JANUARY 2007 NEWS
Wednesday 31 January 2007
A London regional paper voices concerns about the increased congestion that will result from next month's extension of the congestion charge zone - "Communities braced for chaos from congestion zone expansion".
Situations for vacant people
The Belfast Telegraph's motoring correspondent gives an account of his attempts to get a transport job - "Our car expert tries to become a transport bureaucrat...".
Manchester Toll - Independence the establishment way
Today's Manchester Evening News reveals who the "independent panel" are that will give their verdict on Manchester's Congestion Chrge plans. As expected they are establishment figures, including David Begg who was behind Edinburgh's toll plans - "Pay-to-drive 'fans' probe charging bid".
Yesterday we issued this press release -
...... There is no justification for this toll tax plan. Drivers are already being treated as a cash cow. They pay about one billion pounds a week in taxes, and see little in return. Most of the congestion that does exist has been created by the authorities themselves, who have deliberately restricted the space available for vehicles. Vast amounts of money will be wasted on toll collection and administration. Charges will just move the congestion on to other roads, annoying drivers and residents and harming many businesses.
The authorities say that one of their four tests before they proceed is that it must be acceptable to the public and to businesses. They say that there will be an "Independent Panel" to look at this plan. This panel will not be independent at all, as they will appoint the members. If the authorities really mean what they say, then there must be a "toll poll" as took place in Edinburgh. If they refuse to have a poll then it will prove that they know that they will fail.
Some people may think that congestion charging does not matter, as the Government plans to have "road pricing" on all British roads anyway. That may be the intention, but in our view that plan is bound to fail, and Manchester could face a situation where it is one of the few areas in Britain which has the economic noose of tolls round its neck.
""No one in their right mind would bring back tolls.""
Some views on the campaign to bring back tolls to Connecticut - News Times - "Traffic woes may take a toll".
"Shunt the idea of road pricing onto history's hard shoulder"
Matthew Lynn, a London correspondent for Bloombergs tells Americans about Britain's road pricing plans and gives three reasons for rejecting it - "It is a regressive tax. Insofar as it reduces congestion, it does so because a few people decide they can't afford to travel anymore. So it kicks a nurse off the road to allow a hedge-fund manager to zoom along an uncluttered highway in his new Aston Martin....." "The technology involves a monstrous extension of state power. London is already covered with cameras recording the movement of every vehicle into and out of the zone. But a national system would be much worse -- a microchip in your car logging every journey you make....." "Lastly, there is little evidence it will work. Most people travel the main routes at peak times because they have to, not out of choice. Trains already charge more at peak times, but it is still the rush-hour commuter trains that are overcrowded." - "U.K. Drivers Are Right to Fight Road-Pricing Plan".
Running Red Lights
Here is an alternative view from a New York group of cyclists that are given one million dollars a year and campaign for "congestion pricing" - New York Observer.
"Stop the highway robbery"
More on opposition to Dulles Greenway toll increase application - The Journal - "Public balks at Greenway toll increase" Loudon Times Mirror - "Higher Greenway tolls 'price gouging'".
The Yellow Brick Road is paved with gold
The Governor of Kansas apparently wants to use highway tolls to pay for repairs to University buiildings - LJ World. This of course would not be news in some other states, and in Britain only one pound out of every seven pounds of roads taxes is spent on roads.
Tuesday 30 January 2007
"Big Business Buys Silence of Toll Road Critical Newspapers"
More on Macquarie's buyout of some Texas papers - Prison Planet.
"Don’t Tag Texas"
A mass rally is planned for March 2nd in Austin. It is a joint rally of anti toll road protestors and those opposing a federal animal identification program
- Daily Light.
The people speak, but who listens?
At todays' Downing Street briefing for journalists it was announced that the 1,000,000th person had signed one or more of the 2,700 epetitions on the 10 Downing Street website. Over half of those signatures are of course for the Peter Roberts anti road pricing petition. The PM's spokesman said - "There were issues such as road pricing where people had strong views, but strong views did not necessarily equal a solution to congestion. People's views would be taken into account, but a decision had to be made as well.".
Driving people out
The Evening Standard reports on the possible effect on schools, hospitals and the mail of next months extension of the charge zone - "New C-charge may drive teachers out of London".
The Troll Times has an article attacking those who oppose road pricing for their anti social behaviour - "Don’t you dare pity the picked-on motorist".
In a separate article the paper suggests to David Cameron that "demands for services must be met with more direct payments by users of services, such as tuition fees, road pricing etc."
Tolls go round
Some of the money from the Indiana Toll road sale is being used to pay toll increases. Drivers are still paying the old $4.65 while the State pays the $3.35 increase - WNDU- "Toll Road Money woes". We wonder how many people are profiting from this merry go round? What happens when the music stops?
Toll increase delayed
A 33% price increase on bridge tolls and a 22% price increase on road tolls has been halted by Ankara's administrative court following action started by Turkey's Republican People's Party.
Under developed tolls
Canadian papers report that Canadian troops have begun conducting anti-corruption patrols in Afghanistan in an attempt to stop illegal tolls on major roads.
Monday 29 January 2007
Advice to the Prime Minister
The Association of British Drivers has issued a press release about the Peter Roberts (a member of ABD) petition. They suggest to Tony Blair how the authorities have caused the congestion on Britain's roads and what should be done about it.
$250 billion bonanza
The Australian reports on Macquarie's involvement with the great US road sale. Though it is a bit confusing as to which bit of Macquarie owns what - "MIG in toll road pursuit of Texas".
The right wing Reason Foundation continues its evangelising of toll roads and road sales - National Conservative Weekly - "Decongesting Our Roads".
New "safety" group
The AA Motoring Trust and the Institute of Advanced Motorists have combined to form a new body that they say is dedicated to road safety. The AA Motoring Trust was a supporter of "road pricing", though not as keen as the RAC Foundation. It remains to be seen what interest this new body takes in tolls. Though they already have on their website a document which says that "Most UK drivers understand the principle of paying more for the benefit of driving on less congested roads".
A petition for removal of tolls on Grand Island (north western tip of New York state), now has over 5,000 signatures and backing from one of the Democrat state senators - Albanys Insanity.
Dartford petition closed
The petition to the PM asking for the scrapping of the Dartford tolls closed yesterday. It did fairly well getting 928 signatures. Many other petitions against one toll or another have appeared. What they have in common is that they seem to be raised by people who have not otherwise shown any interest in tolls. We wonder why.
Lib Dems against Con charge (in York)
York's party leaders tell the York Press what they will do about congestion charging if they are successful in May's elections. We are pleased to see that the Lib Dems who currently have 29 out of 47 seats on the council say that they won't implement it. The Lib Dems also accuse Labour of having had secret plans for charging - "Party leaders give their views on congestion charging".
Finland to go a fashionable shade of green
Newsroom Finland reports that the Government wants to introduce road pricing for trucks, they will at the same time abolish fuel duty for the trucks - "Finnish PM to propose road pricing for heavy vehicles".
No doubt this encouragement for less fuel efficient vehicles will be welcomed by the Greens, who seem to be working in the interests of the oil companies. But what lies behind this is a beggar my neighbour policy, where the aim is to try and catch foreign trucks, that are perceived as having a free ride (and apparently never stop to refuel). What a pity that the European tollocrats can't come up with a better solution than switching from fuel duty to road tolls.
The Peter Roberts petition has reached 600,000 signatures and has another 4 weeks to run. It may already be the most widely signed British petition, though elsewhere there are other petitions with over 600,000 signatures including a current Italian one that wants "L'ABOLIZIONE DEI COSTI DI RICARICA PER I TELEFONI CELLULARI" (abolition of "recharge" commissions on mobile phones).
