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JANUARY 2005 NEWS

31 January 2005
Anti Toll Demo in London
Londoners protesting against plans to extend the London Toll scheme had a slow moving convoy through Central London:-     Evening Standard - "Kirsty joins C-charge demo"


30 January 2005
More Toll Dodging
Deja Vu, but here is another story about trucks and other traffic avoiding Tolls. This time it is in Boston, where the Mayor of Everett says that commuters and truckers who use Everett as a shortcut to avoid paying the $3 Tobin Bridge toll are turning Broadway into a rush-hour ''parking lot," causing more accidents, and creating more potholes:-   The Boston Globe - "Tobin toll dodgers crowd city"

"They were supposed to be free, too"
A short letter from dailysouthtown.com:-
"I feel it's kind of ironic that the tollway system was built to alleviate the surface roads, to take the congestion off your normal streets. Now they raised the tolls and they put a sign up saying that they raised the toll to ease the congestion. Does that mean they want the people back on the surface streets? I'm not exactly sure where they want everybody to go."


29 January 2005
600 bill for Twice forgetting to pay Toll
The Scotsman today has a story that was previously in the London Evening Standard on the 20th - Actor Tom Conti born in Paisley says that "bully-boy tactics" are used against those who forget to pay the London "Congestion Charge":-     The Scotsman - "Conti takes stand against charges "
According to report from Alistair Dalton, the Scotsman's Transport Correspondent, Edinburgh will not be as bad as London. If you forget to pay by midnight on the day, the fine will be "only" 30 (as against 50). But if you don't pay that fairly quickly, then...............     The Scotsman - "Late road toll payers to face parking-style fines"


28 January 2005
London Toll Protest - A Brave New World
David Williams, Motoring Editor of the London Evening Standard, reports on a protest planned for tomorrow, (Saturday) against extension of the London Toll. He says that when Ken Livingstone "consulted" last year 63 per cent of residents and 72 per cent of businesses opposed the extension. Ken's Transport for London department has pressed police to prevent protesters creating gridlock on key roads tomorrow. A Brave New World!-   Evening Standard - "Fury mounts over C-charge extension"

What makes a Toll road?
Idinanopolis is looking at how to finance an extension of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Evansville. They have ruled out tolls, because there is not enough traffic to make it a viable toll. (Report on wishtv.com.)
Looks like they have helped prove our rule number 1 for what makes a toll road (see home page).

London Toll Protest - A Brave New World
David Williams, Motoring Editor of the London Evening Standard, reports on a protest planned for tomorrow, (Saturday) against extension of the London Toll. He says that when Ken Livingstone "consulted" last year 63 per cent of residents and 72 per cent of businesses opposed the extension. Ken's Transport for London department has pressed police to prevent protesters creating gridlock on key roads tomorrow. A Brave New World!-   London Evening Standard - "Fury mounts over C-charge extension"

Liverpool Tolls Increase
The Tunnels committee have rejected moderate proposals put forward by the users (MTUA - members of the NAAT) and have instead decided to increase tolls to travel under the Mersey between Liverpool and the Wirral:-   Daily Post - "Tunnel tolls set to rise by 10p"


27 January 2005
IBM helping to bring in new Toll system (in UK)
We reported on 1st November that an Italian firm had "let the cat out of the bag" that tolls were to be introduced on all British motorways. That was denied by the Department for Transport. But over the last few days there has been a similar story which seems to come from IBM in US:-
"A new toll-road charge system in the United Kingdom wants to use technology to levy variable tolls, based on time of day, speed, weather conditions and other factors. IBM Global Financing helped arrange a deal that averted a levy on taxpayers by using monthly payments from tolls to pay for the cost of the equipment. "It's a customized solution that smooths out the flow of cash".
We wonder when all will be revealed?
We did think of giving this story to the UK news media, but this is one cat that seems reluctant to be seen in public.

No Lights speeds traffic
Carlisle is to switch off the traffic lights on its biggest roundabout. The lights failed during recent flooding , and drivers thought traffic flow improved. The experts reckon this must be wrong, but they are switching them off for 6 months as an experiment. (Report on BBC.) We don't know if this will work, but it's good to see that the authority is willing to give it a go.

More on Plea to end Erskine Bridge Tolls
Following yesterday's plea from the West Dunbartonshire Council leader to the Transport minister. There were calls today from Renfrewshire Council for the tolls to be scrapped:-     Evening Times - "New call to end bridge tolls"

Victorian Tolls
They seem to love Tolls in Australia. They must all have shares in the Toll companies!
The Victorian government has signed a deal with a toll company for improvements to a toll road. The money that the company will spend apparently is due to the govenment. But the company and the government will share the tolls from the extra cars after the improvements. So that's alright then, or is it?     Victoria Premier's Office - "Calder / Tullamarine upgrade"
Also in Victoria, the arguments continue about the Mitcham-Frankston "freeway". The Labour government reneged on a promise that it would be really "free", and the Liberal opposition have promised that they will buy out the Tolls. But it is claimed that the Toll company will want $7 billion to give up the Tolls. At this rate Tolls will be the biggest industry in Australia!

Who Pays the Ferryman?
A new bridge linking the Peloponnese to the rest of Greece across the Gulf of Patras opened in September 2004. It was thought it would be the end of the ferries. But it is reported by inadaily.com that business is booming, thanks to the high Tolls on the bridge.


