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Air Quality

Bits and pieces

European directives

Fuel Facts

Global Warming

Greenhouse gases and Cars

Licensed and unlicensed vehicles in Britain

Lorries and Trailers travelling between Britain and Europe

National Travel Survey for 2009

Road Taxes

Road spending

Tidal Water crossings in Britain

Tolls - Key Figures

Traffic speeds and congestion

Transport of Goods by Road

Other statistics available from DfT:-
Main statistics page

Personal Travel (various)
"Public Transport Statistics 2005" (published September 2005)
"Regional Transport Statistics 2005" (published November 2005)
"Road Maintenance Condition Survey 2005" (published April 2006)
"Road Traffic Statistics" (published various dates - latest figures are in the Quarterly Bulletins)
"Transport Statistics 2005" (published October 2005)
"Transport Trends 2005" (published January 2006)

Useful general links:-
Department for Transport
Department for Transport - "Statutory Tolled Undertakings in the UK" produced October 2006
Highways Agency
"Highway Robbery? A financial analysis of Design Build Finance and Operate in roads in the UK" (Word doc)
NAAT talk to ABD in 2005 - answers to 11 questions (pdf)
UK Parliament

Air Quality
(section added 29 November 2008)

Anti car groups imply that various respiratory diseases, in particular asthma, are caused by car emissions. There is in fact little evidence that external air pollution is a significant factor in causing asthma though it may have an effect on those who already suffer from it - Advisory body to DoH - "Asthma and outdoor air pollution"   AGIUS - "Airborne environmental pollutants and asthma". One of the worst places for air quality affecting asthma is at home, due to the various chemicals used for cleaning etc, low ventilation and dust mites. One of the worst places out of doors is not in urban areas but in rural areas in sunlight due to the high levels of ground level ozone. (Though ozone in the high atmosphere stops harmful radiation, lower down it is harmful. There is more ozone in rural areas because in urban areas it does not form because of other gases which are pollutants but which are less dangerous than ozone.)

Even if there is no proven significant effect on asthma, there are of course pollutants in the air and they will have some effect on respiratory diseases, and some of these pollutants will come from cars. But how significant is the pollution caused by cars?

The Government in 1999 started producing an "Air quality headline indicator". This was based on the two pollutants which caused most concern - fine particulate matter (PM10) and ozone (at ground level) together with carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Some years ago it used to be relatively easy to find out how these pollutants varied between rural and urban areas and how much of these various pollutants were calculated as due to road transport etc, and how much of that was due to cars. The Government has made it increasingly difficult to find this information. It either puts the data in obscure locations or it does not publish it, because it does not want people to know the truth.

The last published air quality headline indicator was that for 2006. For the "basket" of the five worst pollutants it shows at table B that the "Average number of days of moderate or higher air pollution" since 1997 has been higher in rural areas than urban areas. A fact difficult to square with the claim that cars in urban areas are the cause of air pollution and respiratory diseases.

The last published figure for the worst two pollutants (PM10s and ozone) are for 2006.
They show that of the PM10s out of a total of 151.6 ktonnes, cars were responsible for 6.0 ktonnes, that is 4%. Cars will also be responsible for some part of the 9.5 ktonnes from "Road Transport - Automobile Tyre and Brake Wear", so the total due to cars will be about 8%.
The figures for Ozone are more complicated as it arises from various sources, taking all the source together, cars are responsible for somewhere between 10 and 15% -
Carbon Monoxide out of a total of 2,268 ktonnes, cars were responsible for 830 ktonnes, that is 37%.
Methane out of a total of 2,345 ktonnes, cars were responsible for 5 ktonnes, that is less than 1%.
Nitrogen Oxide (Nox) out of a total of 1,595 ktonnes, cars were responsible for 195 ktonnes, that is 12%.
Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) out of a total of 910 ktonnes, cars were responsible for 50 ktonnes, that is 5%.
(The total figures exclude aviation and shipping, so the real proportion for cars will be a bit lower than the above figures show.)

Though toll advocates say that they are concerned about air quality they don't seem to be bothered about the health of the people who have been exposed to the highest levels of emissions from road vehicles over many years - the toll collectors. Neither do they seem to find it odd to advocate that road tolls should replace taxes on fuel and thus increase vehicle emissions.

