join road toll revolt".
BBC radio had an hour's debate last night on road pricing. It was dominated by one man who argued for road pricing and barracked those who were opposed. Perhaps nothing strange about that, particularly as this advocate of forcing drivers off the road said that they drove a car with a six litre engine all over Britain and in Europe, ansd so may be hoping that the introduction of tolls means a reduction in fuel taxes. Though strangely someone who appears to be this same advocate of road pricing was quoted on the BBC as being against the road pricing plans when they were first announced!
Roads for the Rich only
The New York Times sells the idea of road pricing with tolls varying according to time of day and congestion, and all charged electronically - "What’s the Toll? It Depends on the Time of Day". Trolls like electronic tolls as drivers are not conscious of what they are paying, and when tolls are constantly changing, they have even less idea. The rich don't mind this, but the cost and the uncertainty deters poorer drivers and effectively forces them off the road. Wouldn't it be simpler if they only allowed Mercedes and Lexus cars on the roads?
The Sunday Mirror tells a tale of Congestion Charge bailiffs - "THE BULLY BAILIFFS".
Saturday 10 February 2007
The Peter Roberts petition reached 1,000,000 signatures at 9.59 this morning ( as signatures are not counted till the signer clicks on a link in a confirmation email, the 1,000,000th person may have actually signed the petition yesterday or earlier)- ABD Press Release
Evening Standard Telegraph Times.
The Transport Secretary tells the Troll Times that "The response to this petition makes the case for more debate, not less, on the issue of road pricing." Is this the same Transport Secretary who said in a speech on the 4th December "We need to move the debate on from the 'why' to the 'how'"?
The RAC Foundation tell the Evening Standard that "We do not take a position of blanket opposition to it". Is this the same RAC Foundation that have been leading proponents of road pricing and been hand in glove with the Transport Secretary?
Stay of execution?
The Express and Star report on what is (is not?) happening in the Midlands - "Road fee charging is on hold".
Tolls create wealth
According to the Western Mail, the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce has issued a "manifesto" telling the politicians that they want an "environment created for risk-taking entrepreneurs to flourish", and they urge them to introduce road pricing. Presumably they see toll collection as a major new wealth creating industry.
"For whom the bridge tolls"
Ipswich are considering tolling the Orwell bridge - Evening Star.
United against road sales
Trucking organisations and other have formed a new alliance "Americans for a Strong National Highway Network" to oppose privatization of roads - etrucker - "Coalition opposes for-profit toll roads" The Trucker - "Highway users get together to oppose road privatization, tolls" Landline Mag - "New coalition calls privatization ‘pawn-shop mentality’".
"We’ll find you"
Maryland is planning a crackdown on toll evaders. A toll official says that "In the first quarter of this fiscal year, 530,000 vehicles passed through a Maryland toll booth without paying" - Cecil Whig - "E-ZPass not a free pass".
To toll or not to toll
It has been denied that there are plans to introduce "congestion charging" to Greenwich, but "The Wharf" reveals that they are doing market research on a £6 toll for using the Blackwall tunnel - "'£6 charge' for the Blackwall Tunnel". They could save a few bob on market research if the purpose is only to guage public reaction to tolls. But perhaps the ultimate aim is to see how people can best be fooled into accepting a charge.
"Malaysia’s closet of secrets"
More on Malaysian Toll plunder - Daily Times.
Thursday 8 February 2007
Scottish MSPs voted 65 votes to 58 not to scrap bridge tolls. More details are on our Scotland News page.
The News Shopper reports that Transport for London deny that there is any intention to toll Greenwich - "Congestion charge confusion".
Editor's view on likely toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway - Washington Examiner - "The roads not taken don’t exist".
This Editorial seems to start by supporting the Governor for keeping the tolls in the west of Massachusetts and ends up criticising him - Daily News Tribune - "Time for Patrick to talk tolls". It is interesting that about half the toll income is spent on collecting the tolls, and that the remaining Turnpike debt could have been eliminated by selling off the toll plazas!
MSPs vote tonight on a motion from the SNP that the two remaining tolls should go. More details are on our Scotland News page.
Record votes in a day?
The Peter Roberts petition got about 90,000 signatures yesterday, and has now been signed by over 800,000 people.