26 January 2005
What Texan Toll will pay for
Various papers have reported the "papers" that have turned up showing that it is intended that some of the new Texan tolls, will pay for the cost of operation and maintenance of the roads. Nothing odd about that except that the Texans had thought that the Tolls would "only" pay for the construction cost. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, who have been selling the Tolls idea, claim that everyone should have known what the Tolls will be used for.

Tay Bridge Toll Booths
Dundee MSP Marlyn Glen asks the Scottish Executive to support the move of the toll booths on the Tay bridge:-     Dundee Evening Telegraph - "Bridge toll booth move up to board"
Would it not be better for an MSP to ask for the toll booths to be removed not moved.

Plea to end Erskine Bridge Tolls
The Evening Times in Glasgow reports that the West Dunbartonshire Council leader met the Transport minister in Edinburgh. There were 6 reasons given for scrapping tolls on the Erskine Bridge:- financial, legal, economic, environmental, social reasons, and lastly that lack of public transport on the bridge, due to tolls, has increased congestion on the route into Glasgow.

Victorians say, "please sir can we have a Toll road?"
We feel a bit ashamed in reporting this, but a group in Australia that represents motorists has called for a toll road to be built. This is apparently because the Government won't build it. But following that logic, the government would never agree to spend anything on the roads.

Alberta says No to Tolls
Alberta has reassured its citizens that a new road (southeast leg of Anthony Henday Drive) to be built round Edmonton will not be tolled. Part of the road is to built as a "Public Private Partnership" but the Province will pay the "rent

But Washington Marches To Tolls
More today on Washington State's move towards Tolls. Yesterday the State Senate Transportation Committee and a parade of witnesses reportedly praised the general idea of toll roads and bridges. The new tolls would help pay for big-ticket projects and / or would help manage the flow of traffic through "congestion pricing."
One person said that "There is tremendous local support for Tolls". But Republican State senator, Bob Oke, said "They'll want to hang you." We wonder who is right?

New York to Sell Roads?
There are various reports that New York Governor, George Pataki, wants to copy Chicago and sell some of the roads to raise cash. At the moment it looks as if he will not get his way.

Toll Holiday
New Year's Day is the 9th February, at least it is in Taiwan. This means more traffic and to improve the traffic flow, they suspend day time tolls:- Feb. 6 (Sunday), Feb. 8 (New Year's eve ), Feb.9 (New Year's Day), Feb. 11 (Friday), and Feb. 12 (Saturday). (Report from the China Post.)


25 January 2005
London Toll may be expanded over most of the Metropolis
Ken Livingstone is already pushing for expansion of the London Toll zone. Now Ken's American transport boss has revealed that he wants to extend Tolls over most of London's roads:-     The Times - "London leads the way to make drivers pay on all busy roads"  (2 pages)   Evening Standard - "C-charge in the suburbs"
You can see a bit more about Ken's sidekick at:-     The Times - "An American leads the charge"

London Toll firm failing to meet targets
The London Toll is run by a private firm "Capita". The Lib Dems are complaining that the company is not meeting its targets:-     BBC - "Road toll firm 'missing targets'"

Big Brother Amigo
Numerous American papers report a proposal to use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) devices at the Mexican border. The devices are already used in some Tolls. In this case they will be used "to weed out potential terrorists, drug dealers and other criminals". What a relief! At least all drivers aren't criminals - yet.

London Toll may be expanded over most of the Metropolis
Ken Livingstone is already pushing for expansion of the London Toll zone. Now Ken's American transport boss has revealed that he wants to extend Tolls over most of London's roads:-     The Times - "London leads the way to make drivers pay on all busy roads"  (2 pages)   London Evening Standard - "C-charge in the suburbs"
You can see a bit more about Ken's sidekick at:-     The Times - "An American leads the charge"

Internet answer to Congestion?
A Manager from BT says that more people could work at home thus reducing peak hour traffic. Fine - but he also wants to put technology into cars to make tolling easier - Not so fine:-     Evening News - "Online traffic can help cut out rush hour"


24 January 2005
Texas Toll
Texas has BIG plans for toll roads. Thet are opposed by Austin Toll Party. The authorities have now agreed to take at least one of the roads out of the Toll Plan. Sal Costello with Austintollparty.com said "There are a lot of other roads in this plan that we fully funded, 100 percent with our tax dollars, and putting tolls on them is not right.":-     "CAMPO Board Makes Change To Toll Road Plan"
PS on the 25th there was another story about the first part of the Texas Toll - from Dallas-Fort Worth to San Antonio. According to one Texas paper the company selected to build a toll road has a reputation for aggressively collecting money from motorists, treating customers poorly and frequently raising tolls.

Londoners Demonstrate
In London, there is to be a demonstration on Saturday against the extension of the existing Toll:-     London Evening Standard - "C-charge activists planning gridlock"

Ohio Turnpike strike Off?
Looks as if the Toll Collectors are not going on strike, at least not yet - A pity that the Toll Payers can't organise a strike!

Australia says NO to more Tolls
The "National Sea Change Taskforce" has called for Tolls on the Great Ocean Road and other key Australian tourist routes. Liberal Shadow Minister for Transport, Terry Mulder, said "A levy would do far more harm than good. Visitors underpin many local economies along Victoria's coast."