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Bits And Pieces

  • Etymology:-
    Toll is derived from the Greek word "telos" meaning "tax".
    In translations of old sources (e.g. in the Old Testament at Ezra 4.13 and 7.24), it is difficult to know whether the words translated as "toll" were a tax related to the use of the road or some other charge or tax.
    There are two references in Geneseis to "possessing the gate of your enemies" - at 22.17 (told to Abraham) and 24.60 (told to Rebecca). During the 1840s there were attacks on Toll gates in South Wales. The attackers dressed as women and were known as "Rebeccas".
    Another old reference is Magna Carta which says: - "All merchants shall have safety and security .... for buying and selling free from all evil tolls"
    More history and background:- Wikipedia   History and list of English turnpikes

  • Trolls:-
    In fairy tales "tolls" to cross bridges are collected by "trolls". Trolls are nasty creatures, but can be killed if exposed to light! Modern day trolls are some politicians, big business interests, tollocrats and naive "greens". They can't resist easy money and causing a nuisance to drivers.
    Small New England town invaded by trolls   Three Billy Goats Gruff   Kangaroo Court   Ireland's Toll Trolls(videos).

  • From a lecture in 2001 - Automobility & Freedom

  • Our theme song! C.W. McCall's (really Bill Fries) 1976 hit "Convoy":- "Well we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
    Prepared to cross the line
    I could see the bridge was lined with bears
    But I didn't have a doggone dime
    I says Pigpen this here's the Rubber Duck
    We just aint gonna pay no toll
    So we crashed the gate doin' ninety-eight
    I says Let them truckers roll, ten-four"

    One of the versions on You Tube
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    European directives

  • The European Union is controlled by bureaucrats who want more tolls. Though so far in practice national Governments seem to be able to do what they like, as long as they are not too obvious in discriminating against foreign lorries.
  • It is sometimes said that the EU requires all countries to introduce tolls. There is nothing as explicit as this, though it is implicit in the money that has been pumped into "PROGRESS" road pricing trials and into the Galileo satellite project. It is also implicit in some EU directives including - 2004/52. This requires that electronic road pricing should be standardised and says (paragraph 5) that this " is necessary to provide for the widespread deployment of electronic toll systems in the Member States and neighbouring countries".
  • It is also sometimes said that there are EU directives which limit toll prices. They do, but only for vehicles over 3.5 tons.   EU summary of the directives   Original directive - 99/62   Amending directive - 06/38

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    Fuel Facts

    (Note that commentary and figures are as at April 2006. Prices quoted below are mainly average per litre for unleaded petrol. Prices at supermarkets are generally a pence or two lower than the average (which increasingly is affected by the supermarkets market share), and obviously non supermarket prices are generally higher than the average. Price of diesel in Britain is usually about threepence higher than unleaded. The diesel duty is the same as unleaded, the price difference (which is narrowing) is due to higher non duty price plus the effect of VAT on that higher price.)

  • With fuel in Britain at 95 pence a gallon, the tax is about 61.25 pence or 64% of the total price. This is one of the world's highest taxes on road fuel - roads users have been treated as a cash cow by all parties for the last 10 years or more.
    A lot of people blame Labour for high fuel taxes, but it was the Tories who introduced the Fuel Price escalator, and Labour who scrapped it. When the Tories left power in May 1997, the tax was 77% of the pump price (the untaxed price of fuel was about 14 pence, the tax was 36.9 pence duty per litre, plus 14.9% (VAT) of the pump price). The comparison is very slightly distorted by the switch from leaded to unleaded and to fuels certified as having lower sulphur content.

  • Tory Chancellor, Norman Lamont's Budget in 1993, increased fuel duties by 10 per cent and introduced the "fuel duty escalator", under which fuel duty would increase annually by three per cent ABOVE INFLATION.
    In November 1995, Kenneth Clarke announced that the escalator would be five per cent above inflation per year. Then in July 1997, Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown increased the escalator rate to six per cent above inflation.
    The combined effect of all these increases was a substantial increase in fuel prices, making Britain one of the most expensive countries in the world.

    In November 1999, Gordon Brown announced that he would scrap the escalator. He said that the duty would "be set on a Budget by Budget basis, taking account of the Government's economic and social objectives as well as the UK's environmental commitments."
    Gordon Brown might have removed the escalator to have given himself flexibility in deciding what the duty increase would be, but the most likely reason was that crude oil prices had more than doubled in the previous 12 months.

  • In June 2000, the average price per litre for unleaded petrol reached 85 pence. By October, farmers and others were blockading oil refineries, though a lot of people disagreed with holding the country to ransom. The blockade stopped following vague assurances from the Government.
    In the few months before the blockade, the average price had actually fallen to around 81 pence (49 pence duty, 12 pence VAT, without tax price 20 pence). At that time the price in France was the equivalent of about 70 pence.

    In the months after the 2000 blockade, the price stayed around the 81 pence level. Then in March 2001 Budget, Gordon Brown brought in a "temporary" reduction in unleaded petrol duty of 2 pence a litre.
    Partly due to the duty reduction, but mainly due to fall in crude prices, pump prices slowly fell to a low of around 70 pence at the end of 2001. Tax excluded price was now about 12.5 pence. Price in France was about 59 pence, i.e. still about 11 pence cheaper than UK.
    At the start of 2002, pump prices began to go up, and by January 2005 were back at 80 pence.

