JUNE 2006 NEWS
Friday 30 June
There seems to be a real fall out between one toll company and the New South Wales government. The toll company had a secret deal with the government to force drivers to use the toll road. Once this became public, the government said that they would stop road closures. The tolls boss now says that the government "was prepared to raise tolls and cancel road change reversals after three years, once voters' anger over the tunnel had died down.":- Sydney Morning Herald - "Tunnel boss tells of threats and promises in talks". Sounds a bit too close to the truth.
Shareholders in the two toll giants voted today on their merger. Shareholders in both Italy's Autostrade and Spain's Abertis voted almost unanimously in favour.
Bring back rationing
Rihard Tomkins in the FT argues that instead of fuel taxes and congestion charges etc, the amount of carbon "consumed" should be rationed:- "Let's bring back rationing". He says "There is an obvious problem with making things significantly more expensive than they were. It is great for rich people, for whom a big price increase means more exclusive access to whatever has risen in price, but it is not so great for the less well-off, who may find they can no longer afford something they once enjoyed." Can this really be in the FT?
Thursday 29 June
Fourth Annual Impacts report
Transport for London have today issued their:- Fourth Annual Congestion Charging Impacts Report. We haven't studied the 210 pages yet, but no doubt it will have presented the figures in such a way that it reinforces the myth that there has been a significant change in congestion.
Tolls too low
The European Commission has issued a decision against Spain and France for allowing big discounts to frequent users of tolled roads:- Europa - "... discriminative road pricing".
Road Freight stats
The first edition of a new series of statistics on "road freight" is published today. The stats cover all vans, as well as movement of freight:- DfT - Road Freight Statistics 2005.
The harmful effect of tolls and other restrictions on Indian commerce:- CBS News - "Tolls Keep India From The Fast Lane". In a lot of third world countries, it is often unclear who is pocketing the tolls. Gas taxes are collected centrally, this avoids delays at toll barriers and ensures that the money goes to the Government.
Today is the 50th birthday of the start of the signing of the Bill that authorised the building of the Interstate highway system:- 50th anniversary web site. The system was the brainchild of President Eisenhower and was to be financed from gas taxes. He wanted a safe, fast, connected system of highways free of cross traffic and signal lights. It had three purposes:- easier movement of troops, easier evacuation in case of nuclear war, and more efficient transport of goods.
The system is supposed to be toll free, but some states have their eyes on the money that they can make (particularly from out of staters), and are applying for Federal permission to bring in tolls. The Federal Government is more than happy to agree:- Opinion Editorials - "Foreign Control of U.S. Interstates Encouraged by Feds". America is moving from a road system that is American owned and largely financed from gas tax to foreign owned roads financed by tolls. Paying for roads by tolls rather than gas tax means that more gas will be consumed. Gas that is increasingly imported. What will America have to sell off next?
Today is also pay day for the money from the sale of the Indiana Toll Road to Australian and Spanish companies. We wonder what Dwight would say. The state will receive $3.85 billion (2.1 billion pounds). Under Indiana law, this should be used to repay debts, but the State will be spending it on a variety of things.
Border toll war
More on the spat between Illinois and Missouri:- St Louis Today - "Blagojevich says no to tolls for new bridge" Edwardsville Intelligencer - "Blagojevich touts bridge alternative".
From time to time we report that some tolls have been suspended to ease traffic flow because of hurricanes, fires, parades, public holidays etc. But today we have a new one - the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has suspended tolls on its Interstate 78, Route 22, Route 202 and Route 1 "to alleviate congestion while other bridges are closed" due to flooding!
Coinicidentally yesterday Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the "Coastal Storm Plan,". If there has to be a major evacuation of New York, then bridge and tunnel tolls will be suspended.
PS The main example of toll relief is Florida during the many hurricanes. This is the official advioce from the Trolls:- "Do not necessarily wait to evacuate until after the announcement is made that Turnpike tolls have been suspended. Tolls are often suspended in conjunction with mandatory evacuation orders which may come only after the threat of a hurricane is imminent. Consider paying the toll and leaving early when traffic is much lighter." "Hurricane evacuations: Providing a safe escape". It seems that even when it comes to hurricance evacuations, the rich get better service.