Don't Sell the Roads
Meanwhile in Washington State and elsewhere in America, pressure is growing from various sources for more Tolls. There are some who don't like this trend including Doug Cunningham:-    Record Online - "Sell the roads? Lease the bridges? This is bold?"


23 January 2005
Ohio Turnpike strike Tomorrow?
The Good news is that the Ohio Turnpike workers are likely to go on strike on Monday 24th. The Bad news is that there will still be tolls, though they will be on a flat rate basis.

Citizens Against Tolls
There was this letter today in Asbury Park Press, New Jersey from Raymond Neveil of Citizens Against Tolls:-
Toll Collection Inefficient
As the state Legislature begins to brood over budget difficulties, Citizens Against Tolls is greatly concerned about the waste of millions of dollars spent collecting Parkway tolls.
These tolls are a tax on all New Jerseyans, whether they use this roadway or not. The cost of salaries and benefits for collectors, management and administration, maintenance of 11 toll plazas and more than 50 ramp structures and the E-Z Pass system waste millions that could be used to close budget gaps. Revenue raised by tolls is less than the cost of toll collection. It's government inefficiency at its worst.
A solution is at hand if the Legislature institutes an increase in the gas tax. If 1 cent a gallon was dedicated to achieving elimination of Parkway tolls, at least $45 million would be raised annually -- more than enough to care for operations. Or the Parkway could simply become a standard item in the state Department of Transportation budget. The DOT does a fine job maintaining other major roadways. Why wouldn't it be capable of caring for the Parkway as well?
With tolls gone, the Parkway would cease to be a "private" road and would thus be eligible for federal funding that currently passes New Jersey by.
Good government dictates that elected officials put an end to perpetuation of the wasteful toll collecting system. The political favors and patronage connected with the system is not a good enough reason to continue to rob New Jersey taxpayers.

22 January 2005
Democrats want Tolls in Washington
We usually blame the Republicans for tolls in US. But in Washington State the boot is on the other foot. The Democrats want HOV ot HOT lanes which had been opposed by a Republican. It looks as if the Democrats will get their way, even though "HOT lane critics argue that the lanes only work if traffic is stalled in the general lanes and that the concept of charging tolls in HOV lanes takes funding away from bigger road improvement projects. Another argument goes that pay-for-use lanes favor the wealthy." Report from Jaimie Swift:-     King County Journal - "HOT lanes get a second chance"

But Not In Massachussets
An influential Democrat in Massachussets (chairman of the Transport Cttee) does not want tolls. The "Conservation Law Foundation" is threatening to take the State to court if it doesn't make motorists pay more tolls to subsidise railways. They say that "There really is no such thing as a free ride, and everyone needs to pay their fair share."
The reaction of the editorial in the Salem News is:-
" It is tiring to have to listen to environmentalists insist those who use our roadways are somehow not "paying their fair share." It's as if those who drive to their jobs every day are getting away with something illegal, cheating everyone else of their due. They are wrong.
To drive on our highways, one must purchase gasoline. Gasoline is heavily taxed both at the state and federal level. Those taxes are supposed to pay for the upkeep of roads and to mitigate other costs of our fossil-fuel economy. So forget about tolls on I-93 to make drivers pay their "fair share." Motorists from this region pay more than that both in taxes and the tolls they currently pay if they take the bridge or tunnel into town."


21 January 2005
London Toll to change Tech
London is thinking of changing its system for recording who is driving round the toll zone. The current system uses cameras and "automatic" number plate identification. The new system would use some sort of electronic tag that would be recognised by roadside equipment. They say that they might also change from the present flat rate charge to one that varied with how much and when you used the car:-    BBC - "'Smart' congestion charge planned"
Sounds to us like more waste of money and an opportunity to get more money from the motorist. Though with the new system your account will be automatically charged, so their mammoth income from fines should go down. Poorer motorists and visitors are of course not likely to have the electronic tag and would therefore still be fined.
The RAC Foundation say that the new system would be "dare I say it, popular". Well they did dare, but we wonder why.

Road Toll charge by the Hour
It seems that some roads users in Malaysia have found a way of reducing their Tolls bill. We don't understand how it works, but the toll authority are retaliating by fining drivers who appear to take too long driving along the road! (Report in New Sunday Times of Kuala Lumpur.).

No Toll Wonder World Drive
There is another (see 19th January) proposal for "pass-through tolling" in Texas. Brad Rollins in the San Marcos Daily Record reports "The long-awaited Wonder World Drive extension won't lead to a toll booth after all."   The reason? - A real Toll road would not carry enough traffic.

407 - Ontario to appeal
It is reported that the government of Ontario is to appeal the court decision that the operators of the 407 ETR toll road are free to put tolls up.

Missouri Republican wants more Tolls
A Republican Missouri State Senator is pushing hard for tolls to be made illegal in the state. Missouri has in fact been using some of the money collected in annual fuel tax and motor vehicle tax money for non-highway uses, though it says it will phase this out over the next four years:-     The Business Journal, Kansas City - "Bartle revs effort for I-70 toll bill"
The Republicans, like a lot of people, don't like taxes, but some of them seem to love road tolls. In our view it is fairer to borrow the money needed for new roads, and to repay it from gas taxes. That way everyone who uses roads pays.