  • With increased crude oil prices, the prices at the pump peaked in September / October 2005 at 95 pence. In the middle of September, there were threats of a blockade similar to 2000. But this proved to be a very damp squib.
    At the end of 2005, the pump price had fallen to 88 pence. It crept up slightly to 90 pence in March and then in April again shot up to 95 pence (47.1 pence duty, 14.1 pence VAT, without tax price just under 34 pence)
    Gordon Brown has been intending over last 2 years to increase fuel duty, but due to high crude oil prices he has postponed it several times, (though he has gained from higher VAT).
    Recent figures in pence:-
    - Apr 95, Mar 90, Feb 90, Jan 89.
    2005 - Dec 88, Nov 91, Oct 95, Sep 95, Aug 91, Jul 89, Jun 86, May 86, Apr 86, Mar 82, Feb 80, Jan 80.)

  • Fuel prices are higher in Britain than most countries, due to higher taxes.
    Unleaded Petrol at April 2006:- Netherlands 105 pence, Belgium 99 pence, Denmark 97 pence, Britain 95 pence, Germany 93 pence, Italy 91 pence, France 90 pence, Ireland 77 pence, Estonia (lowest in Europe) 61 pence, USA 42 pence.
    The gap on diesel is a lot more:- Britain 98 pence, Denmark 85 pence, Italy 83 pence, Germany 80 pence, Netherlands 79 pence, Belgium 79 pence, France 78 pence, Ireland 76 pence, Estonia (lowest in Europe) 61 pence, USA 43 pence.

  • Tax part of what you pay for fuel (unleaded or diesel) is 47.1 pence plus approx 14.9% of the pump price. E.g.:- Pump price = 80 pence, then tax = 59.0 pence (47.1 + (80 * 0.149) - So tax is 280% on top of the non tax price of 21.0 pence.
    Pump price = 90 pence, then tax = 60.5 pence (47.1 + (90 * 0.149) - So tax is 205% on top of the non tax price of 29.5 pence.
    Pump price = 100 pence, then tax = 62.0 pence (47.1 + (100 * 0.149) - So tax is 163% on top of the non tax price of 38.0 pence.
  • Fuel tax costs almost nothing to collect.
    HM Treasury have told us that the cost of collecting 23,545 million duty on "Hydrocarbon oil products" in 2005/06 was 44.7 million. This is just under 0.2%. But in fact the cost of collecting duty on road fuels must be even smaller-
    The duties are collected from the Refiner / Distributor when the fuels are removed to home use from the refinery or import warehouse. To administer this probably only needs a handful of people. The bulk of the collection cost must be on enforcement. Road fuel is taxed at penal rates, but other fuels including aviation kerosene, fuel used for agriculture or heating etc are either untaxed or only taxed at a low rate. If duty was at the same rate on all fuels, then the collection cost would be a lot lower and the base for spreading the collection cost over would be higher, so the % collection cost for fuel duty would be virtually nil.

  • Drivers in rural areas.
    It is often suggested that drivers in rural areas are particularly hard hit by high fuel prices. It is true that those who live in rural areas wil tend to drive far more, but they also get far more miles per gallon even though they are driving at far higher average speeds. This is shown by the difference in the figures for the "Urban Cycle" and the "Extra-Urban Cycle" produced by the Vehicle Certification Agency.
    The urban test cycle is based on an average speed of 12mph and achieves 29 mpg.
    The extra-urban test cycle is at an average speed of 39mph and achieves 47 mpg

  • Logical, fair, equitable.
    Politicians in recent years have varied Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) according to whether a car is fueled by Diesel, Petrol, or "Alternative" and its C02 rating. Someone obviously didn't like to tell them that tax on fuel is a better way of punishing drivers as it varies with actual use. The top duty rate is currently 215 and the bottom rate is nothing. Yes -nothing! According to the Government's Car Fuel Data (at June 2006) there is only one car in the zero band - a Mercedes Benz "S" class (V221 S65 AMG ) limo with 6 litre petrol engine. We are not sure what has caused this bizarre result - does that well known friend of the poor, Gordon Brown, drive one?

    AA is best source for information on fuel prices in Britain and other countries since 2000:- Fuel Price Reports
    Institute of Fiscal Studies issued a "briefing note" on 6th June 2005:- "Fuel Taxation"
    DTI - very detailed information, including historical series:- Quarterly energy prices.
    Petroleum Industries Association:- Publications - including Statistical review 2005
    Vehicle Certification Agency:- Official Car Fuel Data including tax bands

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    Global Warming
    (section revised 30 November 2008)

    Advocates of tolls often give the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions as a reason for more tolls. They even go as far as suggestimg that tolls should replace fuel taxes. This is of course irrational as if you believed in Global Warmimg you would advocate a carbon or fuel tax. Fuel taxes encourage fuel economy in various ways (smaller vehicles, less use of the gas pedal, car sharing, alternative means of travel, staying at home!), tolls have far less effect and even mean that more fuel is used as vehicles queue to pay tolls or detour on to longer routes with less or no tolls. But if we accept the Green's illogical support for tolls, what is "Global Warming"?

