30 July 2005
JULY 2005 NEWS
Man Against Toll
One man, David Tarsh, has started a petition aganst the westward expansion of the Toll zone:- BBC - "Man fighting road toll expansion".
We applaud David Tarsh's effort. Most businesses and people affected do not want to see the charge zone expanded.
People will avoid the toll as far as possible, and each expansion will not only harm businesses inside the expanded zone, but will cause congestion and parking problems outside the zone.
Instead of expanding the scheme, there should be a full independent analysis of the costs and the benefits. We believe such a review would lead to the phasing out of the toll and complete removal by the time that the current contract ends in 2009."
Cambridge Lib Dems want Tolls
Most people in the area think that something should be done to improve the A14. But the Lib Dems control Cambridge, and they think that improving the road will attract too many cars into the city, so they want road pricing:- Cambridge Evening News - "Driving home their views over the A14"
It isn't clear who the Lib Dems have in mind to toll. Presumably those who voted them into power will be exempt.
Number plate Non-recognition
On the 27th, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency issued a press release urging newly married woman to have their name changed on licences:- DVLA "Brides must say 'I Do' to updating driver details"
The interesting bit is that the DVLA let slip that "One in three driving licences in the UK is not accurate". We doubt that this is mainly due to newly married women. But it begs the question how any road pricing scheme would work.
Autoexpress reported on the 20th that because of the inaccuracy of number plate recognition, police switch off their incar systems:- "Cops Turn Off Plate Gadget"
29 July 2005
Huddersfield Driver wants Tolls
On the 23rd June the Huddersfield Daily Examiner had an article - "'Pay as you go' has to come!". This apparently received a large adverse response. Today there is a reaction to the response:- "Varied response"
The car owning author is apparently not swayed. They say that "level-headed motorists" will agree with road pricing
and conclude "a national system of road pricing cannot come a day too soon." As they are so keen, perhaps the writer could set a good example by selling their car.
"Don't sell Toll road"
A Washington DC paper argues that the Dulles Toll road should not be sold off. Some politicians want to sell off the money spinner to pay for a $4 billion train set that will only benefit a few and will require annual subsidies. Among the few that will benefit are certain landowners:- The Examiner - Toll road is the project that works"
28 July 2005
"Suspend C Charge"
The Forum for Private Business have called on Ken to suspend the London Con Charge for six months.
John Buckingham, a director of a West End firm said:-"I am in the property business and I speak to a lot of retailers and restaurateurs, and I know they believe the congestion charge has been damaging. There are fewer people in London at the moment on all forms of transport. Suspending the c-charge would be a real boost towards restoring confidence. At the moment the increase is just another disincentive to coming into central London." FPB - "No time for a charge increase".
Lib Dems suggest improvements to Public Transport security
The BBC and today's papers report Lib Dem proposals to improve security on London's public transport. They say that this could partly be paid for by scrapping the westward extension of the Con Charge zone and using the money that would be needed to set it up:- BBC - "Spend road toll funds on safety".
No doubt the money for improved safety will be found somewhere, but many London businesses would be relieved if the extension was scrapped anyway.
Transport for London has contracted with two foreign companies to test (in Southwark) a tag and beacon system for the London Toll:- Computing - "London tests car tag system".
Seems to us like another daft idea. They would have to keep the existing number plate recognition system anyway, to cover people who didn't have tags in their car, and also to deal with those people who might try to cheat.
There is one certain thing about the Con Charge, it costs London as a whole a great deal of money. It would be best to scrap it when the existing contract ends in 2009.
27 July 2005
A New Jersey State Assemblyman is trying to get smoking while driving made illegal. He says that it distracts the driver and causes accidents. He was grilled on NBC by Tucker Carlson, who's questions included:-
Carlson: What about collecting coins for toll booths? I mean, there's proof that thousands of people every year are involved in accidents that are the result of fishing for coins in the ashtray or their pocket?
Carlson: All so state governments can steal money from them as they drive through a tollbooth. Why not eliminate tolls?
Assemblyman: I don't know about stealing money. You know, that money goes to maintain the highways.