London Toll to change Tech
London is thinking of changing its system for recording who is driving round the toll zone. The current system uses cameras and "automatic" number plate identification. The new system would use some sort of electronic tag that would be recognised by roadside equipment. They say that they might also change from the present flat rate charge to one that varied with how much and when you used the car:-    BBC - "'Smart' congestion charge planned"
Sounds to us like more waste of money and an opportunity to get more money from the motorist. Though with the new system your account will be automatically charged, so their mammoth income from fines should go down. Poorer motorists and visitors are of course not likely to have the electronic tag and would therefore still be fined.

Bridge traffic wanes
Traffic numbers are down - again - on the 5 miles wide Mackinac Bridge. The authorities denied any connection between the steady overall drop of the last few years and increases in bridge tolls. You may wonder so what, but the local tourism industry is affected if numbers of travellers declines. (Report from Mike Forbes in Cheboygan Daily Tribune, Minnesota.)

20 January 2005
Trial seems to show Caravans not a cause of Congestion
It wasn't expected, but a Highways Agency trial (using M5) appears to show that restricting vehicles towing caravans does not reduce congestion:-     BBC - "Caravan M-way trial had no effect"
We think we know what would reduce congestion - spending more of the taxes gathered from roads users on the roads.

Tolls for Trains
In Connecticut, Yankee transportation activists and lawmakers have demanded swift action to improve mass transit and ease highway gridlock, even if it means higher gas taxes or tolls. It seems that they want the money to be spent on railways etc, while the people who pay will be the road users. (Report on newbritainherald.com.)
You wonder where the money would come from, if it wasn't for road users!
Also in Connecticut, there is a separate report (theday.com) that it is proposed there should be a shuttle bus service linking various tourist attractions, with the service being subsidised by the attractions. That certainly seems a more reasonable idea than tolls. Though if the bus service is a success then taxes on businesses should increase anyway, without the need for optional contributions.


19 January 2005
Beyond Reason
A "libertarian" think tank "The Reason Foundation" has proposed building a $3 billion toll tunnel through the San Gabriel Mountains in California. We are glad to see that not everyone supports tolls as Harrison Sheppard reports that Jenny Oropeza, chairwoman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, said "Toll roads such as the 91 Freeway in Orange County have been a failure. If this toll road costs as much as they think it will, it's not going to pencil out in terms of being able to put any kind of rational per-mile toll that people will be willing to pay. I'm not a huge fan of toll roads, because I view them as elitist. Our public highways ought to be accessible to everybody regardless of their income level."

"Pass-through Tolls"
Montgomery County in Texas is likely to pioneer a new state funding initiative, where the county would pay up front costs for new roads and be reimbursed by the state based on traffic counts. They are calling this "pass-through tolls" though in Britain this is known as "shadow tolls" and the money usually goes to the builder or operator of the road as part of a PFI deal. Whatever you call them, they are better than real tolls, but it all seems to be a bit of a game dreamt up by accountants.

Toll enterprise in Bangladesh
It is reported from Bangladesh that "Hired goons and some members of various law enforcement agencies are reportedly collecting tolls of more than Tk 2,500 per truck from cattle traders at ten points between Jamuna Bridge and Rajshahi." This is apparently viewed in Bangladesh as being criminal. It's about time that they caught up with the West and legalised this Toll enterprise!":-     The Daily Star - "Cattle traders pay Tk 2,500 in toll for every truck"

Israeli Government picks up the Toll bill
The Trans-Israel Highway is the only toll road in Israel and as been hyped as a big success. But it has now emerged that in the last year the road has not had as many customers as the Government guaranteed the company. They were 4 million customers short, and the Government has to pay 72% of the Tolls shortage. (Report by Anat Georgi on haaretz.com .)

Opposition to Georgia Toll
Georgia is planning to have tolls on Ga 316 between Athens and Atlanta. Students from the University of Georgia are amongst those protesting. One professor said "They claim it will improve safety, but many drivers will take smaller, secondary roads, which tend to have higher accident rates.". (Report from Kelly Proctor on redandblack.com.)

Both sides in Court agree to use Tolls only on the Toll road
As reported before, there has been a legal dispute in Florida between Sanibel and the County over the use of Toll money on the causeway. It appears that they have now agreed to end their legal battle, and that both sides will stop using their share of the Tolls money for other purposes. (Report on news-press.com.)