    Global Warming is the theory that carbon emissions (in particular from the burning of fossil fuels) will have a significant harmful "greenhouse" effect on the earth's climate. As a hedge to cover the possibility that it will not get warmer, it is now usually referred to as "Global Climate Change" or even "Global Climate Chaos" with the most devout disciples saying that even tsunamis and earthquakes are due to burning of fossil fuels. The theory has been around for a long time (since 1896), but from 1945 up to 1975 the Earth seemed to be getting colder. Greens said that this was the effect of burning fossil fuels - i.e. dust in the atmosphere was stopping solar radiation from reaching the Earth's surface and causing "Global Cooling". From 1975 the Earth seemed to be getting warmer so "Global Warming" became popular but with the burning of fossil fuels still getting the blame.

    There are sceptics who say that it is not really getting warmer OR that the temperature increase is minimal OR that as in the Earth's past there are various other more likely or more significant causes for temperature rises than CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels OR that any temperature rise may be beneficial OR that the proposed cures are worse than the disease.

    Weather is a complex dynamic system. It varies from one place to another and changes over time. As well as seasonal effects there are various short and long term cycles and "accidental" effects such as forest fires, volcanoes erupting, wars and meteor impacts. We don't know in what way the weather is changing. Even if we did know, whether any particular change is for "better" or "worse" is a subjective judgement partly depending on where you live. We don't know what contribution (in size or direction) our various actions have.

    It would be folly to use resources when you don't really know what you are doing. Obviously monitoring and study of the climate must continue, but time, attention and resources would be better spent on addressing some of the world's definite problems - the biggest of which is the population explosion that has and is really happening and affects everything including the quantity of fossil fuel burnt.

    The next section deals with "Greenhouse gases" and how much of them are due to Britain's cars.

    Links:- Official British view   Official US view   National Climatic Data Center (US)   Tech Station recent postings   Association of British Drivers - "Environment".

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    Greenhouse gases and Cars
    (section added 30 November 2008)

    A "greenhouse gas" is a gas which has a molecular structure which has a warming effect by emitting infrared radiation back to the Earth. Without an atmosphere that contains such gases, the Earth would be very colder, particularly at times (nights and winters) when there is a low amount of solar radiation reaching a particular location. Some gases and other constituents of the atmosphere (such as dust from fires, volcanoes, explosions etc) may have an opposite cooling effect because they prevent solar radiation from reaching the Earth. Some constituents of the atmosphere may have both a cooling and a warming effect.

    The overall process is complex and dynamic. Just taking one single element like water vapour, the effect could be to make it colder or warmer according to what the time of day it is and whether the water vapour has formed clouds. The effects of any one gas or other constitutent, such as dust, may add to the effect of another gas or subtract from it. To the extent that the amount of any one gas changes ("naturally" or due to actions of man), then the effect may be proportional or logarithmic (more than proportionate) or there might be no effect at all. Some gases have a lot longer lives than others (before the molecules break down or merge with another gas) and are therefore more significant, and these and other effects may vary according to local conditions (e.g. equatorial or polar). Whatever the effects of all this is on temperature, there are many non atmospheric factors that affect the Earth' actual temperature and the various reported measurements of it. Given the difficulties in proving that an increase in CO2 due to man is significantly raising Earth temperatures, it is a matter of faith. Wikipedia - "Greenhouse gases" (The "editors" of Wikipedia entries on Global Warming are believers.)

    Britain's contribution to anthropogenic CO2 depends on who you trust. DEFRA say that globally there are about 7 billion tonnes produced from use of fossil fuels and 1.6 billion tonnes from "land use change" - DEFRA - "What is climate change?". These figures are much lower than those shown elsewhere, and it seems that they must be Carbon and not CO2, implying that DEFRA have not got a clue. To convert DEFRA's Carbon figures to CO2, they need to be multiplied by 3.67, which would then give a figure of about 30 billion tonnes. There seems to be nowhere that shows up to date figures of Global CO2 from all anthropogenic sources, but 30 billion tonnes seems to be about right. Britain's CO2 (if you can trust DEFRA) is 555 million tonnes (see next paragraph) which makes Britain's share of anthropogenic CO2 as about two per cent.