Wednesday 28 June
Greens also abandon tolls fight
Last week the Indiana Supreme court killed the challenge to the Indy Toll Road sale, by demanding that the main objectors put $1.9 billion dollars on the table. It is now reported that Bill Stant of the Indiana Green party is also abandoning their case. He said "The court ruling put the governor and his economic development officials above the law. Essentially the Supreme Court has cleared the way for the governor to privatize any road he wishes to at any time he wishes to. And impose tolls as well. It's all going to contribute to greater dependence on petroleum. It's really discouraging." Governor Daniels, who wanted the sale, is in Japan but he has issued a statement praising the Indiana court.
Illegal but you still pay
After a 5 year court case, it has effectively been ruled that tolls on the N4 are illegal. The case was brought by Neil Smith. He has been fined 6,000 rands ($800 or £450) for going through the red light at the toll gate, even though the toll is not legal. It remains to be seen if the tolls will be removed, or they will either ignore the law or get it changed:- SABC / SAPA - "Toll fee judgment could have wide repercussions".
It's a Gas
North Carolina has no tolls at the moment, but like many states it is being suggested that they introduce tolls and possibly sell roads. The reason? - They think the gas tax is too high. Strange logic, particularly when a large part of the vehicle taxes is spent on "education, health-care and other services", not forgetting "bus service, airport improvements, rail and light-rail system":- Winston Salem Journal - "Roadwork Ahead: Legislators debate paying for roads".
Tuesday 27 June
We're not sure this is new, but the Times reports plans to introduce variable tolls into London in 2009. Ken Livingstone wants the top rate to be £20 ($36), but some drivers might pay less than the current £8 ($15):- Times - "Some drivers will pay less under 'intelligent' congestion charge".
Ken's dream would be an even bigger nightmare than the present system. The confusion would probably succeed in encouraging more cars and people to avoid London. There are other ways of achieving that effect that are simpler and would cost less - such as random road closures, arresting every 13th driver, and so on.
PS The Evening Standard reports that in central London it is quicker to walk than to get the bus.
RAC selling tolls
The RAC, owned by insurance group Aviva, are now selling tolls. They have today publicised their call for tolls and for the Government to make an even better job of selling tolls:- RAC - "Motorists accept hard action needed to end congestion misery" Times - "A FAIR PRICE - IF ROAD TAXES FALL" When we first heard this story we took it that it was the RAC Foundation (separate from the company) that were again selling tolls, but this time it is the company that have joined the fray. The RAC company have figures which they claim show that motorists support tolls, but for the real views of motorists we can look at three things:-
Last Wednesday's Government report (see yesterday). This indicated that despite biased questions, most people did not support road pricing, did not think it was fair and did not think that it would reduce congestion.
The Government report issued on February (on our news page for April - 19th) which was based on in depth interviews. That showed that for various reasons road pricing would fail to affect driver's behaviour, and that drivers thought that pricing for roads use through fuel tax was by far the best way.
The RAC Foundation's own survey of drivers that was published in January 2004, found that most drivers rejected road pricing. Drivers thought that fuel taxes were too high, but they said that if the road fund licence were scrapped they would prefer the tax to be added to fuel duty.
Your mission - "Scrap Gas tax"
The "National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission" was created by Congress in 2005. Its mission is to "Examine the condition and future needs of the surface transportation system and recommend alternatives to fuel taxes for highway funding." It is due to report by 1st July 2007. This was only its second meeting, and they were told that "The current gap between domestic oil supply and domestic oil consumption will only grow." Presumably that is why they want to encourage more use of fuel by switching from a fuel tax to road tolls. But we can't believe they are that daft. Perhaps they will see the light over the next 12 month.
Monday 26 June
Last Wednesday the Government issued another report on attitudes to road pricing:- DfT - "Experiences of congestion and attitudes to road pricing". It was released without any publicity, so they evidently didn't like the results.
