JULY 2006 NEWS
Monday 31 July
Swedish Trial ends
Today is the last day for Stockholm's "Congestion" Charge trial:- The Local - "Stockholm tolls face uncertain future". The Swedes cerainly do things different. The national politicians decided on this trial, even though most people did not want charging. Unbelievably now that the 6 months are up, they are honouring the promise to suspend the scheme, pending the results of a referendum to be held on general election day - 17th September.
It will have been an expensive trial, if they don't go ahead - it cost 3.8 billion kroner ($650 million or £350 million), of which 10% was recovered by charges on drivers. It has also (so it is claimed) achieved the amazing feat of reducing traffic by 25%, even though the charges by London standards are trivial.
It is also claimed that most people now support the scheme. This may be true, for those living in Stockholm, but won't be for those who have to travel into the city. All the districts around Stockholm are holding referenda, but the Government have said that they will ignore those held in the surrounding districts - that is if the Government are still in power and relying on Green support, as the Opposition opposes the charge.
Troll shares cool
Shares in Australian troll MIG's recently hived off Sydney Roads Group are not doing too well. MIG also have interests in tolls in America, Britain, Canada, Germany and Portugal:- The Age - "MIG's toll roads fail to impress".
No South Carolina tolls
One American editor who hasn't fallen for the Trolls:- Charleston Post & Courier.
Transport Committee verdict on DfT Agencies
Last Thursday the Transport Committee of MPS published a report on "The Work of the Department for Transport's Agencies - Driver and Vehicle Operator Group and the Highways Agency". Quite a mouthful!
The committee tends to be pro trains etc, and they may think that the agencies are only doing a good job, if they discourage people from using roads. One of the few positive things that the DfT has done for roads users is to create Traffic Officers to try and make sure that traffic is flowing smoothly again after accidents etc. But the committee is concerned that this "could compromise the effective investigation and prosecution of road accidents and offences". One of their conclusions is on "Water-preferred policy". They say that the Highways Agency "does not appear to be encouraging more freight onto the inland waterways as intended" and say " At the very least, and given that the Agency has responsibility for this policy, it should insist that its own contractors use water where possible.". Has anyone got any canoes or rowing boats available for repairs to the M25?
Sunday 30 July
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
On Friday the Humber Bridge Board agreed to reduce tolls for buses:- Scunthorpe Telegraph - "MORE CUTS MADE TO BUS BRIDGE TOLLS". Despite what the board claims, this can only come at the expense of other bridge users, including patients having to cross the river for hospital treatment. Bridge users have already had a toll increase forced on them (see April 4th and 6th). As former bridge board member Councillor Don Stewart says "The toll should be completely abolished.".
Saturday 29 July
Texas Toll Meetings
A series of hundreds of public meetings are being held all over Texas to sell the toll roads plan. So far the Trolls are not having much success, and have changed the format so that it is mainly a sales presentation, with little chance for people to speak. At the latest meeting, when the people did get a chance to speak, the Express says- "They voiced concerns that competing free roads would be neglected as a way to drive traffic to toll lanes. And they said tolls are a big-business scheme to make money rather than solve traffic congestion. Speakers also complained that the authority was not up front enough about tolls being the only funding option on the table and accused the agency of conducting the first half of the meeting as a workshop so some of the crowd would be chased away before the comment period.":- San Antonio Express - "Leon Valley neighbors rap tolls along Bandera Road".
Latest on the dispute between Illinois that wants an untolled Mississippi bridge, and Missouri that wants tolls, is that some of the politicians are saying that progress is not likely till after election day:- Belleville News Democrat - "Bridge action unlikely till after Election Day". Does this mean that there will be tolls once the election is out of the way?
Friday 28 July
Upside Down Toll World
A toll increase has been announced for the M5 in New South Wales:- Daily Telegraph - "Motorists hit again". The M5 (and M4) tolls have a "cash-back system", so that drivers can claim the tolls back from the Government. Not all users will bother, but in last year alone $77 million was paid back. Another example of the Topsy Turvy world loved by Trolls, their bankers and Tollcrats.
"Beyond reasonable and beyond affordable"
Some reaction to Wednesday's report that the owners of the Dulles Greenway are applying to increase tolls:- Leesburg Today - "Supervisors Balk At Greenway Toll Hike".
More tolls and "Spare the air"
Many states are pushing ahead with toll increases, new tolls, and road sales. Sometimes the reasons are difficult to comprehend. In today's San Francisco Chronicle, a researcher from the University of California at Berkeley's Transportation Center discusses a recent "Spare the Air" day. On these days, public transport is free with the aim of reducing vehicle emissions that contribute to smog. He says "It is actually quite surprising that the program improves air quality at all. The impact on car use is actually very small, and much of the increased transit use still requires automobile access, meaning emissions reductions are compromised, as cars emit more pollution at the beginning of their trips when engines are starting. Driving to ferries, BART parking lots, park-and-ride lots, or being dropped off, does not lower vehicle emissions as much as it might seem."
His solution is- "Make drivers -- the polluters -- pay for it. Increasing bridge tolls on "Spare the Air" day to pay for the free transit would greatly improve the program.". His logic may not be sound, but at least the Trolls will be happy that there are more tolls and gas taxes are not touched.
PS Later report on "Spare the Air" in Mercury News - "Fighting smog: at what cost and for what result?"
One state looking at selling the tolls roads is New Jersey (New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway). There is a hidden message in all these sales. If the tolls were just paying for the upkeep of the road or the cost of building them. then there would be no profit in selling them. In fact there would be a loss somewhere, as a private operator borrows at higher rates of interest and they have to borrow from the banks to buy the road.
The hidden message is that the roads users are being robbed. In the case of New Jersey, the loot from tolls would be used to reduce property taxes.