    In Britain, the Government ignores water vapour etc and highlights three gases as greenhouse gases - CO2, Methane and Nitrous Oxide. The official figures for these gases are at - DEFRA - "2007 UK Greenhouse Gas emissions, provisional figures, 27th March 2008 - Annex B - Emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide by source and end-user" (Excel). This shows 555 million tonnes of CO2 produced in 2006 of which 132 million tonnes (24%) is "Transport"; 2,340 thousand tonnes of methane of which 8 tonnes (less than 1%) is "Transport"; and 124 thousand tonnes of nitrous oxide of which 18 tonnes (15%) is "Transport. But how much of "Transport" is cars?

    We can't find any figures for methane for cars (but it is in any case almost nothing).
    Based on the figures that are produced for Air Quality, cars make up 12% of Nitrous Oxide emissions (i.e. most of the Transport sector figure).
    The CO2 figure for cars is buried at Table 3.7 of - DfT - "Transport Statistics for Great Britain 2008 - Chapter 3 Energy and the Environment - Data Tables" (Excel). Amazingly this shows for 2006 virtually the same figure for CO2 in 2006 as DEFRA does (though this table shows as a Memo item figures for international aviation and navigation). Of the 131 million tonnes for "Transport" (excluding international aviation and navigation), road transport is 120 million tonnes of which cars is 69 million tonnes. So cars make up less than 13% of Britain's CO2 emissions according to the official figures.

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    Licensed and unlicensed vehicles in Britain (section revised 18 December 2008)

    Total vehicles (licensed and unlicensed, and including motor bikes etc) is about 34.5 million, including about 28.5 million cars, 3.3 million vans, 1.3 million motorbikes, 0.6 million lorries, and 0.8 million others including buses, taxis and licensed farm vehicles.

    Licensed vehicles in Britain at December 2007 was 34.0 million, including 28.2 million cars.
    It was estimated from surveys that in 2008 there were 0.3 million unlicensed vehicles mainly cars. But as with many statistics this may not be reliable. The figures for earlier years were - 2002 1.905 million, 2004 1.240, 2005 1.549, 2006 2.170, 2007 0.589. The statisticians used a different system from 2007, which they said was more reliable than the old system.

    Links:- DfT - Vehicle Licensing Statistics   "Vehicle Excise Duty Evasion 2008"   DVLA - Rates of Vehicle Excise Duty

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    Lorries and Trailers travelling between Britain and Europe

    Lorries and Trailers travelling between Britain and Europe:- "Road Goods Vehicles Travelling to Mainland Europe Q2 2006"
    Figures show that the decline in Britain's share of lorries continues. Ten years ago, half of the traffic between Britain and Europe was in British trucks, it is now down to a quarter. The countries with the biggest percentage share for second quarter 2006 were:- Britain 25, France 18, Netherlands 13, Germany 8, Belgium 6, Spain 6, Italy 4. (Figures are only for lorry traffic, nearly 30% of total traffic is unaccompanied trailers.)

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    National Travel Survey for 2009 (section revised 2 August 2010)

    National Travel Survey for 2009 was published on 29 July 2010. The surveys shows how people travel around Britain, and are a mine of information.
    DfT - "National Travel Survey" (As well as the PDF files at the top of the page, lower down there are a considerable number of Excel files that can be downloaded, including a zip file with all 189 of them).

    The DfT have shuffled round and buried older data, but based on what we can find these are some of the long term (last 35 years) trends -
  • People are travelling a lot more. In 1972 it was 4,400 miles per person per year and it reached 5,700 miles in 1975 and 7,200 miles in 2005. Since 2005, travel has slowly fallen and was 6,800 miles in 2009.

  • The time spent travelling has remained almost constant - at one hour a day. (In 1972 it was 350 hours, and in both 1997 and 2009 it was around 370 hours.

  • More travel in about the same time means of course that average speeds have increased substantially. In 1972 it was 12.7 mph, in 1997 it was 18.9 mph and peaked in 1998 at 19.0 mph and has since deteriorated falling to 18.2 mph in 2009. The improvement up to 1998 will have been partly due to switching to travel by car from slower modes and partly due to the increased travel being mainly by car. The slight deterioration since then will be partly due to a switch from car and van travel, as the other modes are slower and partly due to a fall in car / van speeds.

  • The fall in car / van speeds has been going on since at least 1995 (there are no figures available on what was happening before then). The most obvious explanation is that more travel and no more roads means more congestion. But the main reasons for congestion, particularly in recent years, are the population explosion (nearly four million extra people between 1995 and 2009) and the measures taken by local authorities and the Government to hinder and slow traffic.

  • In 2009, travel by car or van made up 78.6% of total personal travel. Though in earlier years (1972 to 1995) there must have been a substantial increase in the proportion of travel by car and van, the data is not available. Despite most people's impressions, for the years that we do have data (from 1995 when cars and vans were nearly 82%) there has been a gradual shift away from cars and vans to other modes of travel.