Most don't like it HOT
Some views on California HOT lanes - North County Times - "The Boston Tea Party: freeway edition".
Sunday 28 January 2007
Like something out of a childrens' tale about trolls, there is news today that frequent users of the 407ETR are to be rewarded with a "loyalty" programme. Drivers who use the toll road at least 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) a month - will not pay tolls at weekends, and some users will get discounts off their fuel - Toronto Star - "407 drivers get loyalty plan".
The Doctor knows best
The Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard report on the Peter Roberts petition. Doctor Ladyman, the Roads Minister, says that "The petition is nonsense. The way it was worded - it was so full of inaccuracies that I would be tempted to sign it myself.". We wonder what in this brief petition he thinks is inaccurate? Or is he getting confused with the propaganda put out by the government and its allies?
There's no place like home
The Australian flying knight as well as recently telling Britain to toll all roads is advising the Victorian government. It was assumed that he would recommend more (tolled) roads, but he says that Australia is different from Britain - The Age. Perhaps he thinks that if he recommends tolls on his home roads, he may be bowled over by a few tubes of beer.
Bank takes control
Two stories from Landline, a trucker's site show the increasing influence of Macquarie, the Australian bank that owns many toll roads (including Britain's M6 Toll)-
The media part of the bank buys papers in the area of proposed toll roads - "Macquarie buys 40 Texas newspapers".
President Bush intends to nominate a Macquarie official as the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation. though this may be stopped at the confirmation hearing - "Bush nominates Macquarie official as counsel for DOT ".
Connecticut toll push
Connecticut trolls are pushing for tolls to be reintroduced. The tolls were stopped in 1995 following a toll queue accident where four women and three children died in the resulting fire. The trolls want the tolls back mainly to hit people from out of state - Newsday / AP - "Legislators consider possibility of reviving tolls".
The Seattle Times editorial is - "Shell game: Where did the tolls go?" about the confusion as which Seattle roads, if any, will be tolled.
To toll or not to toll?
More on the Illinios Missouri dispute - Belleville News Democrat.
By coincidence, Missouri who want the new Mississippi bridge to be tolled is debating how to fund roads, though there is a lot of opposition to tolls as it would hurt the economy - Missourian - "Penny Tax proposed for highway work".
License to print money, on sale
Discussion on the road sales game. A rep of the truckers says - "You're hawking your assets now, and you're going to end up paying a whole lot more down the road" - Post Gazette - "Seeing gold at the end of the privatized road".
Toll Bill confusion
Two Republican state senators are pushing a bill to limit tolling in Oregon. The bill could indirectly kill the one toll road already approved, as traffic would not use it if the alternative road remains toll free - News Register.
More roads given away
People in Paraná state in Brazil are complaining as the Government is to hand over to private toll operators a road built with public money.
Saturday 27 January 2007
Manchester Toll - What else would you expect?
The Manchester Evening News reports that the council bosses who yesterday agreed to inflict congestion charging on the people of Manchester all arrived by car, some of them chauffeur driven -
"C-Charge: Bosses came by car". Best laugh of all is that the MEN got a quote from the RAC Foundation - they are one of the organisations that is trying to sell this idea for the Government.
If you live in the Manchester area and can help fight this plan, then please contact us.
Doctor Ladyman, the Roads Minister has been throwing his weight around in Yorkshire, he says that they will not be given money to improve transport as he didn't believe that they were serious when they said that they would bring in tolls on roads - Yorkshire Evening Post - "Minister accuses council of road charging apathy" Yorkshire Post - "Blunt words for city over transport cash".
Truth will out
The Telegraph reports that the Peter Roberts petition has passed the 500,000 mark (by the time that yoy read this it will probably have reached 600,000 signatures. The paper also refers to the Galileo system This story is not really news, as the link between road tolls and the European spy satellite has been known about for at least two years, but its mention in the Telegraph indicates that some parts of the Tory establishment may be worried as to how long the public can be fooled. Will they jump off the tolls / road pricing / congestion charging ship?
Friday 26 January 2007
Manchester Toll - Chiefs agree to Charge
Council leaders from around Manchester met today and agreed to bring in tolls on most of the roads leading into Manchester city - BBC - "Councils back congestion charge" Manchester Evening News - "C-Charge: The long road begins" This is Lancashire.
PS This is the report that they considered today This is the map of roads to be charged as per Manchester Evening News website.
"Streets of Gold"
David Pasztor in the Texas Observer talks about what is wrong in Texas including the sale of roads - "Low-Hanging fruit".
Another report on the opinion poll indicating that New Yorkers are opposed to London style congestion charges and tolling of East River bridges - Times Ledger - "City drivers loathe pay-to-drive idea".
There are complaints about increased truck traffic in Brooklyn. One suggestion is higher tolls - Times Ledger - "City drivers loathe pay-to-drive idea". Truck traffic is a problem, but the trucks are there because they are delivering the goods that people want to buy. Truck drivers usually have little choice as to the times that they are in a particulatr place. Increasing tolls will have little effect.
Hold on, you go too fast now
Some toll barriers are being removed in an effort to reduce the delays caused by tolls. One resulting problem is that there are more toll violations. Some of these are because though the driver paid the toll, they were too quick for the toll to register - one solution is for them to slow down! News Press - "Crack down on possible toll dodgers".
Trolls say "no tolls"?
Australian road trolls, MIG, have recommended AGAINST building a new toll road. This seems bizarre, but it may be that they either want to toll some of the existing free roads or get a subsidy or both - Statesman Journal.
No tolls for the Blues
Tolling of police and other emergency service vehicles seems to be an issue in Texas - Statesman.
Thursday 25 January 2007
"No toll increase"
An organisation has been formed by John Andrews, a Republican, to campaign against toll increases on the Dulles Greenway in Virginia - No Toll Increase.
Unlicensed vehicles 2006
The Department for Transport have published - Statistics of unlicensed vehicles in 2006. The estimate is that there are just under 2.2 million unlicensed vehicles, of which just over 1.3 million are cars and 0.7 million are motorcycles. There are 33.3 million licensed vehicles, so the total number of vehicles is 35.5 million. Though the unlicensed vehicles are 6% of the total, DfT observations indicate that unlicensed vehicles are used far less than licensed ones and only make up 2% of the traffic.
The number of unlicensed vehicles is increasing as in 2005 there were "only" 1.5 million and in 2004 there were 1.2 million. There was an earlier peak of about 1.8 million in 2002. That figure fell due to measures taken to catch offenders, but it seems that the incentives to go illegal are too great. The incentive to go "unofficial" will be considerably increased if road pricing is introduced. Note that the way in which unlicensed vehicles is estimated, will not include clones of licensed plates.
Malaysians are angry about a combination of steep toll increases, public subsidies to toll operators and secret agreements
- Sun2surf - "Cabinet says toll agreements to remain secret" Sun2surf - "Tall toll tales".
Wednesday 24 January 2007
Bark, but no bite
Mark Schlueb in the Orlando Sentinel reports on the case involving a supposed anti toll campaigner, the toll authority and developers. The State Attorney is now investigating the authority for various possible irregularities - "It all started with a trespassing dog". Tolls generate substantial amounts of money; this case is unusual, but what is widespread is the use of tolls monies to influence opinions and gag critics.