Carlson: Well, I don't know. It takes people's lives. Are you saying it's worth it? Are you saying the people who are killed, their lives are worth the revenue that New Jersey, say, gets from their...
Developer says "no tolls"
Australians have a lot of toll roads. But yesterday, according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the head of $A 3.5 billion developer MIRVAC, "urged the government to use debt to fund new projects, rather than current methods that include taxes and tolls".
26 July 2005
Gaol for Conning the Con Charge
A courier who evaded the London Toll by altering one of the numbers on his car licence plate, has been gaoled for six months by a Liverpool court:- Manchester Evening News - "Jail for number plate fiddler".
Following yesterday's general warning, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports that Leeds councillors are being told that if they want money for trams, then they must have road tolls:- "Drivers to face commute fee in next six years"
There are a dozen or so Tolls stories from US every day. The pattern is towards more toll roads and higher tolls. But there are some people who realise how inefficient and UNFAIR tolls are. Here is one from California:- Hollister Free Lance - "Transportation improvements should not take a toll"
Lorry Toll Shambles
Lem Bingley reports on the shambles of Germany's Toll Collect system:- IT Week - "German road pricing loses its way"
At some point the German system will work and will make a profit for the government. But everyone else, and Europe PLC as a whole, certainly will not make a profit. Billions will be wasted in setting up and running the system each year, with no real benefits.
Can we buy your road? 1
Another proposal to sell off a toll road in USA. The consortium that wants to buy the road includes construction companies, toll road operators, and a former Governor:- Washington Post - "$1 Billion Offer Would Privatize Dulles Toll Road"
"Land of the Free", seems to mean free for big business and bureaucrats to rip off the people.
Can we buy your road? 2
This time it is the public sector who want to buy the road (the main one crossing the island of Anglesey). The road is currently paid for through "shadow tolls" (i.e. the government pay the tolls not the motorist). Some members of the Welsh Assembly believe that it would be cheaper to buy the tolls out:- Western Mail - "LIb-Dems call for debate on possible buy-out of A55 Expressway"
25 July 2005
The Mirror and other Trinity Press newspapers today repeat the warning from Autocar magazine, that road pricing will soon be piloted in British cities - "If you live in or near a major city, keep an eye on your local newspaper because a congestion charge in one form or another will be on its way very soon."
We hope that people will be vigilant and crush this threat before it develops.
Top Tory backs Road pricing
George Osborne, the boyish Shadow Chancellor, is backing David Cameron for new Tory leader. We have just noticed from a Tory Party blog that at a speech to Centre for Policy Studies on 12th July, George said that the Tories should not oppose Government plans for road pricing.
We hope that other Tories are not lured by the pounds signs that are apparently in the Shadow Chancellor's eyes.
"No Tolls For Texas"
Anti toll campaigners, the Texas Toll Party, continue their fight by speaking today to the Metropolitan Planning Organisation. Comments included:- WOAI - "Toll Road Proposal Shouted Down"
School counselor Helen Rogers - "I will not pay the toll, as I have already paid for the highway to be built."
Jerry Morrissey - "tolls drive a wedge between the rich and the poor".
Vicky Melton - "charging tolls would only drive motorists, especially trucks, into the neighborhood, placing children at risk and tearing up streets".
PS Report on 26th:- My San Antonio - "Toll foes want a review of plans"
Tolls higher because of Government dodge
Anti toll campaigners in the North East say that tolls may be forced higher on the Tyne tunnel, because a new tunnel will be built as a "Public Private Partnership":- The Journal - "Campaigners warn of 'spiralling' toll
"PPP" and PFI (Private Finance Initiative) are just a dodge to get expenditure off the public balance sheet. Such schemes cost a lot more than schemes financed by government borrowing. The loser is the driver who has to pay inflated tolls.