  • The DfT do not publish average speed figures. Below are figures that we have derived from their data. To make it easier to distinguish the main modes of travel, we have also grouped the DfT data for distance and time into four headings - car/van, bus/train (inc London Underground), walk/bicycle, and "other" (motorcycle, taxi, domestic air travel, ferries, trams).

    ChartObject Average speeds by travel modes

      Average speeds by travel modes (mph)
    Mode 1995/1997 1998/2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
    Summary -                    
    Car/van 25.7 25.4 24.9 24.8 24.6 24.4 24.6 24.7 24.3 24.4
    Bus/train 13.0 13.9 13.3 13.0 13.1 13.7 13.5 13.7 13.3 13.0
    Walk/bicycle 3.1 3.2 3.2 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.5 3.4 3.4
    Other 24.7 22.6 23.6 24.9 23.5 24.6 23.6 22.7 22.4 22.5
    Detail -                    
    Car/van driver 25.8 25.6 24.9 24.7 24.8 24.5 24.5 24.8 24.5 24.3
    Car/van passenger 25.5 25.1 24.9 24.8 24.4 24.4 24.7 24.5 24.1 24.6
    Bus in London 5.8 5.6 5.9 6.3 6.0 6.7 6.5 6.2 6.2 6.1
    Other local bus 8.7 8.8 8.7 8.7 8.5 8.7 8.8 9.1 9.3 8.7
    Non-local bus 27.7 28.6 27.3 28.8 28.9 28.7 27.4 24.6 26.0 26.3
    London Underground 10.8 10.3 10.5 10.3 11.1 10.5 10.6 10.1 10.0 10.3
    Surface rail 21.9 23.1 23.5 21.3 21.2 22.0 21.9 22.2 21.1 21.6
    Walk 2.7 2.8 2.9 3.1 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.1 3.1 3.0
    Bicycle 7.7 7.7 7.3 7.2 7.6 7.4 7.6 8.2 7.6 7.8
    Motorcycle 24.3 23.8 25.9 25.9 25.7 25.3 24.6 25.0 24.1 27.5
    Taxi/minicab 15.9 17.0 17.2 15.5 16.0 16.8 16.9 16.3 16.4 16.7
    Other public 50.8 29.9 35.6 41.8 35.5 39.1 35.4 36.6 39.1 29.7
    Other private 22.6 24.1 23.7 23.2 23.6 23.1 21.3 20.4 19.3 22.4
    All modes 18.9 19.0 18.8 18.9 18.6 18.7 18.6 18.8 18.4 18.2

    ChartObject Distance travelled by mode (miles)

      Distance travelled by mode (miles) - from NTS0305
    Mode 1995/1997 1998/2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
    Summary -                    
    Car/van 5,705 5,811 5,775 5,758 5,706 5,746 5,693 5,630 5,468 5,323
    Bus/train 743 830 833 829 849 883 899 958 937 913
    Walk/bicycle 243 238 234 238 242 233 240 230 235 242
    Other 290 285 293 367 306 347 300 284 282 298
    Detail -                    
    Car/van driver 3,623 3,725 3,661 3,660 3,674 3,682 3,660 3,641 3,494 3,339
    Car/van passenger 2,082 2,086 2,115 2,098 2,032 2,063 2,033 1,989 1,974 1,984
    Bus in London 43 44 56 60 59 67 63 67 69 71
    Other local bus 225 218 224 230 219 212 233 239 243 237
    Non-local bus 94 100 59 87 70 75 63 71 56 56
    London Underground 60 65 81 68 68 67 75 71 75 78
    Surface rail 321 401 413 384 433 461 466 509 495 471
    Walk 200 198 198 201 203 197 201 190 193 196
    Bicycle 43 40 36 37 39 36 39 40 42 46
    Motorcycle 35 33 35 41 38 35 34 35 38 38
    Taxi/minicab 46 63 59 55 51 60 52 56 54 56
    Other public 75 46 55 108 61 97 96 83 80 56
    Other private 134 143 145 163 156 156 118 111 110 148
    All modes 6,981 7,164 7,135 7,192 7,103 7,208 7,133 7,103 6,923 6,775

    ChartObject Time spent travelling by mode (hours)

      Time spent travelling by mode (hours) - from NTS0310
    Mode 1995/1997 1998/2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
    Summary -                    
    Car/van 222 229 232 232 232 235 232 228 225 218
    Bus/train 57 60 63 64 65 65 67 70 70 70
    Walk/bicycle 78 76 73 70 73 71 72 67 68 71
    Other 12 13 12 15 13 14 13 13 13 13
    Detail -                    
    Car/van driver 141 146 147 148 148 151 149 147 143 137
    Car/van passenger 82 83 85 84 83 85 82 81 82 81
    Bus in London 7 8 9 10 10 10 10 11 11 12
    Other local bus 26 25 26 26 26 24 26 26 26 27
    Non-local bus 3 4 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 2
    London Underground 6 6 8 7 6 6 7 7 7 8
    Surface rail 15 17 18 18 20 21 21 23 23 22
    Walk 73 70 68 65 67 67 67 62 63 65
    Bicycle 6 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 6 6
    Motorcycle 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1
    Taxi/minicab 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 3 3 3
    Other public 1 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2
    Other private 6 6 6 7 7 7 6 5 6 7
    All modes 369 376 380 381 382 385 383 377 376 372