Manchester Toll gets closer
Manchester is one of 10 areas that has received small amounts of money in return for saying that they will implement tolls. In most areas this seems to be just a device to get more money from the Government, but Manchester is moving closer to really introducing tolls - BBC - "Congestion charge plan for city" Manchester Evening News - "Up to £8 a day road charge due" (there is a link to comments at the bottom of the story). No doubt drivers will be happy to pay an extra £8 a day, particularly when they learn that about £5 of that is needed to cover the cost of collection and enforcement
Please Sir, can we have some more
There were hearings yesterday on the request for more toll increases on the privatized Dulles Greenway - Loudon Times Mirror - "Greenway toll hearings Tuesday".
Tories say that hole in road pricing scheme needs plugging
On 7th October we reported on the Tory Shadow Roads Minister who was backing more tolls, and saying 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." . The same shadow minister is today reported in the Guardian as saying that the Vehicle Licence data base will have to be improved to make sure that road pricing catches all drivers and it makes £47 billion - "Road pricing scheme a 'non-starter'".
Tuesday 23 January 2007
Lights cause congestion?
The Troll Times have an article today suggesting that one of the main causes of congestion is traffic lights - "I like traffic lights, but only when they're dismantled". There are a lot of comments on the link on second page of the article. We agree that traffic lights can cause congestion, and in fact that may be the purpose of many of the more recently installed lights, but there must be many other cases where lights were and are essential.
Following protests, some planned Texas toll roads have been put on the back burner - Statesman - "Hundreds protest tolls at CAMPO meeting". Apart from the Texas Toll Party and other anti toll protests, there is also opposition to toll roads from other groups including - Independent Texans and Corridor Watch.
Monday 22 January 2007
M6 Toll "under-utilised"
The Freight Transport Association are complaining about the M6 tolls and say - Our members remain continuously frustrated that the M6 Toll, which forms part of the country’s strategic road network, is under-utilised whilst the M6 to the north of Birmingham remains solid with traffic for long periods." - BBC - "M6 toll price increase criticised" FTA press release.
On our home page we have been showing links to various anti road taxes petitions on the 10 Downing Street site. We have now removed most of them and will probably not be adding any more, as we are unsure about the motives behind some of the petitions. People are creating new petitions though a similar one already exists and where the creator of the new petition has not signed the previous ones. We had hoped that our own petition against ALL forms of tolls would discourage the creation of petitions against just one toll or form of toll. Concentrating on just one toll helps the authorities to divide and rule.
What seems to have been the very first petition against any tolling was one raised by Richard Bagnall, which called on the PM to Scrap Road Tax and Tolls in favour of Tax on Fuel. This petition was raised before Peter Roberts raised his phenomenonally successful petition. Given that many drivers would not have wished for an increase in fuel taxes, it is perhaps not surprising that when Richard's petition closed on the 17th, it had only attracted 210 votes (though this placed it at about 170th out of the 2,200 petitions so far raised) It is also perhaps not surprising that not many greens could have signed it, as they seem to be quite happy to switch taxes from fuel to tolls.
An argument too far
The Telegraph has a story saying that road pricing "will kill off villages". This seems to be on the basis that workers could not afford to commute long distances. Though we welcome all opposition to road pricing, we think that this is a spurious argument. Those who are opposed to road pricing should intead look at our "Reasons Why Idea Is Daft".
Sunday 21 January 2007
Gas v Tolls
Metro West supports replacing Massachusetts tolls with gas tax - "Gas tax can replace tolls - and more".
Looking a gift horse in the mouth
Republican, Doug Forrester, in the Asbury Park Press argues against selling the New Jersey roads and gives two "very different" reasons - "Stopping people at checkpoints to collect revenue is a notoriously inefficient way to do so, even with so-called E-ZPass. When all costs are taken into account (overhead, environmental and additional fuel costs, as well as the immense value of lost time for motorists), I have no doubt tolls look foolish in a cost-benefit analysis. Selling these important transportation arteries will forever end the possibility of finding a way to free them. However, the best reason to block the sale of New Jersey's toll roads has nothing to do with higher tolls or no tolls. Admittedly, it is counterintuitive: The last thing the state needs right now is a big infusion of cash." - "Legislators would waste windfall from toll road sale".
We reported earlier this month on the opposition to tolling parts of the Interstate 75 in Florida. The authority are now hiring consultants supposedly to get the views of the people - Naples News. One reader comments "I wish the authority would make out a check payable to me for $10,000. For that sum, I can save the taxpayers $90,000 for the "educational" (nice spin on lobbying) campaign they are about to undertake. I can tell you that few local residents, probably people that don't drive, will ever approve of a toll on I-75, and it would be political suicide for any commissioner to give this idea a thumbs up. To think that the authority is supposed to be composed of local community and business leaders..God help us all!".
Cutting red traffic
The Observer reports that Moscow has come up with an alternative to congestion charging - a register is being set up so that people can swap jobs for one nearer home - "Job-swaps to cut traffic jams".
New York Toll Poll - "No"
A poll carried out by a Connecticut university indicates that New Yorkers oppose a London style congestion charge by a two to one margin - New York Sun - "Poll: Most Are Opposed to Congestion Pricing".
FSB support Peter Roberts petition
The Federation of Small Businesses, which has 200,000 members has contacted them asking them to sign the Peter Roberts petition against road pricing. The FSB also say that the Peter Roberts petition is against "congestion charging" - unfortunately this is not correct, the petition does not mention existing or proposed congestion charging.
Saturday 20 January 2007
Over half a million
The Peter Roberts petition is now at 520,000. For the last week or so it has been growing at about 25,000 signatures a day, at that rate it is likely to reach a million by the time that it closes on 20th February.
Acting against road pricing
An ex Doctor Who's view - Bucks Free Press - "Workers will be driven in to poverty". Many actors are of course also against the London Congestion Charge, which they want either abolished or to finish earlier in the evening.
Tolls for tolls
The income from tolls on the Interstate 15 express lanes is now the same as the cost of collecting them. It has been proposed that people with FasTrak transponders will be charged $5 a month, if they don't use the lanes - North County Times - "Minimum fee coming for toll customers". It is perhaps not surprising that the "profits" from this scheme have been paying for empty buses.
Texas Toll Tide Turning?
A Texas toll opponent is now getting some support from businesses - My SA - "Bexar official makes stand to stop 281 tolls".
"Poor working stiffs"
The right wing are generally supporters of toll roads as they believe in charging for everything, but things may be a changing - World Net Daily - "Toll-road fever no bargain for consumers".
No gas taxes!
There has been a largely negative reaction in Massachusetts to the suggestion that the gas tax should be increased and tolls scrapped - Boston Herald - "Gas tax games too cynical a ploy" Telegram - "Tolls, gas tax are two separate issues" Telegram - "Romney aide espouses Turnpike truth _ after the election" Enterprise- "Raising gas tax is a bad idea" The Transcript - "Gas tax proposal unlikely to gain ground". It is understandable that people don't want to pay extra tax and think that a lot of their existing tax and tolls is wasted. But one of the points of the proposal is that toll collecting and turnpike administration waste far more money than any other alternative.
Thursday 18 January 2007
Czechs not ready for tolls enforcement
We reported on the 5th that the Czech clone of Germany's Toll Collect system was expected to cost more than it collected. Now there is a report that they will have difficulty policing it - Prague Post - "Early glitches for e-toll system".
More London Con Zone = More woes
The Evening Standard reports that TfL who run the Big Con, believe that next month's western extension of the charge zone will increase congestion - "C-charge West will make congestion worse, admits TFL".
There are also two stories in the FT about the extension of the toll zone - "Haze over wider congestion charge" "Congestion charge ‘to increase delays’". The FT is of course a Troll paper, though it seems that they have some doubts about the charge, even though they repeat the myths about the original zone improving traffic flow and air quality.