IT for the Con Charge
An article in this week's "Computing" magazine is about possible changes to technology used for the "Con" charge:- "London reviews road charge IT". It seems that all the AA Motoring Trust are worried about is whether the system is reliable. Roads users, on the other hand, would be very happy if the system did not work at all.
Thursday 27 July
Tolls or Bust?
Associated Press report that Zimbabwe will construct toll gates on all major highways. The country has the world's highest inflation rate at 1200 per cent and 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars are the equivalent of just one US dollar. Tolls will increase and not reduce inflation, but we will see if they and other measures have any effect on economic sanctions.
Wednesday 26 July
Scrapping of M6 Toll Expressway - what the Government did not tell MPs
Last week (see 20 July), the proposed M6 Toll Expressway was scrapped. This is the announcement that the Government made to MPs.
The reasons given for abandoning the scheme are "The Highways Agency's modelling suggests that an Expressway would have a significant impact on both the levels and the mix of traffic using the Expressway and the M6. In particular, it is likely that the proportion of heavy freight traffic on the M6-which is already relatively high-would increase further, requiring additional infrastructure works at junctions to provide safely for traffic joining and leaving the road. This, together with providing for the appropriate range of access options at each junction between the Expressway and the existing M6, would require the demolition of many existing structures and reconstruction of 20 per cent. of the existing carriageway.
The Expressway would also have a much larger land take, requiring land than the widening. The Expressway and associated works would cause more disruption to existing traffic and would cost some 15 per cent. more than widening. Although on-line widening would necessarily involve some disruption to M6 traffic during construction, the phasing of works could mean additional capacity being provided sooner than an entirely new road, with efforts focused on the most heavily trafficked sections first.
The Highways Agency has held a series of seminars and meetings with stakeholders, to set out indicative plans for both options, and take feedback. On the basis of these more clearly defined propositions, few stakeholders regarded the Expressway as an attractive alternative to widening."
The statement is a load of tosh. The truth is that no one apart from the Trolls and their Government allies ever wanted a tolled road. The Government would have gone ahead anyway if the Trolls and the banks that back them had not thought that it was too big a risk because of the opposition from us and others. The Government has wasted 2 years on this while congestion increases, and has come up with reasons that are only new to the extent that they contradict what they have said over the last 2 years:-
They say that an Expressway would lead to the proportion of HGVs on the M6 becoming unacceptably high. What they omitted to tell MPs is that trucks are more likely to avoid tolls than motorists, many of whom claim the tolls back from someone else. The obvious answer would have been not to toll the Expressway and to lift the tolls on the existing empty M6 Toll.
They say that the Expressway would require a much larger landtake than widening - "some 50 per cent. more". This is different to what the Government said in their consultation document. They said that the Expressway might require only a 35 metre wide stretch, and that widening (by only 2 lanes!) would require on average up to 30 metres. This was one of the points that was dealt with in our response to the consultation - nearly 2 years ago.
They say that the Expressway would cost more than widening. In the consultation document they said of the Expressway that there would be "less cost" and "lower cost".
Two years ago, the consultation document said that "The expressway could be constructed without affecting traffic on the existing road. Widening the existing M6 would involve disruption and additional congestion during the construction work." Now they say this is more than offset by "the phasing of works could mean additional capacity being provided sooner than an entirely new road, with efforts focused on the most heavily trafficked sections first".
They say "few stakeholders regarded the Expressway as an attractive alternative to widening" When there was consultation nearly 2 years ago, there were 6,300 responses from individuals and organisations of which only 106 wanted a tolled expressway. So nearly 99% of people were against this 2 years ago.
Warning about an email scam based on the London "Congestion" Charge:- Motortorque.
More Tolls "Please"
The owners of the Dulles Greenway want to increase the tolls more than was allowed for when they recently bought the road from the State:- Loudon Times Mirror - "Higher tolls proposed for Greenway". You would assume that the answer to this request would automatically be a firm "NO!". But this is the misty world of the Trolls, so we assume that the answer will be a "yes".
Tuesday 25 July
Oregoing round in circles
There was another report on Monday on the Oregon trial of a mileage toll to replace gas tax and "designed to be as invisible as the gas tax while immune to the revenue-dampening effects of fuel-efficient vehicles":- Statesman - "Miles and miles of taxes: What Oregon is trying". When it comes to tolls you don't know whether to laugh or cry. We have pointed out that apart from the cost and the bureaucracy, such a scheme encourages gas guzzlers. It seems that someone has realised this, and "Oregon officials, in answer, have floated the idea that the mileage rate could be lower for more fuel-efficient cars.".
Setback for Euro Trolls
The German Government has rejected a call for tolls on cars. The federal Transport Ministry said that " The administrative costs of a highway toll for cars would exceed the proceeds. It would also push many drivers onto other roads, increasing noise and pollution problems.":- Easy Bourse /AP - "German Government Rejects Proposal For Highway Tolls On Cars".
The proposed system was more like an annual road tax, but this is still good news. There is still an underlying problem, which particularly affects lorries, and that is the complete absence of any harmonisation of fuel taxes. Indeed it is worse than this as there were harmonisation proposals which were only recently abandoned. This demonstrates the power and aims of the Trolls within the Eurocracy.
Councils around Britain are getting into a bit of a tangle. In order to get money for transport from the Government they are having to pretend that they are going to introduce tolls. In Norwich the Tories are tonight calling for the City Council to clearly say that they won't have anything to do with a "congestion charge" as it would "damage business and tourism in the city, be difficult and expensive to run, and hit the most vulnerable people in society". This is opposed by Labour, Lib Dems and Greens. Norwich Evening News - "Tories rally against congestion charge".