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    Road Taxes
    (section revised 22 February 2009)

    (Figures are mainly as at at September 2008, with some minor adjustment for November 2008 Pre Budget Report".)
    Various figures are quoted for road taxes, but what is the correct figure? It is a bit like the question - "How long is a piece of string?" Since 2005 we have been estimating this figure and our current estimate is nearly 50 billion for the more direct road taxes or 56 billion if more indirect items are included. This figure is broken down below, and below that is an explanation of how the figures have been estimated -

    SUMMARY (figures are rounded)
  • 25.5 billion - Fuel Duty,
  • 8 billion - VAT on fuel,
  • 6 billion - Vehicle Excise Duty,
  • 6 billion - VAT on purchase of new cars,
  • 2.5 billion - Company car tax,
  • 0.5 billion - Insurance Premium tax,
  • 0.5 billion - Tolls and "congestion charges",
  • 49 billion - Total of direct taxes on use of vehicles,
  • 3.5 billion - proportion (one third)of other taxes on oil companies,
  • 3.5 billion - Other taxes on garages and car repairers etc.
  • 56 billion - Total of all taxes related to vehicles.
  • FUEL DUTY - We have calculated this in two ways-
    (a) The total amount of road fuel sold in Britain according to industry figures - UKPIA - "Statistical Review 2008" (pdf file) is about 50 billion litres a year (24 billion litres of petrol and 25.5 billion litres of diesel).
    The fuel duty for the most commonly used type of petrol was 50.35 pence a litre, and diesel was the same - HMRC - "BN53 - Hydrocarbon Oils Duty: Rates". The duty increase that was due to come into effect from 1 April 2008 was postponed till the autumn, then postponed again and then introduced from December to offset the VAT reduction.
    So fuel duty is 50 billion multiplied by 50.35 pence till November and 52.35 pence from December, which makes 25.5 billion for the Government.
    (b) Another way of arriving at the figure is to look at the Government Budget. The figure in the original Report for 2008/09 was 25.7 billion for fuel duties of which about 0.5 billion was the effect of the duty increase which was later postponed. A later estimate of 25.1 billion is in November's Pre Budget Report - table B12 of Annex B (pdf file).
    More detailed calculation including VAT-
    Fuel taxes 2008/09 based on 24 billion litres of petrol and 25.5 billion litres diesel
          petrol diesel average duty vat total tax total tax total duty total vat total tax
          pence pence pence pence pence pence % M M M
    2008 April AA 108.1 117.4 112.9 50.35 16.81 67.16 59.5 2,077 701 2,778
    2008 May AA 112.6 124.2 118.6 50.35 17.66 68.01 57.3 2,077 736 2,813
    2008 June AA 118.2 131.6 125.1 50.35 18.63 68.98 55.1 2,077 776 2,853
    2008 July AA 119.5 133.1 126.5 50.35 18.84 69.19 54.7 2,077 785 2,862
    2008 August AA 113.2 125.6 119.6 50.35 17.81 68.16 57.0 2,077 742 2,819
    2008 September AA 112.9 124.3 118.8 50.35 17.69 68.04 57.3 2,077 737 2,814
    2008 October AA 106.4 117.7 112.2 50.35 16.71 67.06 59.8 2,077 696 2,773
    2008 November AA 94.9 108.8 102.1 50.35 15.21 65.56 64.2 2,077 634 2,711
    2008 December AA 89.5 101.9 95.9 52.35 12.51 64.86 67.6 2,159 521 2,681
    2008 January AA 86.6 98.7 92.8 52.35 12.10 64.45 69.5 2,159 504 2,664
    2008 February AA 90.9 100.8 96.0 52.35 12.52 64.87 67.6 2,159 522 2,681
    2008 March est 90.0 100.0 95.2 52.35 12.42 64.77 68.0 2,159 517 2,677
                        25,253 7,872 33,125

  • VAT on Fuel
    The calculation for this is shown above.

    The DVLA Annual Accounts to March 2007 (pdf file), gives the annual amount collected, net of refunds, as 4,984 million. But table C6 in chapter C of this year's main budget report (pdf file), shows that with duty increases and extra licensed vehicles, the VED in the year from April 2008 was expected to yield 6.1 billion. Note that there will be new bands and even higher rates taking effect from April 2008 and generating an extra 500 million a year.