18 January 2005
Report from Edinburgh Toll Conference - Ken says Letting People choose is too risky
Yesterday's conference in Edinburgh was dominated by the presence of Ken Livingstone. He of course enthused over the London Toll zone charges. He also said that it was a mistake to have a vote on it. There was a danger that people would vote No, and this would scare the government into abandoning its plans for tolls on all Britain's roads:-     The Scotsman - "Britain's transport strategy depends on Edinburgh 'yes' vote on road tolls"

Edinburgh Toll Conference - "The Toll of Two Cities"
The Evening News give their opinion and conclude "Edinburgh people should be extremely wary of listening to Mr Livingstone's arguments when considering whether to support congestion charging":-     Evening News - Opinion - "The Toll of two Cities"

Report from Edinburgh Toll Conference - Ken says Letting People choose is too risky
Yesterday's conference in Edinburgh was dominated by the presence of Ken Livingstone. He of course enthused over the London Toll zone charges. He also said that it was a mistake to have a vote on it. There was a danger that people would vote No, and this would scare the government into abandoning its plans for tolls on all Britain's roads:-     The Scotsman - "Britain's transport strategy depends on Edinburgh 'yes' vote on road tolls"

More Truckers avoiding Tolls
Truck traffic has doubled on sections of U.S. 41 and is increasing on other non Toll roads as both long distance and short distance hauliers avoid tolls. Report yesterday from Roz Varon, and don't miss the Video Clip!     ABC7Chigago - "Toll hike boosts truck traffic on state roads"

17 January 2005
London Tolls for Thee, if you forget to pay
The Evening Standard reports that "only" 6,000 drivers a day are being fined for not paying the charge on time. At 100 a time, it is probaly worth while paying the charge just in case your car wandered in by itself! Perhaps we need a new pocket calculator, but the fines income seems to work out at 150 million a year:-     This is London - "Fewer motorists fined for dodging C-charge"
The report that the Evening Standard story appears to be based on is at:-  TfL - London Toll Impact Report January 2005   It is of course spin, but you may be able to read between the lines.

Ken Invades Edinburgh
Ken Livingstone will be speaking today at a conference organised by Scotland on Sunday. He is expected to urge Scots to follow London's example:-     BBC - "Livingstone backs city toll plans"
Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie will also be speaking and warns that the Edinburgh Toll might rise like London:-   The Scotsman - "Proposed 2 congestion fee may rise, says Tory leader"

Transport Lobby say Tolls are good for motorists
The BBC asked TRANSform Scotland and the East of Scotland Federation of Small Businesses for their views.
TRANSform are a transport pressure group, they say "For motorists using the zones, it will be a better place to drive as there will be less congestion."
The FSB say that 76% of their members oppose Tolls:-     BBC - "'Green city' or 'hollow doughnut'"

More Truck Tolls?
Eupolitix.com reports an interview with Luxembourg's transport minister. He say that he thinks that EU countries are close to agreeing the "Eurovignette Directive" which will "harmonise" road Tolls on trucks. One might expect that the politicians would be falling over themselves to get more money, but the problem is that France and Germany as the main "transit" countries would get the most benefit, with truckers from "fringe" countries paying the most:-     Eurovignette


16 January 2005
Cats say Me-Too-Ow
Ft.com reports some New York business leaders (you know the ones that get the cream) want a Toll Zone like London. They think that it would reduce congestion and raise a lot of money. They have put their idea to the State Governor. Two other cities are reported as looking at Toll Zones- Edinburgh and Stockholm.

Texas Stealth Tax
The Houston Chronicle reports that Harris County commissioners since April 2001 have spent more than $100 million of Tolls on non Toll roads. The roads the money was used for where supposed to be financed from bonds. You can hardly blame the politicians for taking advantage of those who queue to give their money away and hardly ever complain.


15 January 2005
USA Tolls
A review of the current United States position on Tolls by Kathleen Murphy:-   infozine.com - "Save Your Quarters: States Build More Toll Roads"

More truckers avoiding tolls despite police checks
Truck traffic on Route 41 in Lake County, Chigago has doubled since Tri-State Tolls were increased this month, according to Daily Herald. Though avoiding the Tolls means that there are speed checks, safety inspections, weighing and logbook checks.


14 January 2005
Please Sir, can we have a Toll road
We nearly fell off our chairs when we saw on the BBC that someone wants a Toll Road. The Devon and Cornwall Business Council want a toll road to be built to bypass the village of "Kingskerswell". We assume that the people behind this are not in the tourist industry! We also assume that they plan to barricade the village so that drivers are forced to use the bypass.   BBC - "Call for toll charges on new road"

Free Tolls - But at a Price!
Various papers report that it is suggested that drivers on the Bay Bridge, Maryland, would be allowed to cross the toll-free, when the traffic back-up exceeds 30 minutes. It just goes to show that most of us drivers are a placid lot. We are apparently prepared to wait 30 minutes or more at toll booths. Shouldn't such meekness be rewarded with double tolls?
"More Education Required"
At another Bay Bridge (California) it is reported by San Francisco Business-wire that residents were given the choice of a one dollar increase at all times or a two dollar increase at peak periods and no increase off peak. The residents voted 58 to 32 for the option of same toll at all times . (We assume that the other 10% agree with us that it was not much of a choice!) The best bit is the reaction of the people running the bridge - it seems that the residents got the answer wrong and "more education of residents is required".

Swiss Tolls drive trucks through Austria
Austria is complaining that there are too many trucks passing through, where the more direct route would be through Switzerland. The trucks avoid Switzerland because though it generally doesn't have tolls, it has very high tolls for those going through the Alps. Austria as an EU country can't charge excessive tolls on trucks because this would conflict with rules designed to encourage free trade.