24 July 2005
Tolls drive tourists away
We have reported (last time in December) on the row over tolls on the Sanibel bridges in Florida. The tolls money was split between Sanibel and the county. They accused each other of using the toll money for other purposes, with the bridges falling into disrepair. Well they settled that one, by deciding to replace the bridges. In the meantime they increased the tolls on the old bridges! Today it is reported that Sanibel is likly to lose 500,000 day trippers due to the tolls:- NBC2 - "Causeway traffic at historic low"
22 July 2005
Two from US
Man in the Street who doesn't like tolls:- Joe Thompson in Gilroy Dispatch - "Toll roads fall short"
Economist who thinks tolls will make congestion vanish:- Houston Chronicle - "So many transit dollars for so little congestion relief"
Both writers think that money spent on mass transit sytems is wasted. In our view that is not always true. The real problem is the dogmatic attempt to force people on to such systems when in many cases they are unsuitable, uneconomic and unwanted.
The idea that "road pricing reduces congestion without using financial resources" is dogma of a different type.
Congestion is caused by more people travelling more on inadequte systems. Drivers in all countries show through the taxes that they pay for road use that they want systems with more capacity. Instead politicians take their money and spend it on other things.
In Britain, they are not only failing to increase capacity but are restricting it - closing roads to traffic, narrowing roads and junctions, reserving road space for buses, reducing speed limits, providing inadequate off road parking space .....
Roads users should pay for the cost of roads, but the simplest and most economic system is fuel taxes.
21 July 2005
Different Views on Truck Tolls
On 6th July, the Government said that it was abandoning the scheme for truck tolls (instead trucks would be tolled when and if a scheme for tolling cars is introduced).
One view, from the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association, is that they are furious that foreign hauliers will continue to be able to use Britain's roads for "free". They say that the "price for lorry diesel in Britain at about 47p a litre compares unfavourably with a European average of 22p.":- Telegraph - "Hauliers to step up call for tax on foreign lorries"
Foreign lorries that top up abroad certainly do have an advantage, though the truck toll scheme would have used a very expensive sledgehammer to crack it.
The price of diesel quoted in the Telegraph is inaccurate. The UK price for diesel is currently around 90 pence. According to AA, this is the highest in Europe. Prices vary, those in the nearest countries are:- France, Ireland and Netherlands 70 pence; Belgium 75 pence; and Denmark 80 pence.
Another view, from a firm that buys freight services is that it is good news becouse they believe that this "stealth tax" would have increased haulage prices:- Supply Management - "Treasury U-turn on road charges is 'good news'"
Our view is that we definitely don't want a toll scheme. We can't understand how the hauliers trusted the Government and believed that they would not pay any more than now.
We agree that there is unfair competition from foreign hauliers. We suggest two answers. Firstly, the UK could reduce price of road licences for lorries, which for the biggest lorries is currently around four thousand pounds. Secondly the Government could seek more harmonisation of fuel duty rates in Europe. Perhaps this would mean the UK reducing fuel duty. We admit that there is little chance of the Government going for the second suggestion!
The Good and the Bad
It looks as if plans for tolls on Maryland's stetch of the Interstate 81 have been scrapped. The county government and the Chamber of Commerce said tolls would hurt economic development and channel large amounts of traffic onto less suitable roads:- wtop news - "Study Recommends No Toll Booths for Interstate 81"
Also today India announced plans for a LOT more roads, all to be built privately and tolled.
20 July 2005
London Toll is Working! (For Thieves)
The rise in the London Con charge from five pounds to eight pounds must have succeeded in deterring more drivers from entering the Toll Zone. Some of them are parking just outside the zone, and this has led to an increase in vehicles being broken into:- Islington Gazzette - "C-Charge blamed for car crime rise".
M6 Delay - What truckers think
Roger King from the Road Haulage Association was "amazed" at yesterday's news and has issued this statement:-
"Time really IS running out for users of this particularly busy stretch of motorway. Capacity levels were almost at saturation point a year ago - to hear today that there is still no firm decision on what course of action to take is unbelievable.
If the situation were not so serious, this announcement could be considered laughable. This really is a case of extreme Government procrastination."
Yesterday, Matt O'Donoghue from ITV interviewed some truckers about what they thought of the M6 Toll. One reaction was:- "Too expensive. Why do you pay road tax? Why aren't the roads as they should be?"
What did the Doctor say?