More London Con Zone = More woes
In the Wall Street Journal today, two US economists discussed "Are London-Style Traffic Charges The Answer for U.S. Congestion?". Though they believe in the myth of the success of the London Con, they seemed to conclude that "congestion" charges don't fit the American situation as people and their jobs are widely dispersed. They also seemed to think that the diversion of funds from roads to mass transit was a vast waste, as the amount of travel done by mass transit was almost invisible.
Tolls go round
More on yesterday's story where it has been suggested that most of the Massachusetts Turnpike tolls should be replaced by gas tax - Worcester Telegram / AP - "Turnpike board members push gas tax to pay for toll elimination".
Residents of Everett, near Boston, are complaining about a new sludge plant that will be built there. What's this to do with tolls? The residents' concern is really about traffic - "Since they upped the tolls, we have everybody going through Everett. The traffic in there in the morning is bumper-to-bumper."
According to the "Capital" paper, a Maryland state senator is campaigning against building another crossing to alleviate congestion on the Bay bridge. Instead he is proposing that he wants them to "stop collecting tolls at the Bay Bridge under congested traffic conditions". Everyone knows that tolls reduce the capacity of a road or a bridge, but why only remove tolls when it's busy?
Wednesday 17 January 2007
The Telegraph reports that the Peter Roberts petition has been signed by 450,000 people. (This is growing so fast, that all reports are out of date.) The report also mentions that the system can be evaded. This is hardly news. What it means in practice is that the authorities either turn a blind eye or spend a LOT of money on secondary systems. The Telegraph quotes the RAC Foundation, one of the main advocates of tolls and road pricing. It appears that the Telegraph is in a bit of a tizzy. It knows that the vast majority of its readers don't want tolls, but it knows that the Tory party may be even more pro tolls than Labour.
No speak English
Intranetics reports that it is almost impossible to enforce electronic tolls on foreign drivers, as they are difficult to trace. It says that from January 2005 to June 2006, 88,000 foreign drivers escaped the congestion charge - "No speeding fines for foreign drivers". Dealing with foreign vehicles will be one of the factors that will make road pricing complex and costly.
Council opposes Humber toll
North Lincolnshire Council are calling for the Humber bridge tolls (the most expensive in Britain) to be scrapped - Yorkhshire Post Scunthorpe Telegraph.
Gas tax best
Tom Trimarco was secretary of administration and finance for Massachusetts and sat on the Turnpike board. He is backing the removal of the western tolls and most of the Boston tolls, to be paid for by an increase in gas tax of 10 cents phased in over 3 years. He says that "a gas tax is the most efficient user tax,", and is also fairer - Boston Globe - "Now we know".
Opposition to New Jersey privatization
State Assemblyman John Wisniewski of New Jersey is opposing the privatization of the New Jersey toll roads. His reasons include - "Private entities' ability to drive traffic off roads by establishing different rates at different tolls + Lack of accountability by private entities in terms of maintenance issues and ability to adjust to traffic-capacity concerns + Taxation issues arising through the transfer of public roads to private hands + A weakening in the borrowing capabilities of public-road authorities as tax-exempt entities + The inability of the state to control toll hikes." - Home News Tribune.
No more tolls
Editorial in Naple News argues against plan for more tolls - "Don't spend funds to see plan public doesn't want".
The "One London Group" on the Greater London Assembly are warning of a "revolt" against the Congestion charge. Unfortunately they are only referring to embassies - Mayor Watch.
View from the right
We reported on the 2nd that the "Utah Taxpayer's Association" was pressing the state to bring in tolls on all roads. They have this article at the right wing Heartland Institute web site.
"Use road more"
In a move that has already taken place elsewhere, 10 News reports that San Diego is to charge a fee to FasTrak users who do not use the tolls enough - "Interstate 15 FasTrak Drivers To Pay Extra Charge".
The ideal tax
Indiana's Governor Daniels in a State of the State address has sold the Road sale plan. He said - "Roads can be built and their upkeep can be paid for by tolls on mainly out-of-state vehicles ... then this is an enormous opportunity, not to be missed.".
Tuesday 16 January 2007
The Freight Transport Association are beefing about the London "Congestion" Charge, where the zone is being extended on the 19th February. The FTA don't mind other people paying it, but think that lorries should be exempt - TNN - "More Costs for Commercial Vehicles".
Stockhom Con Success is growing
According to a story from Sweden's equivalent of the BBC, the congestion charge trial in Stockholm was "even more successful than previously believed". This assertion is based on an unpublished paper from the Royal Institute of Technology. Strangely if you search for "tolls" on the Institute's web site, the first hit is a paper titled ""Optimal" road tolls can make everyone worse off". That was published some years ago, it is almost certain that the Institute will now be following the politically correct line.
DfT say tolls cause congestion and pollution
Report on Auto Express about this month's toll increases - 'Sneaky' toll rises hit Britain. The Department for Transport spokeswoman says "This isn't about penalising motorists, it's about looking at local needs and pressures, such as congestion and pollution." We are glad to see that the DfT now admit that tolls cause congestion and pollution!
Time for a laugh
A councillor says that people who think that congestion is being deliberately engineered as an excuse to later introduce tolls are "talking out of their bottoms" - Reading Evening Post.
It's a scam, Sam
More on the sell off of America's roads. Congressman Peter DeFazio, the incoming chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines, has said “It’s a scam, basically." - Daily Enterprise - "Highway privatization needs roadblock".
EZ come, EZ go
The discount to EZ pass users on the Atlantic City Expressway has ended. A tolls spokeswoman said that they were following other operators who have stopped similar programs, "often billed as a way to build E-ZPass membership" - NJ Express-Times.
AP report that tolls were lifted on a Richmond bridge following a nearby fire. Drivers will have been pleased, but may have been a bit worried as they drove over the bridge, if they knew that that the reason given was the the toll collectors had been evacuated.
Last week the BBC in the east Midlands had a debate about road pricing, which was "broadcast" on the web. That was neutral, but otherwise the BBC still seems to be selling road tolls for the establishment. Yesterday, national BBC had a story about "pay as you drive sat nav plan". The BBC had a new twist, it is now being claimed that "areas of deprivation" will have lower tolls, and that this will ""attract business to the area".
Report on new toll tag system costing £4 million for the Tamar crossing - BBC. Instead of wasting money on a toll tag scheme, the authorities should scrap the toll. That would improve traffic flow for all, and avoid the possible risk of accidents at the approach to the tolls.
Monday 15 January 2007
Appeal to lorry drivers
We are now asking lorry drivers to sign the no tolls petition - Transport News Network - "Lorry Drivers Asked to Sign Petition".
The Texas road trolls have tempoarily closed two of the southbound cash tollbooths on the Dallas North Tollway. Rob Stacks in the Dallas Morning News asks "Did they not realize there were so many cash customers at this location? Was it trying to create gridlock? It has created more pollution due to all of the stopped vehicles, caused additional accidents and created an opportunity for road rage. They could have either closed one tollbooth at a time, used cameras to collect tolls or even made the south exits free until the toll booths are redone. Instead, it has created an insane situation.".
Road Pricing law
The Telegraph reports on Ken's "Transport for London (Supplemental Toll Provisions) Bill". It suggests that this will give Ken significant new road pricing powers - "Know for whom the road tolls - it tolls for thee". The Bill (and similar legislation for all authorities as in the Queen's Speech) will obviously give new powers, but Ken and all local authorities already have substantial powers - (existing legislation).
Now here is the news - 40 years ago
The Telegraph also has a little bit on the Smeed road pricing proposals - "1960s panel proposed car meters and lights".