Not so Hot
This article:- Downtown Journal - "Easing the commute" sells the idea of HOT tolls (where cars with only one occupant use car share lanes but have to pay a toll). But the idea is a joke, the lanes are still underused, and the tolls are so complex (they change every few minutes) that the only drivers who use it will be those with lots of money or expense accounts.
A report on privacy issues with electronic tolls:- Oxford Press - "Privacy advocates worry about new road technology".
Sunday 23 July
President Bush has just used his veto for the first time (on a bill to expand federally supported embryonic stem cell research). His was the longest spell of not using the veto since President Monroe, who was in power for 1,888 days before he vetoed his first and only bill on May 4, 1822. The bill would have imposed a toll on Cumberland Road, the first federal highway and the route to the West.
The Delaware River Port Authority gets its income from bridge tolls, which are partly used to subsidise railways etc. They are running out of money, but say that "You can't raise tolls when gas prices are over $3 a gallon.":- Philadelphia Inquirer Perhaps if all taxes and charges on roads users were only used on roads, there would not be a problem!
Terry Bibo at the Journal Star reports on how drivers on Chicago roads are forced into paying fines for "missed" tolls. If they argue that there is a mistake, they waste their time and risk bigger fines. Each month the Tollway fines 50,000 drivers, and has already collected $12 million fines this year:- "Chicago driving taking its toll"
India's Sunday Express reports that Veeresh Malik has just got a reply to a request under the Right to Information Act. He wanted to know who was being exempted from tolls and traffic rules. The only problem is that the reply is marked "Secret". So he has now requested what this means!
Saturday 22 July
"Economic" Cars for Greens
The Times reports that sales of the Prius and other hybrids in USA are low and falling. Despite favourable tax treatment and exemption from the London Congestion charge, sales in Britain are also very low. Art Spinella, president of CNW that researched the figures, says: "The Prius is sold to the lunatic fringe and they are buying it as a fashion statement."
"Tolls reduce crime and benefit local economies"
We reported on the 2nd, the disagreement between two Nigerian unions over whether tolls should be reintroduced. Tolls were scrapped two years ago, as whatever money roads users were paying, very little of it was reaching the Government. Tolls were replaced with a fuel tax of 1.5 naira per litre (4.5 cents per US gallon or 3 pence per Imperial gallon), but the courts decided that a fuel tax was illegal! The Government is now being pressed to reintroduce the tolls:- All Africa - "Nigeria: The Toll Gate Somersault".The benefits are said to be that "They somewhat deterred criminals from their nefarious acts." and "They were an important boost to local economies in these hard times." Is someone looking through the wrong end of the telescope?
Australian Tolls Rack
The Australian Trolls know how to turn the screw. Tolls for the M2 at Sydney are to increase 16%, as allowed by the agreement with the Government. Since the road opened in 1997, inflation has been 25% but tolls have nearly doubled:- Daily Telegraph - "Greed fuelled". In a separate report the paper points out that State MPs have just voted themselves more perks, including a travel allowance of up to $401 a day. So they should not be too worried about a toll increase!
The Sydney Morning Herald also reports on the increasing cost of tolls. It gives the example of Melinda and Jason Bance who will soon be paying $17 a day in tolls (over $4,000 a year) to travel to work in Sydney:- Sydney Morning Herald - "New roads take a toll on Hills motorists".
Friday 21 July
No tolls? Oh no!
The U.S. 70 Corridor Commission want tolls on 3 new roads, and got advice from a consultant. He told them that "unfortunately" tolls on one road would be illegal as there would not be an alternate free route, and that if tolled not enough people would use the other two roads, and they would operate at a loss. The reaction of the Commission was that they still wanted tolls - somewhere! Goldsboro News Argus -"U.S. 70 bypass toll roads not a viable solution".
Jamaican Tolls Boycott
Jamaicans are boycotting the newly opened (Saturday 15th July) Portmore tolled bridge. The old Causeway bridge has been closed to try and force motorists onto the toll. The Causeway bridge was to be demolished, but it has now been suggested that the Port Authority will buy it for use by container traffic. From Jamaica Gleaner:- July 10th "Boycott extended - Portmore residents plan two-month toll stand-off"
July 17th "Portmore sticking to boycott"
Government aims to force shoppers out of cars
On Wednesday the Commission for Integrated Transport (set up in 1998 to come up with measures to hit drivers) issued a report on "Sustainable transport choices and the retail sector". The Commission's latest proposals include "congestion charging at sub-regional level" and compulsory parking charges for out of town shopping centres. The idea is that motorists will not be able to avoid parking charges and "congestion" charges as they will be hit wherever they go.
Thursday 20 July
"Trans Texas Catastrophe"
The Trolls are determined to cover Texas with tolled concrete. There is opposition from various groups. Leroy Walters, a farmer, says "I don't think they're going to want to pay a toll to go across this land. They want to enjoy it free, as Texans should enjoy it.":- LA Times / AP -"Texas Farmers Furious Over Superhighway"
Trolls beat Tax Man
The Australian Courts have ruled that the $3.2 billion of fees payable for City Link are tax deductible:- Herald Sun - "Tollway tax win - CITYLINK investors have been given a huge tax boost". Tolls is a Topsy Turvy world, the only rule is that the trolls will win and the suckers (ordinary people) will lose.
Tolls to deter "Curious"
Taiwan has a novel reason for a toll. It says that "the toll will reduce the number of curious motorists who simply want to "check out" the 13 kilometre Hsuehshan Tunnel that cuts through the Mount Snow range". Some people think that tolling will cause more congestion:- China Post.