Wednesday 7 February 2007
The Kilburn Times reports that a small demonstration is planned for the day that the zone is extended, there is already a demo planned for the Saturday - "C-charge protests".
"Toll lanes are for well-off drivers"
Terri Hall, leader of the San Antonio Toll Party, is still battling against the Texas Trolls - My SA - "Toll foes show up in force at hearing".
Letter bomb in the Guardian
Though no one knows what the reason for the recent letter bomb attacks is, the Guardian - "Letter bombs and the angry motorist" - seems to imply that it is motorists as a whole who are to blame and refers to the article in the rival Troll Times on the 30th - "Don’t you dare pity the picked-on motorist".
The Eurocrats have come up with edicts that compel car manufacturers to produce cars with less carbon emissions - BBC.
Making vehicle engines more efficient and use less fuel would have been a good idea, as would have been tighter limits on particulate matter. But they have ignored fuel consumption and ignored harmful emissions and concentrated on a gas - carbon dioxide - that we all breathe out. This demonstrates how barmy the eurocrats and their political masters are.
Some reaction to the decision to keep tolls in the west of Massachusetts - Metro West - "A sad day for MetroWest" Worcester Telegram - "Highway robbery".
The Trentonian reveals a link between the Governor and those wanting to buy New Jersey's roads - "who’s behind toll road lease plan".
Greenwich Council apparently wants the Mayor to extend tolls to the borough - BBC. The Mayor says that a charge will not be introduced unless local people back it. Perhaps he can explain why the western extension is going ahead?
On Monday we had President Bush backing "congestion charging", now it is the turn of the Australian politicians - Sydney Morning Herald - "Report urges vehicle congestion charge". The politicians say that they want this as "Australia must reduce its reliance on oil". The little reaction there was to President Bush's announcement also said that switching the emphasis from gas taxes to tolls would reduce fuel consumption. Here is an example from the Christian Science Monitor which says that "It's a scheme with wider benefits, such as reduced fuel consumption, less air pollution, and better efficiency for business".
Mirror campaign - Attack on Tony
The paper attacks Tony Blair for ignoring public opinion - "TONY TOLL TAX" "BLAIR: WE CAN'T GO ON WITHOUT TOLL TAX".
To be fair to the PM, there are very few politicians from any party who are not rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of extorting more money from drivers on the excuse that either it is to save the planet or it is for the drivers own good. They all turn a blind eye to the fact that drivers are already being robbed, with only one pound out off every seven pounds in roads taxes being spent on the roads.
The Mirror campaign has caused another spurt in signatures to the Peter Roberts petition, and it has now reached 725,000.
By coincidence Tony Blair was grilled yesterday by the Liaison Committee of MPs. He was attacked for not doing enough to promote "congestion charging" - the attack came from Sir George Young, a Tory MP. The PM was also attacked today by the Greens for not doing enough to hit air travellers and drivers and thus stop "climate change".
Tuesday 6 February 2007
The High Occupancy Trick
Arizona is considering changing some of its HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes to HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes - Arizona Central. It is a common trick when bringing in tolls, to first dedicate some lanes as car pool lanes, then when people complain that the lanes are empty, they bring in tolls. Why does anyone fall for this trick?
The Tories accuse the Mayor of planning even more tolls - Evening Standard - "Mayor is plotting road tolls across capital". This is being done on the back of a Bill that will make it easier to toll a new bridge over the Thames. It is a pity that the Tories back such schemes, even though they know that drivers are already paying seven times more in taxes than is spent on the roads.
Mass Turnpike tolls to stay
The proposal to eliminate the tolls on the western side of Massachussets Turnpike is dead. It has been killed by opposition from the new Governor and the Boston establishment - Boston Herald.
More from the Daily Mirror "Say No to Tolls" campaign - "TOLL OF THE TOLLS". We warmly welcome this campaign, but wonder why there is not the same concern for all those around Britain already suffering from tolls.
"Stealing from the Grandkids"
Nathan Newman believes that privatization is bad - Coffee House - "Rip-off Privatizations and why they keep happening".
An alternative view from the right - Goldwater Institute.