Tolls by bits and pieces
A report on HOT lanes for Texas though they are now being called "managed lanes" - Statesman - "Looking at 'managed' tolls on new MoPac lanes".
The New York Sun reports on a proposal to double tolls on trucks entering the city - "Toll Increase For Trucks Proposed". One would imagine that trucks are not entering the city because the drivers want to admire the view. If what they are delivering does not come by truck, then what will they use - rickshaws?
Arizonans are being told that they will never get any new roads, unless they agree to tolls. Though they will have to change the law first - Arizona Daily Star.
Sunday 14 January 2007
Rural rat run
Unusually a local authority officer (in Warwickshire) has spoken out about the effects if road pricing is introduced to the West Midlands. He says that rural roads will be used as "rat runs" to avoid the city charges - icCoventry - "'Rat run' danger of road charges".
Attempt to discredit Peter Roberts Petition?
The anti road pricing petition now has over 350,000 signatures but part of the VNU empire have published a story which creates the impression that this figure is not real - "UK government petition site has small flaw". This may be some consolation to the road trolls, but our experience with our own petition is the opposite - the site is so secure that people say that they have filled in all the details etc, but their name does not appear as a signatory.
New Jersey us going to crack down on drivers who don't pay the toll - Press of Atlantic City- "Toll cheaters beware: State coming after you". If the roads are sold, and privately operated, will the State Police still be involved?
A few views
John Bendel says that sales of turnpikes are "nutty experiments in privatization predestined to fail" - Asbury Park Press - "Privatizing toll roads won't pay off for drivers".
Florida drivers are opposed to more tolls - Naples News - "Toll lanes a lousy idea".
Some Texas politicians are having misgivings about the Texas Toll mega mania - MySA - "Some lawmakers want to rein in TxDOT toll roads".
Saturday 13 January 2007
"Road pricing will cause accidents"
Today's Telegraph reports on Government research which indicates that tolling of all roads would lead to a 3.5 per cent increase in accidents - "Road-pricing scheme will cause more accidents".
This conclusion was based on a 2.5 pence a mile toll on motorways causing 10 per cent of traffic to divert on to less suitable roads. As the Government have said that motorway tolls could be £1.34 ($2.60) a mile, the traffic diverting could be a lot more than 10 per cent.
The Telegraph now seems to be coming off the fence and (probably like 99% of its readers) opposing road pricing. It seems though that they support existing tolls, as they have never published any letters or comments from us, and we wonder whether they realise that existing tolls also increase accidents, partly because of traffic diverting, but also because of the danger area where there may be queues at traffic booths, vehicles are slowing down and changing lanes (due to faulty barriers or a mix of automatic and manned booths), and drivers are fumbling for change. Perhaps the reason that the Telegraph does not report any of this is that the party they support is quite happy, for example, that drivers suffer from very heavy congestion on the M6 and other roads around Birmingham, while the "relief road" that they created is tolled and virtually empty.
Peter Roberts response to yesterday's Guardian comment
We reported yesterday on what seemed to be inaccurate comments about the petition on - Guardian online. We have since noticed that Mr Roberts has himself responded (scroll down to Peter11).
Into the fire
One man that seems to be blissfully unaware of the success of the petition is the leader of the Tory party, David Cameron. He also seems not to know that drivers already pay one billion pounds a week in taxes and that almost none of it goes back into the roads. When asked by the Oxford Mail what the Tory policy was on road building he said - "... There isn't an endless pot of money - so I think new roads may need be to paid for by tolls or some form of road pricing. In general, roads are an area where we should look at completely separate charges so that we can make sure there is money there to build them when necessary." - "Tory leader looks to the future".
There is already a toll in David Cameron's Witney constituency. In April he was reported as saying - "I am willing to campaign for the Act of Parliament needed to buy the (Swinford) bridge and scrap the toll.". If he is sincere about scrapping the hated Swinford tolls that cause much congestion and aggravation, that is great. But if he means what he has said to the Oxford Mail, it will be a case of out of the pan and into the fire.
We sometimes have a laugh when we see an MP saying that they are against tolls in their own constituency, when their voting record shows that they have voted to inflict tolls in another area of the country. The latest example is the MP for South Dorset - Dorset Echo - "Claims of toll for relief road denied by MP". It is interesting that a Government spokesman can only think of one example of a toll, when there are 25 around Britain, and at least one of them - Dartford - is officially a "road charge" under the Transport Act 2000.
Governor Rendell wants to sell off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But the Turnpike Commission have suggested an alternative - toll the free roads - NEPA News / AP - "Turnpike commission wants Pa. to consider tolls on other roads". Perhaps all those who want to get as many tolls as they can from drivers, could all fight it out like Roman gladiators.
But instead of using swords, spears and tridents, it seems that this idea for more tolls is to be promoted by professional lobbyists. Paid for of course, by existing toll suckers - Pittsburgh Tribune Review - "Turnpike lobbyists to fight lease".
Governor Corzine wants to sell off New Jersey toll roads, but his fellow Democrats are concerned about the effect on this year's elections - WCBS - "Corzine Must Convince Dems On Toll Road Leases" Press of Atlantic City - "N.J residents not likely to easily part with Turnpike" Home News Tribune / AP - "Toll roads lead uphill".
Another editorial calling for a rethink on Texas mega toll plans, when a gas tax would be more efficient and less pain - My SA - "Texans deserve fair analysis of options".
Will Connecticut fall for it and bring back tolls? - The Advocate - "Questions surround restoring highway tolls".
Mexico's Deputy Public Prosecutor - Aurelio Virgilio Veiga - has compared private road operators to drug traffickers. This comes as Mexico plans a big road sale -
Reuters - "Brazil road suspension renews investor concerns".
Friday 12 January 2007
M6 Toll traffic up and down
On 9th October we reported on the improved traffic figures for the M6 Toll for the quarter July to September. The company have now released their figures for the October to December quarter, and they are up, and down. The average daily traffic was 51,005. This is 15% up on a year before, but 7% down on the previous quarter and 7% down on the peak quarter.
As we pointed out in October, the figures may be up on a year before because of the road works on the old M6 between June and December 2006. Traffic figures.
Some reaction to Peter Roberts petition
Guardian online have some comments - "Getting out of a jam". According to this all the people who are signing the petition are mistaken and should be ignored - "The petition is against something that no one is proposing and which will never happen - a stand-alone road pricing scheme, additional to all existing taxes and with the money going into general spending, and with no investment in alternatives". It seems that the person writing this has not read the petition, as the petition does not say this, but instead says (in full) - "The idea of tracking every vehicle at all times is sinister and wrong. Road pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel - the more tax you pay. It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs.Please Mr Blair - forget about road pricing and concentrate on improving our roads to reduce congestion.".
The person with the comments by the way appears to be from Transport 2000. The organisation that wants to force people out of cars and into trains.
Peter Roberts petition and ABD
Peter Roberts is a member of the Association of British Drivers and they have issued a press release.
A few from US
Opponents of new toll roads are often arguing against the road and not just the toll. Here is an example today - Eyewitness News - "Group unites to say "No" to Governor's Toll road plan".
Two Virginia residents have gone to court to try and stop the transfer of the Dulles Toll Road to the Airports Authority. The transfer is so that tolls can be used to pay for mass transit links to the airport - Staten Island Advance- "House Speaker gets message on plan to restore 2-way toll to V-N".
Florida is widening the Interstate 75. At first this was with free lanes, then they said that there would also be some toll lanes, now they want them all to be tolled. There is opposition - Naples News.