More Tolls Please
The Dulles Greenway Road was sold off to foreign trolls led by MIG in 2005. Now they are applying for "permission" to increase tolls by 78% over the next 6 years:- WUSA9tv / AP -"Dulles Greenway Owners Seek Toll Increases"
New M6 Toll road scrapped, but existing road may be tolled
Early this morning there was a Government leak via the Press Association that the proposal for a new M6 Toll has been scrapped. The tolled "Expressway" would have gone from the end of the existing M6 Toll
at Junction 11 (Cannock) to the North West of England (Junction 20, M56 / Knutsford. They are looking again at the proposal for widening that stretch of the existing M6 from 3 lanes to 4 lanes:- Guardian - "£3bn M-way toll plan to be scrapped".
As might be expected the Times said that the "decision will anger motoring groups, which had hoped that the expressway would be part of a network of privately funded toll motorways relieving traffic bottlenecks across Britain". Really? The Times and the other toll supporters, such as the RAC Foundation and the Freight Transport Association, are living in a different world from the vast majority of roads users.
Later this morning this is the Official Press Release from DfT. Some of the reasons given by the DfT for abandoning the tolled road contradict their earlier claims. Widening of the M6 was first agreed in 1994, there is still no definite statement that it will at last go ahead. Alarmingly, it is implied that they will toll the existing road to "manage demand".
We issued this statement:-
The NAAT has been campaigning against both the existing M6 Toll and the proposed new tolled road. We made submissions to DfT M6 Expressway consultation and to the Transport Committee of MPs who were looking at the existing and proposed M6 Tolls.
Though the tolled expressway will not be built we fear that the needs of roads users are again being ignored by politicians and that roads users may end up paying tolls to use the existing road.
Proposals to widen this stretch of the M6 from 3 to 4 lanes were first published in 1994. The scheme was reviewed and in 1997 it was confirmed that the lanes should be increased. In 1999 another study was called for and in March 2002 the resulting report (MidMan) again recommended an increase to 4 lanes.
Instead of getting on with this widening, 2 years ago in July 2004, the Government said that it thought it might be better to build a tolled "Expressway". There was a consultation exercise carried out by the DfT in the autumn of 2004. The Government delayed publishing the results till 19 July 2005. 99% of consultees were opposed to the tolls road, but the Government still pressed on with its proposal till now.
They have managed to waste 12 years and there is still no definite decision on widening. Instead we have the threat that if the widening does go ahead there will be "demand management". This must be a euphemism for tolls.
Drivers do not want tolls. They are already paying nearly one billion pounds a week on roads taxes, with little being spent on the roads. If they can they will avoid tolls, as is shown with the existing M6 Toll which is virtually empty, while the old M6 is often clogged.
If the Government were serious about reducing congestion, they would have bought out the existing M6 Toll, and have started improving the road access from the Midlands to the North West. Instead all roads users are getting is no roads and the threat of tolls anyway.
PS some comments on the BBC 20th to 27th July.
Wednesday 19 July
DfT go further down the toll road
The Department for Transport today announced the appointment of a Commercial Adviser to the Department. They say that "The delivery of the Department's objectives, particularly in the field of new infrastructure and services, involves partnerships with the private sector across different transport sectors in a range of different ways. To increase the Department's understanding of business perspectives and to negotiate commercial arrangements more effectively, it is strengthening its senior management by including a part-time Commercial Adviser.". The adviser is Andy Friend who is currently the boss of John Laing Construction. On the 7th September he issued a press release welcoming our old friends MIG to the DCMI toll road consortium. We wonder what work the DfT have planned for Mr Friend?
More on Toll Creep
The Vancouver Sun gives its views on the proposal to toll all the bridges in order to pay for $3 billion of spending on trains and buses:- "Charging motorists to use old bridges is a non-starter".
You pays your money, and you get no choice
Yesterday, North Carolina's House of Representatives approved (subject to State senate) a Bill to toll
part of Interstate 540 (from I-40 to N.C. Highway 55). Interstates are of course supposed to be toll free, but this has been suggested by a "consultant", partly to restrict no toll alternatives.
You pays your money, even if you don't use it
Drivers who want to use electronic tolls on the new Brisbane tunnel, will be charged a mininum of $Aus40 even if they make almost no use of it:- Daily Telegraph - "Motorists slugged for not using tunnel".
Tuesday 18 July
Turning of the Screw
More car sharing lanes are on the way:- Lancashire Evening Post - "Car share lanes to beat the M61 jams". Car sharing is a good idea, but dedicated lanes means that there is less space for other cars and there will be more congestion. The confusion also means more accidents. In America, many car sharing lanes are later converted to "HOT" toll lanes, otherwise known as "Lexus" lanes as lesser people are relegated to the congested lanes.
More Power for Ken
The Government has announced that it is increasing what are the virtually dictatorial powers of the London Mayor. His additional powers include:- veto or approval of "strategic" planning applications, determining local housing priorities and control of allocation of public funds for new housing, control over waste, appointment of representatives to the Transport for London Board, power to either appoint the Chair of the Metropolitan Police or assume the role himself, and appointing members to the London Fire and Emergency Planning board and directing board to comply with his wishes.
Waste of time
Sebastian Morris, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, writes in India's Financial Express about mismanagement of India's roads, including too many tolls, and the time wasted which he estimates is the equivalent of adding on 10 kilometres (6 miles) to the journey for each toll point:- "Mismanaging national assets".
The Independent reports that Ford are complaining that cars such as the Prius are exempt from the Con charge, whereas drivers of the Ford Focus which emits less carbon have to pay. But Ford are forgetting that the Prius is a rich man's car and the Focus isn't. Ford also forget that the Prius is foreign and therefore good. Most of all Ford forget that roads policy is driven by greens and their quasi-religious dogma. It appears that Ford are now giving in, they will start producing cars which cost more and are less economic over their life cycle. The news was welcomed by Douglas Alexander, the new Secretary of State for Transport.