Where the toll money goes
An organisation partly funded by $10 million of tolls money is under investigation - Philadelphia Inquirer.
Climate change denier
That the Earth is getting warmer, that this is due to burning of fossil fuels and that this warming is bad have become almost Gospel truths which few dare to challenge, but here is one of the few opposing views from Canadian Free Press - "The Cold, Hard Facts?".
Monday 5 February 2007
Texas Tolls Tussle
MySA reports on the Texas toll situation. A battle that the Trolls appeared to have won long ago, but which is still in doubt. Meanwhile those who want tolls, have already raided over nine billion dollars of gas tax and other roads funds to pay for things such as state historical and arts commissions - "Continued raids on highway fund mean toll road list will grow".
Trolls hold on
Despite opposition to toll roads in Oregon - "backers refuse to give up". Perhaps not suprising that they won't give up when Oregon is cited as an example by the advocates of road pricing.
Right and left back tolls
The headline in the Indy Star says "GOP senators backing toll roads". There are quite a few comments on the link at the bottom of this story including, from Brian Rapp of Louisville (Kentucky) - "Toll roads are one of the biggest wastes of money on the planet". Unfortunately this waste is also backed by Democrats. Some for different reasons, some for the same - they think that they can fool the people into thinking that tolls are not a tax.
It seems that President Bush is soon to join with the Democratic Congress in a big push to toll and privatize roads - Wall Street Journal.
A letter bomb was sent to the offices of the firm that, amongst other things, administers the London "Congestion Charge" -
- BBC - "Woman hurt in 'letter bomb' blast".
Mass Turnpike tolls to stay
The proposal to eliminate the tolls on the western side of Massachussets Turnpike is dead. It has been killed by opposition from the new Governor and the Boston establishment - Boston Herald.
Drivers from New York are worried about possibility that tolls will come back to Connecticut. Mary Huber-Trenholm from New York says "We pay a nonresident income tax. Why don't they just increase that? I don't want to add 15 minutes to my commute for a toll." - Journal News. One of he Connecticut Democrats who is pushing for tolls has in her district the state's two casinos. How many people will come once they have to pay a toll?
Hamster says "No to the Toll Tax"
The Daily Mirror has launched a "No to the Toll Tax" campaign. Despite the title, they are only referring to the national road pricing plans - "NO TO THE TOLLTAX" "PLANS FUEL MY ANGER". (The Peter Roberts petition is now over 650,000.)
Sunday 4 February 2007
The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is reported to be taking TfL to court over the camera poles that have been erected in the expanded charge area without any permission - Gulf Times.
Road pricing funding
The Evening Standard report that firms linked to road pricing gave money to one of the think tanks that has been promoting it - "Blair think tank given £45k by new road tax firm".
Saturday 3 February 2007
The Manchester transport bosses have met and endorsed the "congestion charge" plans - MEN - "Transport chiefs back congestion charge move".
There have been a lot of letters and comments about the Manchester con. Here is one today in - MEN - "Bolton News".
Congestion expansion protest
A protest against the expansion of the Congestion Charge zone is planned for Saturday February 17th. The expanded zone is due to come into operation the following Monday. The protest has been organised by the Hammersmith and Kensington councils and the West London Residents' Association - "C-charge protesters".
Not so "open road" tolling
The American road trolls have been engaged in a hard sell of the advantages of "open road tolling" - that is electronic tolls with toll barriers removed. But not everyone agrees that this is a big improvement - Land Line - "Open-road tolling creates new challenges, congestion". These systems still cause delays as not all vehicles have the correct sensors etc, and because vehicles may still have to slow down, even if they don't have to stop. The real advantage to the road troll is that electronic tolls are almost invisible to the drivers.
More toll pushing
More pushing of tolls by "conservative" groups published by the "Heartland Institute", who seem to want gas tax replaced with road tolls - "Private Money, Tolls Roads Recommended to Reduce Atlanta Traffic Jams" "How to Unclog the Nation's Highways".