13 January 2005
Should all roads be toll roads?
Yesterday the Commons Trasport Select Committee was looking at "Road Pricing: Should all roads be toll roads?"
As far as we can see they did not call many, if any, witnesses who are opposed to the principle of tolls. One of the witnesses was the RAC Foundation.
Before the committee met Edmund King from the Foundation was interviewed on Radio 5 Live. Much to the amazement of the interviewer he said that the Foundation was in favour of Tolls on all roads. Though he did say that he disagreed with the existing system of tolls on roads such as the Mersey Tunnels and Severn Bridges. When it was suggessted that any new tolls would inevitably be additional to not instead of existing taxes, he said that there would have to be absolute guarantees that this would not happen.
What happened at the committee itself seems to have been ignored in the news media, but here is part of our press relaese:- "The Committee inquiry was originally to be into the existing and proposed M6 Toll roads, but they decided to widen their Inquiry following the release by the Government on 20th July 2004 of their latest 10 Year Transport Plan. The plan confirmed previous leaks that the Government wanted to move in the direction of tolls. But the plans were vague as to what, when and how.

Most road users do not want tolls, and avoid them if they can. This was confirmed last week when the latest monthly figures for the M6 Toll were released. It showed the 4th consecutive monthly decline. The vast bulk of the traffic is using the old M6 or other roads. The banks may still be making a profit, but it is not good for the country when vehicles, including heavy lorries, chose to go on less suitable roads.

We do need improved roads but they should be paid for out of the 40 billion that the Government already gets from road users. The cost of toll collection would be better spent on roads.
The Government should follow the example of the Scottish Parliament with the Skye Bridge, and scrap all tolls."
Irish Tolls to be Investigated by Auditor General (Or maybe not)
It was reported yesterday that Ireland's Comptroller and Auditor General has agreed to a request, from Labour Party Spokesperson on Transport, Deputy Roisin Shortall, for an investigation into the deal between the Government and National Toll Roads PLC:-   politics.ie - "C&AG to examine deal between Gov and NTR"
It is reported today by businessworld.ie that the Irish Government will decide how far the investigation goes.............

Pro Toll Campaigners plan to take Massachussets to Court
Anthony Flint reports that Greens and Public Transport lobby are taking Massachussets to court to try and force the introduction of tolls. They want tolls on the Interstate 91, with the money to be used to subsidise trains and other public transport schemes:-   The Boston Globe - "I-93 toll option impossible, officials say"

Avoiding Tolls
1. The Home News Tribune reports that there has been a big growth in truck traffic in New Jersey. One of the biggest growth areas is on Route 202 "because of truckers using local roads to avoid tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike."
Other reports say that the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has estimated that by 2020, truck miles travelled wil be about 80 percent over 1998 levels. Their solution is more railway lines and possibly tolls (though truckers will avoid them?).
We wonder if anyone has asked what it is that they will be shipping 80% more of - food? clothes? raw materials? truck parts?

2.Karetha Dodd on wqad.com reports on "Ways to avoid the tolls on your way to Chicago". She concludes "Of course, depending on what kind of car you drive, the extra gas used taking these alternative routes may not make them any cheaper than staying on the tollway. But if you don't want to give your money to the Toll Authority, you now know your alternatives."

Forum of Private Business oppose Manchester Tolls!
Deja Vu. Further to yesterday's report on the Forum of Private Business view on the Edinburgh Toll, they also issued yesterday a Press Release attacking suggestions for tolls in Manchester:-   FPB - "Congestion charging would be commercial suicide for Manchester"

407 - Groans of the Canadians
Scott Piatkowski gives his views on Rabble News. The piece originally appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle and the Woolwich Observer. The 407 was privatised in 1999 and since then the tolls have rocketed, with the Ontario government so far failing in the courts to stop increases. One of the politicians says more toll roads are "a fact of life," but promises that the toll rates on new roads will be cheaper than those applied to 407 users. "We will ensure that the kind of tolling that is used is regulated, that it is reasonable, and that it is removed once the highway has been paid for." Scott says "Where have we heard that one before?"   Rabble News - "407 reasons to be wary of privatization "


12 January 2005
Traffic faster?
BBC reported last night that "Traffic speeds in central London have increased since the introduction of the congestion charge". This is based on a report that can't be found on the Transport for London site.
What we do know, from previous reports, is that there are about 30% less cars entering the Toll Zone. Though traffic within the Zone has only reduced by about half this as there are more buses and taxis, and those cars that enter the Zone may want to get their money's worth by driving round more!
What we don't know is the effect on traffic outside the Zone. Some drivers will have switched to other means of transport to enter the Zone, but others will be avoiding the Zone.

New Deal!
Ken Livingstone is negotiating a deal with the private company that runs the London "Congestion Charge" scheme. If the deal is agreed then the company will also run the proposed extension to the Toll Zone that will cover Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea. They will also replace the existing system with satellite technology and may introduce variable charges. :-   Evening Standard - "C-charge extension moves closer"
We wonder what Ken would do with all the Toll costs if the people of London "voted with their feet" and avoided paying Ken's levy. The Evening Standard reports that in the official "consultation" 63 per cent of residents and 72 per cent of businesses opposed the extension of the Toll Zone.

Truckers challenge Tolls in court
Truckers have taken the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to court. They think that truck tolls are too high, particularly bearing in mind that the Commission has a surplus which is 3 times their annual spending. The Federal judge apparently thinks that their case has merits, but has yet to decide whether he can hear the case.