The Texas Governor is reported to be considering a rise in the gas tax instead of tolls. But this as likely as a snowball in hell - Austin American Statesman.
Thursday 11 January 2007
Petition is now official
The BBC has now got a report on the Peter Roberts petition - BBC. The BBC has been an advocate of road pricing, and this report mainly quotes supporters of road pricing, with the only links being to 10 Downing Street and to the Eddington "study" which endorsed road pricing. The BBC nearly always turns a deaf ear to those who are opposed to road pricing. This is what we sent them today and they didn't use - "There have been a lot of misleading statements made by those who support road pricing. In particular the £60 billion cost of implementing the scheme has been covered up by all the political parties. The phenomenal success of Peter Robert's petition shows them that you can't fool all the people all the time.".
There are warning of several months of road chaos when Sydney's Lane Cove Tunnel opens - Daily Telegraph - "Drivers face tunnel gridlock". New road capacity should improve things, will any chaos be due to the authorities trying to force traffic on to the toll?
Two way - No way
We reported on Saturday that a Democrat was trying to reintroduce two way tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which links Staten Island to Brooklyn. It is now reported that every elected official in the Borough has written to Nancy Pelosi to oppose this - Staten Island Advance- "House Speaker gets message on plan to restore 2-way toll to V-N".
21st Century Witch hunt
Cambridge City Council have launched a vendetta on drivers of 4x4s and similar cars - Cambridge Evening News - "New parking charges 'just not enough'". These cars have been anathematised and their drivers are now to be charged £443 ($860) for the right to park in the street for 3 months. Vehicles that consume more fuel automatically pay more tax because of fuel taxes, what bright green spark thought up the idea of charging them more when they are not consuming any fuel at all?
Today there is an editorial blaming a Missouri official for demanding that a new Mississippi River bridge is tolled - Belleville News Democrat - "Rahn remains a roadblock". It almost certainly won't be the fault of one man. You have a combination of two interests - the usual Trolls together with Missourians who want to keep Illinois people out, by either not building the bridge or by tolling it to discourage people from using it.
Spanish takeover of Italian roads back on the table?
There are reports that the Troll merger is back on. It collapsed due to Italian Government opposition, but it appears that the Government have been persuaded not to try and change the toll concession.
Peter Roberts petition
This morning the petition is over 225,000. Here are some of today's reports-
The Telegraph tells us more about Peter Roberts who says that he is "quite right wing". He also says that he started the petition after first contacting Tony Blair, and then the Conservatives. Peter says he was not impressed with the Tories"especially with David Cameron making clear that he supported the principle of road pricing" - "The online fight against road pricing plan".
Another report from the Telegraph - "Blair defiant over road pricing row".
The Telegraph "Opinion" column tries to pin the blame for road pricing idea on Labour. The fact is that the Tories support it and the Lib Dems are even keener - "Ticking off Labour".
In the Yorkshire Post there is a warning that the system will not just be used to charge for roads use - "Petition highlights road-cost opposition".
The Troll Times must be frothing at the mouth over the success of the petition. They say "An experiment in internet democracy has been hijacked by a hardline motoring organisation that is promoting a petition against nationwide congestion charging." - "Hardliners drive their campaign via No 10 website".
The "hardliners" are the Association of British Drivers, who are in the fact the only members organisation that represents drivers. The Troll Times and the rest of the establishment prefer to quote the AA and RAC and their offshoots, which are not members organisations and in no way represent drivers. In any case the petition is not from the ABD, it is from an individual, and its success is because drivers don't want to be ripped off anymore by the politicians and their business friends that hope to make money out of tolls, sale of roads and running a road pricing scheme.
Laughably the Troll Times says that information being circulated against road pricing is "misleading and factually incorrect". If they care to look at our news and road pricing pages, they will see that we know who has really been misleading the people.
Wednesday 10 January 2007
More on Success of Peter Roberts petition
According to 10 Downing Street's own press release (4th item) it seems that the PM's staff are worried about the success of the petition (which has now got more than 200,000 signatures). It is strange that the Prime Minister's "Official Spokesman" got a bit ratty with the BBC and started talking about
BBC coverage of Saddam's hanging, as the BBC have been one of the main advocates of road pricing and have not otherwise mentioned the petition.
Border dispute update
Lorry drivers have had some success with their fight against road tolls collected at the Romanian border, though we don't know what has happened at the main collection point of the Danube bridge - Focus.
Another US Round up
The Californian argues against toll lanes, as voters have already decided (Measure A) that the needed funds should come from taxes. The paper says that drivers should not have to "pay essentially a second time to benefit from the toll lanes. If they don't want, or can't afford, to pay the tolls, they will be stuck in the clogged free lanes just as they are now" - "Toll lanes no solution to freeway jams".
Truckers have reacted angrily to the Bush administration drafting legislation to make it easier to sell roads (see "Privatization to be made easier" yesterday. Truckers say this is “crony politics - Landline.
It is assumed that the new Governor will order that tolls be kept in the west of Massachusetts, but some reps from the west are now trying to get toll reductions - MetroWest - "Lawmakers file anti-toll bills".
Resume of what's happening on road sales from Pamela Prah - Stateline - "Want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?".
Comment on road sales from Joe Mysak on Bloomberg.com. He mentions a "Regional Plan Association" white paper which says "Toll roads can be worth more to private firms primarily because they can potentially raise tolls more easily, and, in some cases, because they can reap substantial tax benefits" - "Not Everyone Will Have a Say on Selling Toll Roads".
Success of Peter Roberts petition
The Daily Telegraph reports again on the amazing success of the anti road pricing petition from Peter Roberts - "Thousands join the fight against road pricing". The web page includes a video showing the man who started the petition, and who has been a bit of a mystery.
The story includes a couple of examples of rewriting recent history-
The first is that it quotes Bert Morris "of the IAM Trust" (this must mean the AA Motoring Trust) as if the Trust has been against this policy. The reality is that though they have not been as fanatical as the RAC Foundation, the Trust have supported road pricing. This is dated 15th November 2006 and is on their website - "A sensible, fair and coordinated road charging system could also provide a consistent and nationally uniform means of influencing more environmentally-friendly car ownership and usage, as opposed to the current hotchpotch of central government taxes and local authority charges that are piling an ever greater tax burden on low-income car owners, families, the elderly and other less well-off drivers."
The other example is quoting the Tories as being against road pricing. The reality is that the Tories created most of our present tolls, are considering selling off all motorways, are backing local road pricing schemes, and have not opposed pricing on all roads but only said that they are concerned about the details.
The story has been picked up by Reuters.
Tuesday 9 January 2007
You get what you pay for
A study commissioned by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments indicates that tolling a new Mississippi River bridge woud significantly reduce its utility. The study has beeen dismissed by those who want tolls, they reckon that if they give someone $250,000 or $500,000 they will get a different result - Belleville News Democrat - "MODOT chief dinks bridge study, backs tolls".
The Virginian-Pilot reports that a Democrat on the Virginia General Assembly has introduced a Bill to create a "Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel Authority". It would take over and toll - James River Bridge, the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, the two downtown tunnels, the High- Rise Bridge along Interstate 64 and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel along Va. 13. We wonder where the tolls money will go, and how popular the Bill will be.
Letter writers in the Daily Press are not too happy. Alton Huneycutt says that they should use gas taxes instead of tolls, but make sure that the money is spent on roads. Jacquie Hoggard complains about the shameful state of the roads. And Robert Smith points to all the spending of the Virginia Department of Transportation, which seems to go on everything except fixing the roads.