25 Years of hampering economic growth
The Humber bridge was 25 years old yesterday:- Yorkshire Post - "World icon of engineering still spick and span after quarter of a century". The bridge master says it is "absolutely essential for the region's development", and Hull Council leader Carl Minns says tolls "hamper economic growth". We wonder why they do nothing to get them removed?
To celebrate there was a "Humber Bridge Bash" - 4 days of parties, fairs, hot air ballons, fireworks, opera singers, Royal Marines band and pop groups. Bridge users will have been pleased to see all this, particularly after the Board got approval in April for another toll increase.
Sunday 16 July
As the Portmore bridge toll opens there is an article in the Jamaica Observer about how the ex slaves had tolls imposed on them "as a strategic ploy to make the cost of living so high that the peasants would give up their subsistence livelihoods and return to the plantations, re-establishing the status quo under slavery":- "History takes its 'toll', 143 years later, Portmore continues the fight". In the 19th century the ex slaves rebelled and overthrew the tolls system, this time round it is unlikely that anyone can defeat the 21st century Trolls.
Times they are a changin'
The Times is very definitely in the camp of the Trolls, but somehow criticism of the London Con charge sneaked into today's Sunday Times:- "Now I'm really going to clobber you".
Yesterday it seems ALL the American papers carried a story about the advantages of tolled roads, privately operated tolls and foreign owned tolls. In part this seems to come from the "Reason Foundation". They are a "Libertarian conservative free-market policy group" financed by "voluntary contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations, and the sale of publications".
ONE American paper (Knoxville News Sentinel) carried a piece from Rick Starr:- "'Private roads' are not the answer"
"..... never mind that private industry roads repeatedly failed. Fully one-third of the private roads commissioned in New York in the 19th century took investor monies and promptly folded without laying a single brick - leaving investors broke and citizens still in need of roadways. The argument that states used to invest in private companies is true, but so what? They found tax monies being wasted or embezzled, a hit-and-miss patchwork of roads being constructed and then abandoned, with only the richest, most-able communities being served.
A ubiquitous transportation network is a requisite of industrial society, and I for one am glad that everybody doesn't have to stop at a toll booth every two blocks because someone likes the idea of private roads.
.. can anyone point to a single society anywhere in the world at any time in human history that has prospered by waiting for private industry to construct a network of roads and thereby increase production efficiency, add jobs, lower transport costs, and serve the public as ably as tax-paid roadways have.
... I'm positive that the combined effects of government programs, whether of building the interstates, pushing scientific achievement by NASA and investment in higher education, requiring bank deposit insurance, inspecting meat, regulating radio frequencies, running emergency services and so on have been exceptionally beneficial to our society. By some amazing coincidence, America has become the richest, most-powerful nation in the history of the planet, even as the government has taken on those responsibilities that the private market cannot, does not and will not assume.
Including, and perhaps especially, roads...."
Saturday 15 July
Tunnel ceiling collapse
The Governor yesterday took over responsibility for one of the Boston toll tunnels from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. It follows Monday's death when part of the ceiling collapsed:- Boston Globe - "Tunnel ceiling's collapse could lead to higher tolls on turnpike" Milford Daily News - "Investigation could top $50M, former official says" Boston Globe - "Romney in command".
Friday 14 July
Tunnel ceiling collapse
Following Monday's collapse of part of the ceiling in one of the Boston toll tunnels, the Governor yesterday took over respnsibity for the tunnel from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. It now seems that there may be toll increases
awy from the :- Boston Globe - "Tunnel ceiling's collapse could lead to higher tolls on turnpike" Milford Daily News - "Investigation could top $50M, former official says" Boston Globe - "Romney in command".
Police have arrested a youth who was demanding a one dollar toll for crossing a bike path bridge:- Denver Post - "Boulder deputy clubs menacing bridge "troll"". A pity that the police can't arrest the Big Trolls!
Chicago's Mayor Daley was the first to sell off a toll road. Here is a report from an Indiana paper (where they have just joined the foreign private toll club) on what has happened in Chicago:- IndyStar - "Skyway may offer glimpse of Toll Road's future"
"Traffic chiefs reject congestion charge" or do they?
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner reports that "TRAFFIC chiefs have ruled out London-style congestion charges on Kirklees roads. They spoke out after eleven Councils in West, South and North Yorkshire signed up to a bid for Government cash to investigate congestion and the measures needed to prevent it. But Clr Martin Bolt, Kirklees Council Cabinet member responsible for highways, said: "I stress from the outset that one of the measures to deal with traffic congestion that we would not contemplate in Kirklees is charging motorists to drive on our roads. Indeed, none of the authorities in this region have any plans for road charging."
There is a different view of the same event in the Yorkshire Post "Motorists to face congestion charges in Leeds". This report says that road pricing is backed by the pro tolls "RAC Foundation", the anti roads group "Transport 2000" and the"West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive". But it seems that the elected councils don't want tolls. The Tory Shadow Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says that the Government is blackmailing Councils into accepting tolls.
The Government plans for bringing in tolls using pilot councils are a farce. It seems that they can't find even one council daft enough to say that their aim is tolling roads.
It was proposed to toll some of the Lower Mainland bridges at Vancouver. They have apparently only now realised that no one will use them, so they suggest tolling all the bridges:- CBC - "Tolls proposed for all major bridges in Greater Vancouver".
The Italian Government is not yet willing to approve the Trolls merger:- Euro2Day / FT - "Autostrade to rework plea on Abertis merger".
Thursday 13 July
Welsh on road to tolls
The Welsh Assembly's have issued a draft transport strategy. Their long term aim is tolls on all roads, and in the short term the Transport Minister says that "congestion charging in Wales was obviously a possibility":- BBC - "Road tolls part of transport plan". The success of the London Congestion charge is largely a myth. This was recognised by the people of Edinburgh who rejected tolls in last year's poll. Will the people of Cardiff and the rest of Wales also be given a choice?