Irish Shadow Tolls
Ireland on Line reports that the Irish Government has been subsidising "National Toll Roads". The company was paid not to increase tolls paid by drivers on Dublin's Westlink toll bridge while a second bridge was built.

Closer to Ohio Turnpike Strike
Various US papers report that the workers at Ohio's only toll road - the OhioTurnpike - issued a strike notice yesterday, following the running out of their work contract on the 1st January. A strike would go ahead on the 21st at the earliest. There are plans for flat rate tolls during any strike.

11 January 2005
Tolls in Manchester?
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority want to introduce road tolls, and as a first step are having an opinion survey. Today, according to manchesteronline.co.uk, the Leader of Manchester City Council said he would oppose tolls as it could be "extremely damaging" to the local economy.
Here are some views on the subject:-   manchesteronline.co.uk - Toll comments

Toll Collect - Please Sir, We want some more
Though it is only 10 days since the Germans brought in their satellite systems for tolling heavy trucks on main roads, there are already calls to extend it. Firstly by increasing the rate from 12.4 to 15 euro cents per kilometre travelled (a 20% increase). Even more disturbingly they want to include trucks over 3.5 tons rather than over 12 tons. Can cars be far behind?   Calls emerge for hike in new German road tax

Car Share in Darlington
Darlington have set up a car share scheme. People wishing to share can register their details on a website noting pick-up and drop-off points, and those carrying out similar journeys are then able to get in touch.
This is a good idea, though we need a lot more experience of it to see what the takeup is and what the problems are.
Unfortunately to take advantage of this scheme, you have to be an employee of Darlington Council:-   BBC - "Council sets up car-share scheme"


10 January 2005
Pennsylvania may simplify tolls
Pennsylvania lost $2.2 million dollars (just about 1 day's income) during the recent Turnpike strike. The strike lasted 7 days. The first day there were no tolls, the other days there were flat rate tolls.
The Turnpike Commission is now thinking of having flat rate tolls all the time. It says that it would save the cost of operating expensive equipment that weighs trucks to calculate tolls and the million-dollar annual cost of printing toll tickets. It would also save some of the staff costs:-   Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - "Strike took $2.2M toll at turnpike "


9 January 2005
Civil liberties groups react against extended use of Toll cameras
Stephen Breen reports that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency want to use the Toll cameras to track car tax dodgers. Not many people would have sympathy with those who deliberately evade car tax and insurance, but there is always a risk that data will eventually be used (officially or unofficially) for a purpose that most people would not approve of:-   Scotland on Sunday - "Road tolls cameras may help to catch tax dodgers"


7 January 2005
Tsar Bell Tolls Again
We reported on 7th November that Russia was to introduce tolls for foreign trucks. The Washington Times and other papers now report that at the end of December the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed approval for a Toll Roads programme for all vehicles.

Erskine Bridge profit
Scottish papers report that "last year" the Erskine Bridge made a profit of 1 million for the Scottish Executive who "own" the bridge. The figure comes from annual accounts published yesterday.
We have not seen those figures but we do know that the bridge cost 11 million to build and that up to the end of 2004, the tolls collected would be about 82 million. Some would say that this was more than a fair profit, and that the Scottish Parliament should free the people of West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire from this imposition without further delay.


6 January 2005
M6 Tolls Decline ...
The M6 Toll operators today released their figures for December 2004. They show the 4th consecutive monthly decline in daily traffic, down from 55,362 in August to 45,548 in December. Weekday traffic is down to 49,146 in December from a peak of 58,340 in July.
The Commons Transport Committee is due to inquire into the M6 Toll and the possibility of more Toll roads in Britain at an open evidence session on Wednesday 12 January 2005.
Any new road is going to be of benefit, but a toll road will never reach it's full economic potential.
Most drivers will avoid a toll if they can. It is not good for the country when vehicles, including heavy lorries, chose to go on less suitable roads. The Government should follow the example of the Scottish Parliament with the Skye Bridge, and scrap all tolls.
Detailed figures:-
M6 Total Traffic figures. Daily average:- July 55,308; August 55,362; September 52,041; October 50,242, November 47,047; December 45,548.
M6 Weekday Traffic figures. Daily average:- July 58,340; August 56,855; September 53,604; October 52,887, November 50,311; December 49,146.
M6 Weekend / Public Holiday Traffic figures. Daily average:- July 47,896; August 52,225; September 47,745; October 44,686, November 38,106; December 37,992.
Birmingham Post - "Scrap toll charges, say campaigners"   Express & Star - "Axe fees plea on shunned M6 Toll"   

... But Still Good News for M6 Toll operator
A Canadian Judge today overruled an appeal by the Government of Ontario, and said that the operators of the 407 ETR could put up tolls. The road is 30% owned by Maquarie Infrastructure Group from Australia, who are also the main owners of Britain's M6 Toll. 53% of the Canadian road is owned by Cintra from Spain:-   Judge Upholds Arbitrator's Ruling   It was reported that MIG and Cintra shares jumped 5%.

Noble Shannon to be tolled
The Irish National Roads Authority is to build a tunnel under the Shannon (longest river in the British Isles), and plans to toll it. The Irish Road Haulage Association said this would cause delays and cancel out the advantages of the tunnel, while the AA said such tolls were inefficient as they encourage traffic to continue using existing roads.