Here are a few snippets from what Doctor Ladyman, the Roads Minister, said on ITV last night:-
"The M6 is one of the busiest roads in the country, it will be gridlocked if we don't do something." - So why don't you do what was agreed as long ago as 1994?
"We have not learnt enough from the consultation." - Really? After studying the replies for 9 months?
"We are going to decide on the route of the expressway and then engage with our stakeholders." - If people don't want a toll road, why do you persist with this option? Who are these "stakeholders"? Could it be the drivers who use the M6? - Probably not.
"We are not going to delay implementation, one iota" - Pardon, did we hear you right?
"We have not heard enough from the public about which of these two schemes they prefer" - Is it that you have not heard enough, or that you don't like the answer that 99% of the people have given you?
"They (the public) have not had sufficient information to make sensible comments." - Thank you Doctor Ladyman, that probably answers all the previous questions. The Government will keep on giving us the test till we give them the right answer.
Threat to North East
The Labour think tank, IPPR, suggests that North East of England should bring in a pilot scheme for road pricing :- The Journal - "Jams today, pay tomorrow" BBC - "Roads congestion scheme proposed"
Perhaps the solution is that all these Labour intellectuals should volunteer that they themselves will pay tolls, and leave the rest of us alone.
19 July 2005
Further Government Delay and Spin
The Government today announced that they were again delaying a decision on the widening of the M6 from Junction 11 (Cannock) to Junction 20 (M56 / Knutsford). They also revealed the result of last year's consultation:-  BBC - "'No consensus' on second M6 toll"
DfT press release - "M6 Expressway - Further Work Commissioned"
We are afraid this is the usual sad tale of spin from the Government. It will unfortunately fool many people. The real facts are:
1. Widening of the M6 was agreed in 1994. Reviewed and agreed again in 1997. Reviewed and agreed again in 2002, and this time it looked as if construction would start any day. Then in July 2004, the Government had the brainwave of suggesting that a toll road be built instead. This went out to "consultation".
2. Consultation responses had to be in by October 2004. Things then went very quiet ... sshhhh.
We and others asked what was happening, and the reply was that the Minister was considering it. Well they were a long time considering it, so long that we must have had at least one change of minister.
3. Today we get the result of the consultation and surprise, surprise, almost no one wants the Toll road.
There were over 3,200 petitioners* against the Government proposal.
There were also 6,300 responses from individuals and organisations of which only 106 wanted a tolled expressway.
That means that there were 99% against the Government idea.
* The Government said that there were 3,200 "petitions". We eventually got clarification that this should have said petitioners:- Stafford Liberal Democrats (400 signatures), the villagers of Alsagers Brook and Halmerend (146), and two without "any identification" (2495 and 117).
We sent out a press release saying:-
"Opinion is divided on whether there should be widening of the existing
motorway, or a new road or nothing. What is clear is that almost no one wants the Government's idea for a new tolled road."
"Putting a toll on a road, just defeats the purpose in building it, as roads users will avoid it if they can."
"The Government has dragged it's feet on this issue, it was agreed years ago that the existing road would be widened. The idea for a new road is just a device so that they can toll it."
The Roads Minister was interviewed this evening on ITV (Granada Reports), and it was pointed out that there was almost universal opposition to the tolled road.
His response was that though the Government agreed that work was urgently needed to "prevent gridlock":- a) they needed more time to work on the plans, and b) people did not know enough about the road to make a decision.
Perhaps the Government idea is that either they will never do anything, or they will eventually fool or bully the people into accepting a toll road. Either way the government won't spend a penny, but people and businesses will suffer.
Terminator puts Tolls up
Arnold Schwarzenegger has been mulling over what to do about the cost of protecting the San Francisco bridge from quake damage. He has now decided that he will chip in a bit from California's state budget. But the bulk of the possible eight billion dollars cost will come from tolls. That is tolls on ALL the bridges in the area. Associated Press report in Wired News - "Schwarzenegger OKs Bridge Legislation"
The Arnie film that comes to mind is "Raw Deal" from 1986. Tagline "The government gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal"
18 July 2005
London Chamber of Commerce View
The London Chamber of Commerce does not oppose the London Toll. Though going by the reports it has issued on the bad effect on business, it is difficult to understand why.