Gangs of New York
Rob Maraon on American Public Media says "There isn't enough debate in the anniversary year of the Interstate system. I find it deplorable that Interstates still have tolls on them, especially when conservation of fuel and money is becoming normal. The solution is simple: remove the tolls and add a 10-cent tax. But powers like the Port Authority in the New York would raise a huge stink because they would lose their earning power. We liken the Port Authority to the sixth crime family of New York City. But public is public. Remove the tolls."
A different view is in a letter in the Cambridge Chronicle (near Boston). The writer wants trolley buses to be reintroduced and "a toll on non residents who use our roads and thoroughfares". Tolls paid by someone else are a favourite!
Wednesday 12 July
Twenty Five Pounds toll
We reported on the 27th June that the London Mayor wanted to charge some cars £20 ($36) a day to enter the charge zone (current charge is £8 ($15) for all cars). It is now reported that he wants the top rate to be £25 ($46) to reduce CO2 emissions. (Cars in Road Tax band A and B "might" pay a bit less than £8; band C and D about the same; and charges for band E to G would pay more with top rate £25 a day.) Angie Bray, the new Tory leader in the London Assembly said: "Livingstone is now shifting the focus away from cutting congestion and onto raising money for the mayor's other congestion-causing transport projects". Higher charges will mean that more drivers avoid the zone. But it also means that they will travel more miles, emitting even more CO2.
Take your tolls somewhere else
There is widespread opposition in the Buffalo area to tolls that should have been removed years ago. The tolls also cause a lot of congestion. The Trolls answer - spend millions of dollars building a new toll plaza. They are "consulting" the residents, and at a meeting of 300 people on Tuesday night "Suggestions that tolls be permanently removed were met with thunderous applause":- Buffalo News - "Newstead residents suggest no toll barrier".
Road pricing question
Yesterday in the Commons, the Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander, was asked about congestion on roads. He said that they would build more roads and better manage what is already there and "in line with our manifesto commitment, the Government are exploring the scope for developing a national scheme for road pricing".
He was pressed by his Tory shadow, Chris Grayling, for details. He was then pressed again: "Given the fact that we are discussing probably the largest technology project ever seen in this country and the central part of the Government's transport strategy, the Secretary of State's responses are astonishingly vague, so I shall press him again. When will most people in this country start to experience road pricing? When does he expect to tell us in detail how his proposals will work? And will any national scheme that he plans be revenue neutral?".
The answer was: "We hope that the pilots will be operational in four to five years. We face considerable technological questions, which is why we want to gain experience from local pilots to inform our thinking on the national scheme. On the national scheme and revenue neutrality, road pricing involves moving away from the present system of motoring taxation.". Hansard.
Labour promise no tolls on Pacific Highway
Australia's Labour opposition have said that if it wins the next Federal election, then it will not use tolls to fund Pacific Highway completion and upgrade. Labour's roads spokesman, Senator Kerry O'Brien, said "I think most New South Wales and Queensland motorists expect to drive the highway without a toll and they expect it to be a safer road than it is."
PS One of the other parties says that Senator O'Brien is out of line with the rest of the Labour party. This seems like the old Australian game of conning the people on tolls and breaking promises. Let's hope that Labour are sincere.
M6 Toll road plan
The BBC report that plans for a new link road to the M6 Toll are to go on display:- "Motorway link plan put on display". The report says that the aim is to stop traffic travelling through nearby Staffordshire villages. Really? The road is being paid for by the toll company, and the aim is to encourage more traffic to use the toll road rather than the toll free M6.
Three Card Trick
From various reports it is clear that a big campaign is building up in America to convince the people that tolls are fair, the only way to pay for tolls and they just love them. It remains to be seen how many people will fall for this, but in the meantime there is a bonanza for the public relations, marketing, and lobbying firms.
Tuesday 11 July
Norfolk is the latest authority to say that it will introduce "congestion" charging (to Norwich). But they may just be playing the Government game to get cash with no intention of tolling:- Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - "Congestion charge idea for Norwich".
One toll or three?
Tory controlled Essex Council wants a new road from Canvey Island and is proposing to have a toll of £1 to pay for it. The toll is opposed by Bob Spink, local (Tory) MP:- This is Essex - "Toll plan to pay for third road off Canvey". There are already two free roads to the island, no one would use the toll road - unless they plan to toll them too.
A member of the "Highway Mafia" suspected of fraud and embezzlement from road tolls has died in a Belgrade prison, apparently a suicide:- B92 - "Another prison suicide".
Monday 10 July
"No to bridge tolls"
The editor of the Belleville News Democrat comes up with a few ideas on how Illinois can get a new bridge despite Missouri demanding tolls:- "Soundoff 7/10".
More Tolls Please
A bridge in Ho Chi Minh City is said to be costing 35 per cent more than estimated, so the company wants to extend the tolling period from 26 to 54 years (an increase of 108 per cent). Strange arithmetic, not that arithmetic or who should be bearing any risk matters with Trolls as whatever they say at the start they never let go:- Thanh Nien News - "Suspension bridge in Vietnam hub 35 pct over budget".
No Tolls Please
A letter in the Jamaica Gleaner about the tolls on the new Portmore bridge:- "Toll City". This bridge has provoked more controversy than most toll roads - under Jamaican law there is supposed to be a toll free alternative but they are demolishing the existing free bridge, and the people of the area are more articulate than most. But it has demonstrated the Trolls trump card - any one toll will only affect a minority, and unfortunately those not affected don't care and in the case of this bridge have abused those who dared to complain.