Also in Virginia, a Washington DC editor ponders on why spending goes on mass transit that is hardly used and not on the roads - Examiner.
Other US Round up
The Amherst Times reports that EZ pass toll records are being used to issue speeding tickets (by checking the time between passing through two sets of tolls). They also say that the records are being used.to track people’s whereabouts and that records have been subpoenaed in civil lawsuits including divorces.
More on the push to bring back tolls to Connecticut - The Day. The Democrat who has been advocating this for a long time says - 'Thousands of people every day go to the casinos and use our roads and our services. But we're the only state that does not have tolls, and it doesn't make sense.' This is probably about as much sense as you can expect from a tolls advocate. Half of the states don't have tolls. And the casinos are a big money spinner, would people be as likely to use them if the roads to them were tolled rather than free?
An update on what is happening on the proposed new Mississippi bridge at St Louis. Missouri wants it to be tolled and Illinois wants it to be free - St Louis Post Dispatch.
People around Indianapolis may be a bit confused on whether they are getting more or less toll roads. Public hearings to explain the plans have been delayed, but when they do take place will they be any the wiser, and who will be poorer and who will be richer? Courier & Press.
I'm Mandy fly me
Tony Blair appears to have done a U turn - in the air. He was being criticised for taking a Xmas holiday abroad and his responses include - "Britain is 2% of the world's emissions. We shut down all of Britain's emissions tomorrow - the growth in China will make up the difference within two years." "I'm still waiting for the first politician who is running for office who's going to come out and say they will give up foreign holidays - they're not. It's like telling people you shouldn't drive anywhere." "I think if you say to people 'You're not to travel abroad, you're not to use your car' people will just go 'Oh hang on a minute, I think this is all too much'.
He did however back the plan to charge penal rates to drivers of 4x4s that enter London's "Congestion Charge" zone. So what does this prove? - That as users of 4x4s have been demonised it is safe to persecute them, but as most swing voters fly, there will continue to be virtually no taxes on flights, though the Prime Minister's one holiday will have generated far more CO2 than somebody driving a 4x4 around London for a year.
There is however one ray of light -Peter Robert's petition to the PM calling for road pricing to be scrapped has attracted 140,000 signatures and people can still sign up till 20th February. Unless Labour wishes to lose the next election, they will back away from this policy and leave the Lib Dems and Tories out on a rotten limb.
Privatization to be made easier
The US Government is bringing in legislation to make it easier to sell off roads to private companies and to make new tolled roads - DOT.
Monday 8 January 2007
People that queue to pay to use the road are an easy willing cash cow. A story today in the Charleston Daily Mail gives some idea of how many are feeding at the trough. The story is mainly about how the Turnpike funds the bulk of the cost of the lossmaking arts and crafts venture at Tamarack. But it incidentally mentions some of the smaller tolls largesse such as $2,000 for a Civil War re-enactment. Some of this is apparently illegal and the auditors "suggest" that maybe it should stop. But why stop such fun? After all it's freely donated.
PS Editorial in the next day's paper - "Tamarack is an outrage"
Malaysian toll protest
AFP report today from Kuala Lumpur - "More than 2,000 Malaysians held an angry protest yesterday over steep hikes in tolls for highways in and around Kuala Lumpur, demanding the government reverse the increases and reveal agreements with highway operators. The protesters, mainly from opposition parties, rights groups and trade unions, gathered in front of a shopping centre in a Kuala Lumpur suburb near the office of one highway operator."
Do as I preach
Following last Thursday's report that Birmingham's transport boss wants to force people on to buses, it is revealed that he doesn't use the bus, but travels by motor scooter - Birmingham Mail - "'Bus snobs' councillor gets on his bike".
66 per cent toll increase
Tolls go up today on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and a call has been made for a boycott of the bridge - BBC - "Bridge boycott call as toll rises". The increase of 66 per cent is despite the Trust in its latest accounts (2005) having investments of seven million pounds. Most of the expenditure is not on maintenance of the bridge, it is on things like the illuminations and the visitor centre. Such expenditure benefits the whole region, but the burden of paying for this falls on a small number of drivers rather than on the authorities or other funds such as the National Lottery. The tolls are particularly unfair on those who live just the other side of the bridge in the Leigh Woods area of North Somerset who have to cross the gorge
frequently into Clifton for almost all the facilities that they need.
Dave Newman, one of the main objectors at October's Increase Inquiry has called for drivers to boycott the bridge and use other
roads to cross the river even if this means that they have a longer journey. He points out that the Trust that runs the bridge has very large reserves and that the vast bulk of the toll income is spent on collecting the toll and on schemes such as the illuminations and the visitor centre. He says "Schemes such as the illuminations
should be paid for from public funds such as the National Lottery." The visitor centre on which much of the tolls will be spent is opposed by many local residents as being unsuited to this unique location.
When asked at the Inquiry, the Trust admitted that the trustees themselves and those who work for them are by law exempt from paying any toll on the bridge.
This is our version of what happened at the Clifton Toll Increase Inquiry in October (as a pdf document).
The Clifton Suspension bridge seems to be the only "charity" that collects a toll. By coincidence the Guardian today has a report on the Bridge House Trust that looks after London's bridges. Most of the bridges used to be tolled, but the tolls were removed over 100 years ago. The income from the Trust's funds is many times the cost of maintaining the bridges, so the Trust makes donations to various causes - "Ancient City charity bridges the centuries". It is interesting that the upkeep of all London's bridges, including Tower bridge, is less than £5 million a year. If they were tolled then the costs would be very much more.
Toll coming or going?
North Somerset Council are today having another meeting on the future of the Kewstoke toll that was suspended two years ago. The toll lost money, was a health and safety issue, and annoyed visitors. You would think this decision was a no brainer. But there are the usual interests supporting tolls, those that don't like cars in general and those that want to keep poorer drivers off the road - North Somerset Council report.
Sunday 7 January 2007
There have been problems in Romania with road tolls collected at the border. Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish lorry drivers have been blocking checkpoints, particularly at the Danube bridge. The authorities lifted tolls for a time, but then brought in police to help reinstate the tolls.
"Bring back tolls"
In Connecticut the Transportation Board, which is chaired by a businessman wants to bring back tolls. The tolls were lifted 17 years ago after an accident that killed 7 people - 1010Wins - "Panel Recommends Return of Tolls". Will voters welcome tolls back?
Toronto Toll debate
Two "Torontoists" debate whether the city should have a "congestion charge"- "Congestion Charges!". As usual even those against a "congestion" charge believe the myths about the success of the London scheme.
Saturday 6 January 2007
Very pale green energy
Nearly everyone would agree in principal that more energy should come from "renewable" sources. There are however two questions. The first is whether it is economic, because if it needs to be subsidised then you are wasting resources, at least in the short term. The other question is whether is is a con trick. Today's Times reveals that so called "green" electricity sold to eco-conscious consumers is energy that the companies are already obliged to provide by the Government and which has just been branded "green" to sell at a premium. The Times also reveal that there are three separate systems of certification, so that "the same renewable energy can be counted up to three times"- "'Grey areas with green energy".
The Trolls in US seem to be increasingly sure of their strength and influence. Democrat Jerrold Nadler is to reintroduce legislation to Congress that would mean a return to two way tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The bridge linking Staten Island to Brooklyn is one of the largest in the world, and when it opened in 1964 the tolls were two way. Tolls were made one way in 1986 to reduce the queuing and resulting pollution, though the full benefit wan't achieved as they did not remove the redundant toll booths. If the Democrat Representative has his way the booths will be out of mothballs and there will be more queues.