5 January 2005
Gas Pump Choice
An editorial in Claremore Daily Progress poses the question of whether Oklahoma roads should be paid for through higher gasoline taxes which "will only be paid by the road users" or through a scheme as planned in Texas where they would be Toll roads. The conclusion:- "Whether these roads will be funded with cash-as-you-go or by debt owned by foreign princes is a choice that American voters must make. Conservative citizens surely will demand and support the gas pump choice."    Paying for roads

Perhaps you need a little more time to come up with the right answer
Associated Press report that the Georgia Board of Transportation has extended for 15 days the consultation on whether to toll the Georgia 316.
In the original public consultation period, the board received 450 responses - 87 per cent in opposition to tolls. The Board Commisioner was asked if he believed public opinion would turn around in the next 15 days, he said, ``I think that once the public sees and understands the entire picture of the project, once that picture is drawn, I think there will be a different perception.''
Yes, I think we all get the picture.


4 January 2005
Tolls may benefit Scots but Londoners will pay 54p a mile
David Begg who advises the UK government and advocates tolls, today argues for a switch towards tolls away from vehicle excise duty and fuel duty. He says that tolls will suit Scotland, as he says that Scots will pay at the most 12 pence a mile, while London motorists will pay 54 pence.
Bizzarely the Professor supports the Edinburgh Toll Zone scheme, though it will be introduced on top of existing vehicle excise duty and fuel duty:-    Leisurely drive can take its toll

Theme Park Roads
Car magazine Auto Express recently reported that drivers were speeding more on the M6 toll than on other roads. One resaon will be that it is a new road, but according to psychologist Conrad King there is another factor, "I'm sure there's an element of 'theme park' mentality. Users pay their money and therefore expect to be able to enjoy the thrill of the ride. It's almost as if they're paying to use a racetrack."
Following the recent announcement that there will be a toll motorway in South Wales, there are fears that the same will happen there:- "   Western Mail - "'Racetrack' fear for new M4 toll section as speeds soar"

Tolls Money goes a Long way
In December there were reports about the way Delaware spent tolls money, today there is a report on Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spending including trips to Paris (France). The Valley Independent says "In 2002, Gov. Ed Rendell promised to eliminate waste and corruption in Pennsylvania politics. A good place to start would be with a thorough crackdown on the turnpike commission's free spending ways. "   "Turnpike commission spends recklessly"

More on Sale of Indiana Toll
The Democrats are opposing the sale of the Interstate 80/ 90 (see 1 Jan). State Representative Craig Fry said "It's very short-sighted. I don't agree with privatizing anything. The benefit to citizens is overrated. Instead of the road being an asset to the state, the governor will turn a quick profit and we'll have nothing in the end."

Twilight Zone
Diane Carman in Denver Post speculates on the trend to more tolls "Never mind that toll roads cost more than taxpayer-funded highways due to the expense of collecting and enforcing tolls. "
She drives along the tolled E70 "It felt like the Twilight Zone. I wasn't alone, really, but compared with life on the toll-free highway, it sure was lonely. I turned up the radio and goosed the accelerator.I was just about to kiss 75 goodbye when I noticed something ominous ahead: a cluster of state patrolmen with itchy radar fingers and a tollbooth."

Tolls will benefit Scots
David Begg who advises the UK government and advocates tolls, today argues for a switch towards tolls away from vehicle excise duty and fuel duty. He says that tolls will suit Scotland, as he says that Scots will pay at the most 12 pence a mile, while London motorists will pay 54 pence.
Bizzarely the Professor supports the Edinburgh Toll Zone scheme, though it will be introduced on top of existing vehicle excise duty and fuel duty:-    Tolls scheme is the way forward for all drivers


3 January 2005
Smooth start for Toll Collect?
The new German electronic system for charging motorway tolls on trucks came into force on Saturday 1 January. It is reported that the first 3 days have gone smoothly. It's a bit too soon to say whether this will last as trucks are not allowed on the motorways at the weekend. Truckers who fail to pay the toll, can for a second offence be fined up to 20,000 euros (about 14,000 or $27,000).
The German Economics Minister hopes the system will be an export hit as "old-fashioned booths still cause traffic congestions in many other European countries".
Report from Uwe Hesler on dw-world:-    Smooth Start for German Truck Toll

2 January 2005
Toll Roads Failing in Pennsylvania
In western Pennsylvania, it is reported that 2 toll roads are failing to attract enough paying customers.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found that the Amos K-Hutchinson Bypass outside of Greensburg and the James E-Ross Highway in Beaver County hadn't delivered projected traffic and the economic boom supporters predicted. They also report that some people fear the same outcome for the region's other project, the unfinished $4.3 billion dollar Mon-Fayette Expressway from West Virginia to Pittsburgh, the second most expensive road project in USA.
The report has been repeated in various papers through Associated Press:-     Toll road projects criticized for cost, lack of return
There may be various reasons why a project "fails". But traffic, particularly trucks, will avoid tolls if it can. And if the main purpose of a road is to help economic regeneration, then tolls are crazy.


1 January 2005
Indiana To Go A Tolling
Indiana is looking for money. It is thinking of selling the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 80 / 90) to private interests. It is also looking at bringing tolls in on other roads. (Tim Evans at indystar.com.)

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