Saturday 8 July
Tolls uber alles
Politicians don't need much prompting, but if Europe gets its way we will see a lot more tolls in Britain. You would think that the trolls had plenty of loot to sell and develop their ideas. They already control 25,000 kilometres (16 thousand miles) of road, but they actually receive subsidies from Europe, which of course ultimately means British taxpayers. It is difficult to see through the tangled web created by the Eurocrats and the Trolls, but here are two of the relevant websites:-
ASECAP (European Association of Companies with Concessions for Motorway, Bridge and Tunnel Tolls)
ERTICO (European Road Transport Telematics Implementation Co-ordination Organisation) (ERTICO are having their "13th ITS World Congress and Exhibition" in London in October 2006 and tolls are the main topic. Members of the British arm include the DfT, Highways Agency, various local authorities and transport authorities (including TfL), Capita, Scottish Executive, DETICA and the AA Motoring Trust).
The Lib Dems seem to be controlled by anti car fanatics. Their Environment spokesman is saying that up to 3,000 people will die because of "summer smog" (ground level ozone). He says that this is caused by cars, and there must be measures taken against them:- Guardian - "Lib Dems warn of summer smog deaths".
Ozone at ground level is regarded as harmful. It is created when oxygen molecules merge with a free oxygen atom. This process is greater on fine sunny days. Some pollutants increase this effect, but Nitric Oxide reduces it. The level of Nitric Oxide is a lot lower and the level of Ozone is a lot higher in rural areas. For most pollutants there are official figures showing how much is caused by land transport, industry etc. There are no figures available for Ozone - is this because it would show that cars actually reduce it? DEFRA Ozone Statistics.
Friday 7 July
The Lab rats and the cockroaches
The American news media have been carrying stories on the lines of "It's Tolls or it's No roads". Not everyone in America agrees with this, even if they don't realise that it is a fallacy, and of course there are some that don't want roads anyway! Here is a non trolls view from Bob Dacy which has appeared on various websites. "The mindset is that Americans are lab rats in a maze, who must be tagged and tracked everywhere they go. Cockroaches control the maze. The consequences to the heretofore taken for granted freedom to travel and to individual pocketbooks are ominous." IndyBay - "FEDS PAVE WAY TO PRIVATIZE OUR HIGHWAYS...".
M6 Toll decline over
The decline in M6 Toll traffic is over. The June figures were released yesterday in Australia, and the traffic (for the first time since May 2005) is up compared with 12 months previously:- Detailed traffic figures.
The BBC report that Derby Council wants to bring in a "congestion charge" to pay for a monorail:- "City examines congestion charge". Derby is not one of the seven pilot authorities, but many authorities will be trying to convince the Government that they believe in road pricing, so that they can get bigger handouts for public transport schemes. Strangely there was no sign of cars in the BBC tv report from Derby city centre - the parts shown were either pedestrianised or full of buses.
Thursday 6 July
"Keeping Traffic Moving"????
The Department for Transport have put out a press release on how they may use power to make sure that local authorities manage their roads better to avoid congestion:- DfT. This is a bit like Alice in Wonderland. We all know that many local authorities are causing the congestion, but they seem to be partly doing this on the basis of Government policy to force drivers (particularly poorer ones) off the roads to free them for roads users who don't pay a penny to road building or maintenance. Does "Keeping Traffic Moving" mean ensuring that it never gets to its destination?
Roads Use figures
The final version of the Road Transport Statistics for 2005 have just been published. No one is actually counting all these miles and they must be estimated from other figures. Also as Government Statistics they may be subject to various forms of tweaking to give the impression that the Government wants. The figures appear to show that there has been a small (0.2%) growth in road traffic, all of which is due to growth in light van traffic, as car use has fallen by 0.2%:- Report Excel tables.
Highway 121 in Texas opens today "as a toll road". They say "Tolls will be waived until Sept. 1 as a trial offer to the public". This is the usual nonsense from the trolls. They are embarrassed about further delays till they are ready to toll. They are calling it a trial offer as it is illegal to toll a road that has been toll free.
More roads spending Illusion
There was a flurry of announcements today from the Department for Transport about all the money that they will be spending on roads over the next 10 years. It adds up to nothing, particularly when compared with the £50 billion a year that they take from roads users. The paltry spending isn't even all on roads - it includes things like promises of up to an extra £500 million for the Manchester trams. A promise with a sting in the tail - it may be conditional on Manchester introducing road tolls:-South Manchester Reporter - 'Congestion charge to pay for Metrolink'".
Wednesday 5 July
Transport News Network reports that the West London Residents Association, claim that the £166m ($300 m) it will cost to implement the Western extension of the zone is being "squandered". The waste is because they are repeating the existing system, even though that is likley to be replaced soon:- "New Moves to Halt C-Charge Extension". Why should Ken care?
"PUNITIVE measures such as toll roads and high occupancy lanes are vital for reducing Gauteng's congestion problems, says Jack van der Merwe, leader of the Gautrain project." (The Gautrain project is a planned rail network near Johannesburg):- Business Day - "Gauteng traffic 'threat to province's growth'".
Western Cape road is to have a provincial fuel levy of between 10c and 50c a litre (8 to 20 US cents per US gallon), in addition to the existing national fuel levy to pay for "roads and transport upgrading". The good news is that vehicle licence fees will be reduced and that there will be no road tolls in the province:- IOL - "Manuel gives green light for Cape fuel levy".
The owners of the 407ETR are to cut off peak tolls for trucks:- Toronto Star / Canadian Press - "Off-peak toll cut for trucks on 407". Truckers that are already using road off peak (and come within the terms) will welcome a reduction. But who is it that thinks that trucks on the road in peak period have much choice?
Tuesday 4 July
A Politician's dream
We now have some details of the financing of the Indiana Toll Road sale. Like a lot of these deals, the toll companies have put relatively little in. Australia's MIG and Spain's Cintra put in about $US 380 million each. A group of banks has coughed up $3.25 billion. There are three Spanish banks, two French, one Irish, and one British (Royal Bank of Scotland).