New tolls start
Phase One of the new Texas toll roads kicks in today (for the last month they have been toll free). The Austin Toll Party have campaigning to try and stop phase two - KXAN - "Austin Toll Party Trying To Stop Phase 2 Of Toll Roads".
Long and winding road
South Korean Greens want old mountain roads returned to nature. One problem is that some drivers still use the old roads to avoid the tolls - Hankyoreh - "Old, winding roads not charming for environment".
Tolls have gone up on the Harbour bridge at St John's, New Brunswick. The result is a boycott and traffic chaos - CBC - "Harbour Bridge toll hike creates traffic jams, angry drivers". Tolls belong to the days of the barons. The best way for drivers to protest is to tell the politicians that they want to see tolls removed, or they will not get any votes at the next election.
Friday 5 January 2007
Have a nice day
Gearlog reports a problem new to us. Tolls on a hired car were being charged to the driver's credit card, and the card company thought that the card might be stolen and froze it - "Costa Living - Not so E-Zpass".
"Snobs" hit back
The Birmingham Post reports that drivers are angry about yesterday's statement by councillors. Drivers were accused of being snobs for not using buses, and councillors said that drivers would be forced out of their cars by congestion charges - "Hitting back at the bus snobs".
Too good not to be shared
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce says that road pricing or "congestion charging" would be a disaster for Birmingham businesses. The only thing odd about this is that the Chambers of Commerce are enthusiatic suupporters of all forms of road pricing. It seems that it is only a good idea, if all areas of the country are "blessed" with it - Express & Star - "C-Charge will destroy jobs".
Czech tolls not a money spinner
The Czechs are introducing a system similar to Germany's Toll Collect system for tolling of trucks using motorways. Today's report says that for first two years the running costs will exceed the income - Der Standard- "Prague Not to Profit from Toll Collection in the Next Two Years".
Thursday 4 January 2007
There is a delay to electronic tolling on the Tamar bridge - BBC - "Bridge toll tag trials extended".Tourists using the A38 will already be surprised to come across a toll on the bridge. Depending on how the Tag system is introduced and developed, it is likely to cause confusion and may lead to accidents.
Tolls to cure "paranoia"
Some Birmingham councillors want to bring in a "congestion charge" to force drivers to use the bus - Birmingham Post - "'Get bus snobs out of their cars'".
Another good reason to sell the roads
According to the St Petersburg Times, they should sell the roads as it makes it easier to increase tolls - "Toll roads could be new route to steady profit".
Wednesday 3 January 2007
For some reason, the Texas authorities have decided to have "open road tolling" on the new toll roads that were supposed to be electronic tolls only - American Statesman - "Third way to pay tolls added: Drive through and get a bill". We are a bit puzzled by this, as it appears that the authorities don't realise the problems that they and drivers are going to have.
Car use "halved"
Today's Guardian praises Ken Livingstone for "embracing climate change as his over-arching priority. On transport, the UK's first congestion charge has halved the number of people using their cars daily, and increased cycling by 72%." Really? The halving of car use is a bit over the top even for con believers.
Peter Roberts Petition
Yesterday's Telegraph had another report on Peter Roberts, the man behind the phenomenally successful petition to the Prime Minister. It was previously said that he was from Worcestershire, now it says he's from Shropshire. Whichever is correct, politicians of all parties must be very worried about the success of his petition - "Road pricing revolt is gathering speed" Telegraph Blog.
"Road Impact Fees"
Article in the Morning News of Arkansas on making developers pay towards the cost of new roads - "Road Impact Fees Inch Closer To Reality".
The Telegram & Gazette tells the new Governor that the tolls should stop - "Do the math - Ending pike tolls is hardly impractical".
Tuesday 2 January 2007
Big Con in Big Apple
A report from the Village Voice on the possibility of a London con in New York. It has the usual fantasy about the success of the London Congestion Charge - "Kick Out the Jams".
Rich go free
Some toll lanes are known as "Lexus" lanes as only drivers of expensive cars can afford to pay the tolls. But California has now extended its "decal" scheme where drivers of hybrid cars are largely exempted from tolls on toll lanes and on bridges. Hybrids are expensive, and as you may know one of the main marques is - the Lexus!
Most papers avoid frightening the chickens
The Western Mail reports on the rise in Severn crossing tolls - "'Black day' for the Welsh economy as tolls rise". The BBC also reported on this, but they just repeated the spin from the authorities. Other toll rises were not mentioned in any part of the news media.
The "Utah Taxpayer's Association" is pressing the state to bring in tolls on all roads. The association mainly represents business interests.
More on Tunnel "collapse"
It is reported that the investors (Cheung Kong Infrastructure, Bilfinger Berger and public-service superannuation funds) in the Cross City Tunnel will have lost all their money, but that they may sue the Government for failing to close other roads and thus force traffic to use the tunnel - The Australian - "Tunnel banks write down investments".
Monday 1 January 2007
TOLLS for drivers around Britain have increased.
Increases today include the M6 toll for cars going from £3.50 to £4.00, the Severn Crossings (part of M4 and M48) going
from £4.90 to £5.20 and the Tyne tunnel going from £1.00 to £1.10. On the 8th, the Clifton Suspension bridge toll goes from 30 pence
to 50 pence.
There are other increases in the pipeline including the Dartford Crossings (M25) where the Government has proposed increasing the
toll from £1.00 to £1.50.
We issued this -
"Tolls are an unfair charge as drivers are already paying one billion pounds a week in taxes. It is just another way of beating
drivers with a stick, by forcing more money from them and delaying them at toll barriers."
"Tolls have been unpopular since the days of the turnpikes and there has recently been a massive protest against proposals to bring
in tolls on most roads, disguised as "congestion charges" or "road pricing". We urge all drivers, even those who currently don't
have to pay tolls, to sign the new petition to the Prime Minister. We want all existing and planned tolls scrapped, whatever name
they wish to disguise them with.".
Various tolls went up today, including a 33 per cent increase on the seven bridges in the Bay area round San Francisco. Not everyone is happy to pay all these tolls - North County Times - "Buster stands up against toll roads". Many truck drivers are also unhappy and Count Valdon Myers tells the Toldeo Blade that he will be using the Ohio Turnpike as little as possible and will instead use the back roads - "Drivers gripe at pike toll hike".
A new law has come into effect in Georgia, the owner of any car with a toll violation will be charged $70 for every violation, who ever is driving!
Car Party passes 3,500 members
The Car Party has issued this - press release.
Some new Hampshire drivers are protesting that they pay far more tolls than others. One of the camapigners says - "I don't have a lot of faith in government to do anything that would cost them money." Union Leader - "Anti-toll groups planning strategies". The obvious solution is to scrap all the tolls.
Tolls Privatization should be "DOA"
Citizens Against Tolls say that tolls should be replaced by a gas tax - Asbury Park Press - "Topic of the Day".
Dedicated Gas tax
John Welch in Virginia proposes that increased roads spending should be paid for by an earmarked gas tax. It seems that he is opposed by those who are against taxes, would they really prefer tolls? Virginian Pilot - "Del. Welch pulls up to the pump".
New Zealand has a very strong Tolls lobby, who have called for tolls to replace fuel taxes. They say this is because drivers are using less fuel - New Zealand Herald - "Government plans new way to tax car drivers". They have apparently considered the idea of increasing the fuel tax to "provide an incentive for drivers to become even more fuel efficient", but that isn't what the Trolls want.
The Irish Road Haulage Association are reported to have called for a boycott of toll roads in 2007.
Associated Press report that the new governor, though he has not yet taken office, has been pulling all the strings to make sure that thsse in the west of the state continue to pay tolls.