As is usual, the results are presented in a way that hides and confuses. And of course those surveyed will not have been given any of the important facts - for a start they will not have been told that the cost of collecting the tolls could be the same as adding over 20 pence to the price of a litre of fuel. Instead they were told that: "A number of transport experts have indicated that building new roads and improving public transport cannot on their own deal with the congestion problem. It has been suggested that we need to also look at alternative methods of charging for road use that might encourage people to use their cars differently or change their travel."
Despite this bias only 32% said that they thought road pricing was "fair" (oddly this percentage was the same for drivers and non drivers) and only 30% thought that road pricing would reduce congestion (again this was the same for drivers and non drivers).
As to the purpose of road pricing, the survey says that only 23% of "frequent drivers" believe that you should pay more to drive on busier roads or at busier times. If they knew the truth about costs etc, there would not even be 23% support.
Russell Sadler in Oregon's Register-Guard gives his views on proposals for toll roads or this "anti-egalitarian experiment ....Now, the Legislature and state transportation officials find their future gasoline revenues already are spent. They are forced to consider scams like toll roads. Another scam with the same motive is charging highway taxes by the mile, which discriminates against efficient cars." "Pay-to-drive roads scam an idea that takes its toll".
Treasure Island tolls
San Francisco wants to introduce tolls to Treasure Island. Emily Rapport, co-chair of the San Francisco Islands Community Association, says "Those of us who are environmentalists but also live on the island and work elsewhere find that it's a bit draconian." SFGate - "Congestion auto toll jolts Treasure Island".
Gas Tax and Tolls
We reported on the 10th that China was thinking of switching from a system of tolls to introducing a gas tax - partly to encourage fuel economy. It seems however that the Trolls have won:- People's Daily - "Road tolling policy here to stay, minister". They say that tolls "are the only way to pay for the rapid construction and maintenance of expressways and highways". This is of course nonsense. The money to build roads is usually borrowed, it is more efficient to repay the borrowing through gas tax revenue rather than imposing tolls.
United Colors & Punic Wars
The Benetton family, owners of the clothing group, are worried that the Italian government may stop the Trolls merger:- MSN / FT - "Autostrade deal on a knife-edge".
Sunday 25 June
Belleville News Democrat reports on some of the money that middlemen are making on road sales. Though it says "A backlash has begun against privatization of roads and bridges. A recent study of the Skyway lease deal found that its benefits came at great cost to motorists who use the highway, as well as to the Chicago region's economic growth.":- "Goldman Sachs touts its cause -- despite rising toll costs".
A toll sales promotion from Editor of the Herald in Washington State:- "Tolls a promising tool to get traffic moving". One of the pro tolls arguments is that more money is needed as gas tax revenues are falling as cars become more fuel efficient. As there is a limited amount of fuel available and the population numbers are shooting up, that is good. Why encourage less fuel efficient cars by switching from gas tax to tolls?
Highway 121 in Texas was to be a free road, but after construction started they decided to toll it. That needed Federal approval, which was only recently received. The road is virtually complete, but without all the tolls equipment etc. Under the law if they open it without a toll, they can't introduce one later. So for the moment the road is sealed off. They now say that they may open before the tolls are ready and call it an introductory "free trial" offer. There is law, and then there is Tolls law:- Dallas News - "Highway 121's new lanes to open in July, sans toll collection
Saturday 24 June
Nice and slowly does it
Ken Livingstone has told the Greater London Assembly that the average traffic speed in Central London is now 10 miles per hour, compared with a claimed figure of 8.5 miles per hour before the Con charge was introduced. Angie Bray, the Tory Con Charge spokeswoman said "Londoners have been badly let down. His congestion charge is a charge on congestion that we once got for free." This is Local London - "London cars move no faster than chickens".