Of the $US 4 billion, Indiana has got $US 3.8 billion, $100 million is "costs" of the deal, and $100 million is left in the kitty.
This just reinforces what was already suspected. Indiana is getting in effect to borrow money from the banks at very expensive interest rates to be repaid through road tolls, and with the backing of the Supreme Court is able to blow the money on whatever it wants. A Politician's dream.
Off peak tolls
The boss of Sydney's Cross City Tunnel says he is in favour of cheaper off peak tolls.Sydney Morning Herald - "Cross City tunnel boss looks at reducing off-peak tolls". Lower off peak tolls would make little net difference to the company income - so why should they bother?
The article mentions the variable tolls in Orange County, California. Research indicates that though this may increase toll income, it will have little effect on traffic - the "Lexus" drivers don't care what the toll is; other drivers will avoid them anyway.
Raymond Neveil, President of Citizens Against Tolls, has written in the Asbury Park Press about the hazard created by the recent multimillion-dollar conversion to one-way tolls at one of the Asbury Park Toll Plazas. Cash-paying drivers are forced to right lanes to pay tolls, then have to battle their way to the left side to merge with express lanes that contain E-ZPass drivers going at a high rate of speed. Raymond asks "Must it take a catastrophic accident and loss of life to correct this mistake, a mistake that can be solved by placing some cash lanes on the left side of the plaza?"
There have been violent clashes between members of two Nigerian unions over control of various facilities. Their latest disagreement is over tolls:- All Africa - "Nigeria: NARTO, NURTW Disagree Over Toll Gates".
Monday 3 July
Australian Con Trick 1
Australian papers as in many countries have fallen for the myth of the success of the Con charge. More amazingly they seem to think that Durham's Con charge is relevant. This is only true if you have a medieval cathedral and castle, and you want to turn one street into what is virtually a car park! Sydney Morning Herald - "Cities worldwide try congestion tolls".
We are pleased to see that the Australian public are not so gullible, it is reported that 93 per cent oppose the introduction of a "congestion tax":- Sydney Morning Herald - "Experts' solution to traffic tax: pay when it's busy".
Australian Con Trick 2
The biggest Con trick of all is the way roads are tolled and financed using "Public Private Partnership" (in Britain called "Private Finance Initiative"). Some Australian academics have recognised before that this is the worst way of financing a road, and is only done to keep borrowings off the public balance sheet. Kenneth Davidson reports in The Age on this trick:- "The PPP potency is more about spin than substance".
The latest example of Green logic is their attack on three bypasses. There is said to be more traffic on them than predicted. Green logic is that as there is more traffic, then the roads should not have been built. They have the Government cowed, with Doctor Ladyman having to come up with excuses as to why the roads are not empty:-BBC - "Green study finds bypasses fail". On BBC radio, the Doctor said:- "Ultimately, we will need to go to some form of road-pricing" to avoid building or improving roads.
Going for a Spin
Transport for London are still getting their claims of the "continued success" of the Con charge published in various news media:- TfL press release.
Sunday 2 July
Over the last few months, if you put "tolls" into a search engine, you are likely to come up with a discussion on charging web use by some metered charge. Most commentators are opposed to tolls on the Internet, though they don't all make the analogy with toll roads, here is one:- Canyon News - "Internet Unfettered".
Road and Rail
The rail industry currently gets £6 billion ($11 billion) a year subsidy from the Government, but today's Observer reports that Network Rail wants another £7 billion over the next few years. They forecast 30% passenger growth over next 10 years:- "If you take London, it's simply the forecast growth in people coming to work and growth in population. The forecast - less than the current passenger growth rate of 4-5 per cent a year - does not take into account the impact of national road pricing, which the government plans to introduce around the middle of the next decade. This could put more pressure on trains in urban areas, where road prices would be highest, but might also threaten rural railways if rural motoring became cheaper."
Not enough pain
The Sunday Times has a report "You are now entering Britain, the no-joy zone..." on how badly Britain's drivers are treated compared with other countries. The Times of course wants to add to the misery for most drivers, and it publicises the RAC report that gives the impression that drivers support road pricing.
Florida is the capital of toll roads, but this isn't the same as being popular. Today's Orlando Sentinel has this from Allen Varasdi:- "Local leaders have abdicated their responsibilities to provide all residents roads, not just those that can afford to pay tolls. I do what the majority of other drivers do -- I do not drive the toll roads. It is almost a joke to see the light traffic on most toll roads. Almost as big of a joke as is the non-toll-road system."
Che, Ken and the Con
500,000 Members of the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community" had a march and rally in London yesterday to celebrate "Euro Pride". Pink News reports that Ken Livingstone spoke "of his admiration for political revolutionary Che Guevara. "He would have been a leading supporter of LGBT rights and the congestion charge."". Really?
Saturday 1 July
Rich man, Poor man
A study by Trisakti Univesity shows that planned new toll roads would benefit the rich but "However, commuters would be stuck using heavily congested roads with no tolls":- Jakarta Post - "Study says new turnpikes would widen gap between rich and poor".
Between the lines
Ken Livingstone and Transport for London have done a wonderful job in creating and sustaining the myth that the charge has reduced traffic, congestion and air pollution. But following the latest Impact report (see Thursday) there are some who can read between the lines:- Gulf News / Evening Standard - "Congestion charge fails to cut traffic jams".
One of the bodies that is still in love with the Congestion charge is the bosses organisation "London First". Even they can dimly see that the charge isn't doing what is claimed. So on Thursday they issued a press release calling for more road pricing in London.
One of the London councils wants to scrap bus lanes to make more use of the space for other traffic. Ken and TfL will do all they can to stop them:- ETA - "Council under fire for bus lane plans".
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