On the 15th it issued a press release with the results of a survey of 140 businesses. 77% of businesses opposed the westward extension of the Con scheme, though 85% believed it will happen anyway.
The Chamber quote Patrick Hanly, commercial director at Harvey Nichols:- "We have never supported congestion charging in London or any other major city in the UK as we believe this is fundamentally bad for business. London has seen a decline in business because of the congestion charging."
"To date most of the public are ignorant about when it begins and ends, most do not understand it does not apply on weekends and research has proved that most people have no idea how to pay the charge. The extension of the congestion charge zone will further damage business and therefore is bad for London."
Today it issued another press release saying that even before the recent bomb attacks, business confidence was at a 2 year low. It rightly gives various reasons for this, but adds "London faces further uncertainty because of the extension to the congestion charge zone and the increase in the price of this tax which was implemented this month."
16 July 2005
BIG bridge FREE
Tolls spent on ... collecting tolls
Meanwhile in New Zealand we have dedicated Toll Zealots. They are to build their first tolls motorway, and information has just been obtained under New Zealand's Freedom of Information Act that out of every $1.80 toll, the cost of collection would be $1.35:- NZ Herald - "Costs set to eat up proposed Puhoi motorway tolls".
Welsh Councils ready to fight over Tolls Loot
Rhodri Clark reports that Cardiff is thinking of introducing tolls, but surrounding areas want a share as it is their people who will have to pay them:- Western Mail - "Fears that congestion charges in Cardiff would alienate outsiders".
15 July 2005
Here is another report on the effect on businesses of the increase in the London Toll from £5 to £8:- Wood and Vale - "C-charge price rise is last straw for traders".
The bizarre bit is the comment from a Transport boss for Westminster, who's investigation showed the number of cars using Marylebone High Street had increased by 23 per cent on Monday compared to the week before:- "This snapshot indicates to Londoners that raising the congestion charge has not deterred motorists from entering the zone this morning."
The 60% increase in the Toll is mainly to generate income, but supporters of the so called "Congestion" Charge claim that the reason for it is to deter drivers from entering the zone. Now they say that traffic has gone up!
The Mayor's consultation (which started on 9th May) on the extension of the Congestion Charge Zone ends today, Friday 15th:- BBC - "Congestion toll consultation ends". According to Transport for London the "Next Steps" are:-
"TfL will analyse what has been said and will produce a report for the Mayor. This report will contain all the relevant points raised during the consultation.
The Mayor will then decide whether or not he wishes to approve the proposal by confirming or rejecting the Variation and Transitional Provisions Order. He may also make minor changes to the Order as a result of the representations made during the consultation or he may decide that he would like further consultation on the proposal and/or any amendments.
When the Mayor's decision has been made, the TfL report on the consultation and all the supporting information upon which the Mayor made his decision will be placed on TfL website and the GLA website for public viewing.
If the Mayor decided he would like the proposal to be implemented, the earliest this could be done is early 2007."
We issued this statement:- "The consultation over the extension of the charging zone into Kensington and Chelsea is just a sham. The Mayor already knows that
most people and businesses do not want the extension. The only consolation is that it can not be implemented till 2007."
13 July 2005
Call to Suspend Charge
Because of the combined effect of the bombs and the increase in the charge to £8, the Forum of Private Business has suggested that the charge could be suspended for six months. Transport for London has rejected this as it says that the charge has no adverse effect on business:- BBC - "Call to suspend congestion charge"
You Will Use the Toll Road OR ELSE!
At the beginning of the year, Germany introduced "Toll Collect", a system of tolls for all trucks on German motorways. It appears that some drivers have the nerve to think that they can avoid the system by using non toll roads. Fines for not using the toll road are now to be increased to 100 euros (about 70 pounds):- Bloomberg - "Germany to Raise Fines 33% on Truckers Who Dodge Highway Toll"
West Midlands to volunteer for Tolls?