  • VAT on Car Sales
    Current annual sales are about 2.3 million new cars, 7.5 million used cars, 0.4 million new commercial vehicles and 0.9 million used commercial vehicles. Generally there is no VAT on used vehicles as it was included in the original sale price, so we will forget them. Most firms (though not all) will be able to offset the VAT on commercial vehicles so we will also ignore them. That leaves us with new cars (many of these will be company cars, but the VAT input tax on cars cannot be offset against tax on outputs). The average price of a new car is now 17,000! That gives sales of 39 billion, on which the VAT would be about 6 billion. (NB. These figures were calculated before the slump in vehicle sales became apparent.)

    This is a bit difficult to find as it is lost in the total figures reported for Income Tax. The most recent available figures appear to be for the year ended March 2007 - HMRC - Table T4.5 - "Taxable benefits in kind and expenses payments - Recipients, taxable value and income tax and NICs liability, by category, 2002-03 to 2006-07" (pdf file). This gives for 2006/07 on car and fuel benefits: estimated tax of 1,800 million and national insurance of 700 million.

    According to the Association of British Insurers the premiums received by their members in 2006 for motor insurance were 10,277 million. At a rate of 5%, that gives 0.5 billion for Insurance Premium Tax.

    This is about another 600 million a year - London charges 270 million, M6 Toll 65 million, about 20 other tolls in England and Wales yielding 230 million.

    These are indirectly a tax on the products of the companies which are largely consumed in Britain. The total taxes derived from the companies for the year starting April 2008 will be 9.9 billion (this is on top of fuel duty) - Table 11.11 - Government revenues from UK oil and gas production (pdf file). This begs the question as to how much of the tax should be attributed to sales of fuel for road vehicles - our estimate is one third which gives a figure of 3.3 billion.

    This is the VAT, Corporation tax and PAYE etc paid by independent filling stations, firms selling new and second hand vehicles and repairing them etc. There are about 34 million licensed vehicles and another 1.5 million not licensed. Even if this only averaged 100 per vehicle, this generates another 3.5 billion for the Government.

    The Road Users Association have been producing various figures on road for some years, their latest figures are here - 2007/08 Road File (pdf file). Their figure (page 6) is "only" 45 billion. The main difference between this and our figure is that theirs is based on a year or so earlier and they exclude the more indirect taxes.

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    Roads spending
    (section revised 8 June 2008)

    When we last revised these figures in 2006, we left them as they were in 2005 as in our opinion the more recently published figures were not reliable as some local authority spending on public transport was lumped in with roads. The last available figures from the DfT before this indicated that roads spending was 7.7 billion for 2004/05.
    HM Treasury publish figures for all public spending. In Chapter 5 of the PESR 2008 (pdf file) it gives an analyis of spending by "subfunction". For 2007/08 it gives (line 4.5 of table 5.2) estimated spending on "national roads" of 3,151 million, and on "local roads" of 5,625 million. This gives a total of 9 billion on "roads"
    Though there is a problem - a lot of "roads spending" is not on roads - it is on the provision, maintenance and lighting of pavements, alleys, footpaths, bridleways, cycle lanes, bus lanes and pedestrianised areas - all places where cars, vans and lorries can't go.
    Also a lot of spending is designed to impede traffic - demolishing flyovers and footbridges, narrowing roads, traffic "calming", pedestrian operated lights etc.
    So of the 9 billion that is spent on "roads", our guess is that about half is positive spending on increasing road capacity and maintenance and repairs. The other half is not on roads or is designed to slow or stop traffic.

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    Traffic speeds and congestion

    This may not seem to be relevant to tolls. But those who advocate tolls say that they are trying to help drivers by reducing congestion. The people who say this, are often the same ones who are trying to slow traffic down as much as possible and complain that speed limits are ignored.
    One report on speeds was published in May 2005, with the emphasis on showing how slow traffic is due to congestion:- DfT - "Traffic Speeds on English Urban Areas: 2004 ".
    It seems that in urban areas the difference between peak and off peak speeds was 4.3 mph, and the peak period speed fell by 0.3 mph in 5 years, (off peak speed did not change). Not bad when you consider the growth in traffic, the lack of new road space, and how much the authorities have done to stop traffic altogether. Will they try even harder?
    Another report was published in April 2006. This time with the emphasis on showing that traffic is too fast and breaking the speed limits:- DfT - "Vehicle Speeds 2005".
    More DfT statistics on traffic speeds and congestion here.

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    Transport of Goods by Road

    Transport of Goods by Road in 2004 was 152 billion kilometre tonnes. This figure has been virtually static since 1998. The distance travelled peaked in 1998, and has since declined slightly, but this has been offset by an increase in the cargo per vehicle:-  DfT - Transport of Goods by Road 2004 - published 28 July 2005

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