Friday 2 February 2007
$34 million a mile
The Florida Turnpike Authority want to extend the Suncoast Parkway at an estimated cost of one billion dollars, even though only 2500 cars a day go as far as the end of the existing Parkway - Tampabays 10 - "What’s That Costing You? Billion dollar road".Building toll roads seems to cost a lot, possibly becuase contractors know they are dealing with someone who has a licence to print money. There is a danger in assuming that traffic will always increase. American gas prices and taxes are very low and will get higher, when they do will drivers be travelling as far as they do now?
World in danger
It's official - the earth is getting warmer and it's bad and it's all due to the burning of fossil fuels - BBC - "Humans blamed for climate change".
As usual nothing is said about population growth. Temperature records are not very reliable for various reasons, not least of which is that if the monitoring station is in an area that has become more urbanised, then the temperature will increase. But just taking the crude figures, it appears that over the last 100 years there has been an increase in temperature of around one degree celsius. The pattern being that the first 30 years were relatively cold, the next 30 years were relatively hot, the next 20 years relatively cold and the last 20 years relatively hot. Over the same 100 years the estimated world population has grown from just under 1.7 billion to 6.6 billion (290 percent increase). Which is more significant?
Association of British Drivers press release
"Defies common sense"
View of the editor of the Home News Tribune on the possible sale of New Jersey roads - "The leasing of toll roads to private operators defies common sense".
It can only happen in the shadowland of tolls. Drivers who spend at least $150 on tolls will be able to claim up to $750 off their state income tax. To make it easier they can now do this online - Metro West - "Web feature helps commuters calculate toll deductions".
Opponents of tolls have been removed from the State committe - Metro West - "Anti-tolls lawmakers not reassigned to Transportation Committee".
One way or no way?
Consultation is taking pace on switching to one way tolls (doubled) on the Midpoint and Cape Coral bridge in Florida. People agree that this will reduce congestion one way, but are asking why can't the tolls be removed both ways?
Thursday 1 February 2007
The FPB attack "congestion charging" and say that - "Road pricing just another tax".
A survey carried out by Nottingham Universirty shows that most businesses think that road pricing will have a negative impact on them - "Impact of congestion charges on business revealed".
More on Connecticut tolls push
Despite the views that we reported yesterday it seems that the trolls are determined to bring back tolls to Connecticut. As a first step they want to spend $4.5 million on a "study". News Times. According to the paper - in Maine each toll dollar costs about 50 cents to collect, though this is better than New York where one dollar costs 60 cents to collect.
A Democrat will next week introduce a Bill authorising the New Jersey road auction - Asbury Park Press Home News Tribune. One unusual feature is that the existing public toll authority will be allowed to bid. Will the penny drop and the New Jersey voters realise that they are being taken for a ride? Whoever pays to buy the roads, there is only one way that they can get that money back - more tolls. And in the meantime who would trust the politicians to spend this windfall (at the road users expense) sensibly? - Trentonian - "Paying down the debt or a one-time budget fix?".
The Trolls are gradually moving into the free states (free in attitude and free from road tolls). Their latest target is Arizona - AZ Central. Judging by the 3 pages of comments, the trolls are not going to have an easy time fooling the people in this state.
"Free Press on the Block"
More on Macquarie buying up Texas papers- Fort Worth Weekly.
Greenway Toll increase hearing
What the people say - Loudon Connection Leesburg Today - "Speakers Oppose Toll Hike".
Toll debate rolls on
Missouri wants a new Mississippi bridge to be tolled, even if this means that no one uses it - St Louis Post Dispatch - "Bridge consultant says it's up to states to break logjam".
The Joplin Globe says of proposals to toll Missouri roads - "Voters would support, we believe, a motor-fuels tax plan that didn’t include siphoning money for mass transit, waterways, airports and other forms of transportation. Legislators would be wise to keep any future plans simple and stick to building roads and bridges. Oh, and forget about toll roads.".
The American Chronicle reports on the legality of the North American super corridor projects and the sale of roads to foreign companies - "Constitutional Lawyers . . . Where Are You?".
More on more Indiana toll roads
A Bill setting out the rules for two new private toll roads has got initial approval - "Panel endorses bill giving Gov. Daniels authority to seek 2 tollways".
The Dallas Morning News reports that the cash toll has been removed on part of the North Tollway to reduce queues at toll booths. It is not clear how they are going to enforce subsequent toll bills - "New way to pay creates Tollway confusion".