On the 5th we reported that the Birmingham Post had said that West Midlands council leaders were to volunteer the area for a Tolls experiment. It appears that they are still moving that way:- Red Nova - "Darling 'Eyes Brum for Road Pricing"
12 July 2005
BBC and "Drive for Charity"
We hope that the BBC have not decided that toll roads are PC. They did not report the fall in M6 traffic, but instead report on a "Drive for Charity" day:-  "Drive for charity on the M6 toll
We also hope that drivers are not fooled into regarding the toll road as a charity. Lastly we hope that drivers will avoid it every day.
P.S. M6 Toll Year on Year Fall
Report in Express & Star:-  "Toll route still being underused"
11th July 2005
Fleet Managers don't want Road pricing
A survey of 200 "fleet decision-makers" says that 88% of them oppose road pricing:- Auto Industry - "Fleet managers oppose road pricing plans - ALD Automotive poll"
9 July 2005
Road to Nowhere or "How Green is my BBC"
We reported on the 4th that the BBC seemed to be inadvertently spinning for the Government - tolls "is a big idea whose time has come". Today BBC Wales has a programme ""The Road to Nowhere":- BBC - "Cardiff congestion charge looming" The programme was pro spending on trains and trams, anti roads and pro tolls. Unfortunately the case against tolls was not mentioned.
Here are some quotes from the web page and our comments:-
- "Commuter traffic into Cardiff grows 3% a year, 50% above the British average."
- 50% sounds tremendous, but all this means is that they are claiming that traffic growth is 3% instead of 2%.
- "other Welsh areas were approaching (roads) capacity"
- Again sounds a lot, but what does it mean? The roads approaching capacity may be nearer to 1% than 100%.
- "We can't keep spending money on roads. We have to look at other forms of persuading people to transfer from their cars, then we won't need to build roads."
- This is just the same as saying we can't keep spending money on schools, hospitals etc. And roads are a unique "public service", all other services are subsidised, but road users pay over £40 billion in taxes.
- "the assembly government was planning to spend nearly half its £8bn budget on roads"
- For the current year (2005/06) the Welsh Assembly is budgetting to spend £12.7 billion on all services. That includes direct spending by the Assembly of £466 million on "Maintain the trunk road network", £65 million on "Improve the trunk road network", £56 million on "Improve local roads" and £13 million on "Improve road safety". There is also spending by local authorities on "Roads and Transport" of £140 million. That gives total spending on roads in Wales of around £700 million or only 6%. Taxes on roads users in Wales are about £2 billion, and those in South Wales also have to pay a toll for road travel with England.
- "traffic is the fastest growing contributor to CO2 emissions"
-The latest available official UK figures are for 2003. The estimate is that Greenhouse gases were the equivalent of 722 million tons of Carbon Dioxide. Transport and Communication was 96 million tons or 13%. Within Transport the area that is probably growing the most is air travel.
M6 Toll Traffic Fall
For the first time the monthly traffic figures for the M6 show a year on year fall. The daily traffic has fallen by 2,600. From the information given by the company it appears that only half the daily fall is due to the June increase:-  M6 Toll Company - Official Traffic figures for June 2005
M6 Toll - Daily Traffic - Our chart
We issued a press release pointing out that if drivers rightly do not want to pay 13 pence a mile, what chance is there that they will pay the £3.50 a mile suggested by the Government?
8 July 2005
News from Abroad - Armenia
Radio Free Europe report that "The ethnic Armenian members of Georgia's parliament urged Armenia on Thursday to abolish prohibitive charges levied from Georgian vehicles entering its territory, saying the move would facilitate contacts between the two neighbors":- Baku Today - "Georgian MPs Want Toll-Free Traffic with Armenia"
News from Abroad - Florida
With Hurricane Denis expected, Jeb Bush has suspended tolls:- Herald Today - "Florida girds for Dennis; mass evacuations ordered in Keys"
Emergency Decree section 7C:- "I hereby direct the Department of Transportation to waive the collection of tolls and other fees and charges for the use of the Turnpike and all other transportation facilities, regardless of whether such facilities are components of the State Highway System, to the extent such waiver may be needed to facilitate the evacuation of the affected communities..."