Friday 23 June
Trucks have to ignore Peak period tolls
The International Road Union has issued a press release welcoming is what it says is a less anti roads view from the EU. On tolls the IRU says:- "The Commission's policy on 'smart charging' still seems to be based on the false premise that limited road infrastructure can be optimised through road tolls varied according to the time of day. However, transport operators have no real choice over when they use infrastructure. Timing is dependent on shipper delivery schedules and restricted by many different driving bans. Premium tolls for peak periods will not change behaviour but will simply increase costs for transport companies and ultimately the European consumer." TNN - "White Paper recognises the role of Road Transport".
Freedom of Speech -Texas style
Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party and others were stopped from raising the issue of tolls at a public meeting to discuss a new road. "Law enforcement officers" were used to ensure that the ban was complied with:- My SanAnton - "TxDOT officials slap a muzzle on toll road talk at public meet".
Thursday 22 June
Authorities say Stockholm "Congestion" Charge is a success
Radio Sweden says that the Stockholm "Congestion" Charge scheme is a success. The trial doesn't end for another month, but yesterday the authorities released an initial study:- "Congestion Trial Hailed As A Success".
More on Texas Tolls debate
The Daily Texan has a piece from a columnist who is also credited as being "an economics graduate student". "Making sense of toll debate". As you might expect they are in favour of toll roads and say "Who should pay for roads? How about people who drive on them? Tolls aren't a "new" tax; they're a shift of revenue from a less efficient source to a more efficient one." Strange that they think tolls are cheaper to collect than a gas tax, and that they don't realise that toll roads are a rip off for middlemen and banks. You might think that this lack of understanding was because they are an economics sudent, but this is what economics professors preach.
Lexus Tolls for Canada
Parts of Canada are considering various forms of High Occupancy Toll lanes or as they say below the border ""Lexus lanes" that allow the rich to buy their way around traffic jams":- "Lexus Lanes on the way".
Tory MP pushing for Toll road
In early May, Robert Key, Tory MP, wrote to Tony Blair calling for road tolls to be used to finance road improvements (mainly a tunnel costing £500 million ($900 million) so that the existing road doesn't spoil the view) and visitors centre proposed for Stonehenge .
Today's Salisbury Journal has the Prime Minister's reply:-
"...The possibility of the bored-tunnel option being funded by tolling had been considered by a review in January this year. The review concluded that tolling of the sort used on the M6 toll road was unlikely to be suitable, as there would be considerable environmental and archaeological constraints on finding a suitable location for constructing a toll plaza and traffic would divert from the A303 onto less satisfactory roads.
... an electronic option would reduce the need for a toll plaza but would require large numbers of vehicles to be fitted with the right equipment, and the review had concluded this would not be feasible, owing to the high number of occasional users (including foreign vehicles) on the A303.
While the government is committed to taking forward the debate on national road pricing, implementation is still some years away."
At yesterday's meeting of the Greater London Assembly, Mayor Ken said that he was going to look at charging vehicles according to their CO2 emissions:- BBC - "Gas guzzlers face bigger c-charge". The politicians are either daft or think the public are daft. There is already a massive tax, which largely varies with CO2 emissions - duty on fuel.
Wednesday 21 June
Anti "Congestion" Charge campaigners say that the extension of the London charge zone will waste £166 million ($300 million). The waste is because the equipment being installed will be out of date:- BBC - "C-charge plans 'will waste £166m'". Our view is that this is all a waste anyway. Money should be spent om improvements to roads and transport, not on collecting tolls.
Tuesday 20 June
As expected the Indiana Supreme Court has sided with the Trolls. The sale of the road (to be spent as current revenue) is unconstitutional, but the court don't agree, and if opponents want to continue the fight the court say they will have to put up $1.9 billion:- Chronicle / AP - "Ind. Court Rejects Road Lease Arguments".
PS Later reports from IndyStar:- "Ruling removes barrier to $3.8B Toll Road deal" "Taking it private takes a toll".
Euro Jam Makers
European and American papers have a piece from Associated Press "Europeans Go on Holiday, Jamming Roads". It predicts chaos on European roads this summer and says it is due to inadequate road spending. According to AP, public investment in transport infrastructure in the EU fell from 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in the 1980s to less than 1 percent in 2004, equal to a funding drop of 100 billion euros (125 billion dollars or 70 billion pounds) over 25 year. It is compared to the 350 billion euros (440 billion dollars or 240 billion pounds) EU governments pocketed in tax revenues from road users in just one year - 2004.