7 July 2005
The centre of London was hit during the morning rush hour by explosions on part of the Underground and at least one bus.
The car sharing service has been extended:- London Car share
PS Though drivers were advised not to drive into the centre of London, the charge was suspended on the Thursday and Friday 8th.
The group led by Stan Smith campaigning against tolls on the Tyne Tunnel has been relaunched:- The Journal - "Tolls in Stan's sites"
The group are now known as "North East Against Tolls", and will be campaigning against Government plans for tolls on all roads as well as the existing ones on the Tyne Tunnel:- NEAT web site
If you can help Stan in any way, then either contact us through link on our home page or contact him direct via the link on NEAT website.
The European Commission is pursuing Portugal for not charging enough VAT on the Tagus bridge:- Department for Transport News Release
EU - "VAT - The Commission pursues infringement proceedings against Italy and Portugal" (see bottom of page)
This is unlikely to affect Britain, though motorists are effectively already being stung for 17.5% VAT on some bridges, particularly the Severn.
6th July 2005
London will be hosting the 2012 Olympics. This will be welcomed by most people, particularly as it will mean increased investment in transport infrastructure, including (hopefully) the road system. Such investment is needed all over Britain.
Prince of Wales exempt from Toll
The Times reports that the Prince of Wales has bought a Japanese "hybrid" car. There are rumours that he is not short of a bob or two (after all his mum appears on one side of all coins). But the car is also exempt from the London "Con" Charge which will save him a bit more.
One thing that puzzles us is how "hybrid" cars (and "car club" cars, and buses and taxis) apparently take up no space and therefore don't cause congestion.
Teachers will be hit
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea issued a press release yesterday, pointing out that their teachers would each be paying £1,500 a year under Ken's plans. The charge has already gone up to £8, the threat now is the extension of the charge zone, west into Kensington & Chelsea.
Teachers are not the only ones affected, though they may be more likely to drive to work.
Good News and Bad News
The Good News yesterday was that the Government had abandoned lorry tolls, though the Freight Transport Association have complained and the Telegraph today reported that "Hauliers reacted angrily". Later in the day, the main group representing lorry owners did complain:- Road Haulage Association News Release
It would be interesting to know the true facts about the lorry toll. The Road Haulage Association have estimated that the scheme would have cost £400 million to set up, and £600 million a year to run. RHA - "Private motorists could pay for LRUC"
Spreading the set up costs over 10 years, gives a full annual cost of around £650 million. The scheme was supposed to mean that foreign hauliers would pay an extra £150 million a year. British hauliers were supposed to pay nothing extra, because their tolls were supposed to be offset by fuel duty rebates. So the cost to the taxpayer of the scheme would have been £500 million a year. Now that the Government have been wise enough to see the folly of this, will they also see how daft tolls for all vehicles would be?
5 July 2005
Drive the Poorer Drivers off the Road
Robert Shrimsley has a humorous piece in the Financial Times about reclaiming the roads for the rich:- FT - "Reclaim the roads from the poor"
At least we hope that it is humour! Perhaps Robert has had sight of Government plans.
London Toll Hurting Shops
Today the Financial Times also reports the comments of Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of the John Lewis department store group:-
"It is irresponsible for a leader to take such action which is having a detrimental effect on the capital without doing any independent academic work on the consequences. It's not just the charge, it's the whole aura of the message it sends out to London. We are doing everything we can to make central London something which the capital can be proud of, but this is continuing to draw away footfall from us. We know from others that it's hurting all retailers."
Carrots for .....
Alistair Darling today told the Commons that the Government are to give carrots (£18 million for 3 years) to authorities that bring in pilot schemes for road pricing.
The toll scheme for lorries has been abandoned. (The lorry toll scheme was expected to start about 2008, but any lorry toll will now be introduced at the same time as tolls for cars.):- Department for Transport News Release
BBC - "Road charge plans outlined to MPs"
Reaction from Association of British Drivers
We issued this statement:-
"We are not surprised that the Government are trying to bribe local councils to bring in pilot schemes for tolls on all vehicles. But we welcome the Government abandoning the lorry toll scheme.
The lorry toll would have cost billions and achieved little. It had been sold to hauliers on the basis that it could also be applied to foreign lorries who might have topped up abroad with cheap diesel. But this would have been a daft, bureaucratic and expensive way of solving this problem. It would have inevitably meant higher costs for transporting goods.
There will be some local transport authorities who will happily bring in local road tolls in return for the Government carrot. Drivers all around Britain should make sure that their local councillors are under no illusions that this would be political suicide."
Brum Leaders Volunteer for Tolls
Earlier there was this story in Birmingham Post implying that leaders of the West Midlands councils are to volunteer to be a pilot for a toll scheme:- "Region 'front runner' for congestion charge pilot"
Are they really that daft? Or is this just spin?
Good News and Bad News
Alistair Darling today gave the Commons some good news and some bad news.
The Bad News is that the Government are to give carrots (£18 million for 3 years) to authorities that bring in
pilot schemes for road pricing.
The Good News is that the toll scheme for lorries has been abandoned. (The lorry toll scheme was expected to start about 2008, but any lorry toll will now be introduced at the same time as tolls for cars.):- Department for Transport News Release
BBC - "Road charge plans outlined to MPs"
PS. Alistair Darling also said that the rise in fuel duties planned for September, has been postponed becuase of "oil price volatility".
4 July 2005
London Toll £8 from Today
The charge for entering the "Congestion Zone" rises today from £5 to £8-
BBC - "Congestion charge increases to £8"
We issued this statement:-
"Another victory for "democracy". The people and businesses of London, and the London Assembly did not want this increase. They were not fooled by the claimed success of the existing "Con" charge. But unlike the people of Edinburgh who voted three to one against tolls, the people of London were ignored."
"Supporters of the London Toll usually claim that congestion has fallen by 30%. But Transport for London's published figures say that traffic in the zone is only moving 8% faster. That means that it would take 18 minutes 20 seconds to cross the charge zone, rather than 20 minutes. Is such a small gain worth all the pain, including millions of excess charges and fines, and over 300 thousand bailiff's warrants?"
"This 60% increase in the charge will reduce traffic, but it will also reduce the number of people visiting businesses in the charge area; particularly shops and restaurants."
"Ken expects to get an extra £45 million. But if he does eventually succeed in forcing most vehicles out of central London, all he (and London) will have is a BIG loss."
London "Easter Egg"
The Forum for Private Business are today presenting a petition to Angie Bray, Tory "Con" Charge spokeswoman.
FPB quote one of their members, Peter Schweiger of James Taylor and Son, saying: "I am going to be a little Island left on my own. There will soon be no small independent shops left in the zone. They will all just vote with their feet. On this street I have seen the fishmonger close down and move outside the zone. The Victoria Wine, next door, closed down in February 2003 and has not been relet, the next shop down was vacated by a recruitment firm and remains empty. London is going to become an Easter egg, nice on the outside but empty inside." FPB - "FPB presents c charge petition in stricken high street"
BBC says that their "time has come"
"Charging people according to where, when and how far they drive is a big idea whose time has come." At least that's what the BBC says:- BBC - "The rise of road pricing"
We are amazed that BBC is inadvertently adding to the Tolls spin from the Government. This BBC article quotes Professor Glaister, but it does not point out that he is on the Board of Transport for London, who are keen toll advocates.
The BBC have however given an opportunity for people to have their say, and you can see some of the reaction lower down on the BBC page.
Telegraph Poll shows Tolls not wanted
The Telegraph have sponsored a survey by "yougov" on Identity Cards and other issues, including tolls.
56 per cent, were opposed to tolls, with 31 per cent in favour:- Telegraph - "Eight out of 10 fear ID fiasco is on the cards"
If voters knew how mad the Tolls scheme was, there would be no one in favour.
3 July 2005
Dublin rejects Con Charge
Two years ago, Dublin hired consultants to look at whether they should copy the London Toll. We don't know what has happened since, but it has now emerged that at a likely toll of five euros, a Con scheme would only just cover it's costs:- Sunday Times - Ireland - "Dublin congestion tax 'unworkable'"
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