Australian Troll, MIG, is restructuring some of its toll road assets:- The Australian - "MIG divests Sydney toll roads".
Most of this morning's papers report on the results of a survey of 3,000 businesses by the Forum for Private Business. Not unexpectedly, only 17% are in favour of any form of road pricing. Birmingham Post - "Road pricing 'no answer to traffic'". There is still a great deal of ignorance about road pricing. If all the facts were known it is difficult to see why any business would support it - unless they sell tolling equipment!
PS FPB Press Release.
Another Tolls Study
Transportation Corridor Agencies, who run some of Florida's toll roads have published ""Economic Benefits of The Toll Roads". They say that the toll roads save drivers - time, gas and money.
If you assumed that the road might not otherwise be built, then it is generally the case, that the roads will save time for some drivers. But if there is sufficient demand to justify building a toll road, then it is cheaper to build and operate a non toll road - which will then save time and gas for all drivers.
Monday 19 June
Number plate boom
According to recent reports, stealing car plates is a boom industry. Last year there were 33,000 recorded thefts. Double what it was two years earlier. They are now introducing "Theft proof" plates which break if you try to remove them. Though this misses the point, as it makes more sense to copy a plate than to steal it. The reason for this boom? - There are several, but the London Con charge relies on number plate recognition to know who hasn't paid.
Czech Toll Delay
The Czech Government are allowing more time for the introduction of tolls for trucks:- Czech Business News - "E-toll contract amended to postpone the delivery".
The delay is unlikely to be as bad as with the German system which led to massive losses for the Tolls consortium. The system eventually went live in January 2005 and it is reported that 500,000 trucks are now fitted with the transponders. There has been an unsuccessful court case against the systems - 18 Lander Associations and various transport groups claimed that Toll Collect was abusing its dominant monopolistic position . The US Transportation Research Board had a presentation on the German system at a meeting in January:- Presentation by Andreas Kossak.
Saturday 17 June
Con Charge Change
There is an adjustment to the Con charge from Monday. Instead of going straight into a penalty charge from midnight, you have an extra day to pay, though the charge will be £10 instead of £8:- BBC - "C-charge drivers 'pay next day'". We are puzzled. We can only assume that the hassle and bad debts from trying to collect the penalties is not worth it. Though we doubt this change will make much difference.
The District of Virginia Beach wants to reintroduce tolls that were removed some years ago. Appropriately they also want someone (else) to cough up $200,000 to prove that it is a good idea:- Pilot Online.
While some other states are increasing tolls and selling roads, Kentucky intends to be free:- Kentucky Post 1 Kentucky Post 2.
Friday 16 June
Tolls & Trucks
Report on the increasing problem of tolls for truck traffic:- Layover - "Toll Jitters Grip Carriers, Shippers and Logistics Providers".
Not so EZ
MNBC reports on Fred Wolf's problems at Raritan tolls. He put 70 cents in the coin machine, it didn't seem to register and he blew his horn. No one came so he went through. He later got and paid a $25 dollar fine. But next time it happened he complained. The Turnpike Authority said he was going through an EZ pass lane by mistake. Is it also a mistake that the machine still takes your money?
Thursday 15 June
More on Texas Toll Opponents
From Austin Chronicle:- "As The Transportation Policy Turns, Latest Episode" "'Y' Can't We Be Friends?".
Wednesday 14 June
Cherie trying to get In
Cherie Blair seems to be very keen to get involved in the Malaysian case between the old and new owners of a toll road and involving Malaysian Government corruption:- Daily Mail - "Humiliation for Cherie as she's removed from barristers' bench".
The Great Rip off
More on Australian toll rip offs, with the privately financed roads costing twice as much as public borrowing:- The Age - "The growing stench around PPPs".
Report of a meeting selling road pricing to engineers, but they weren't all buying:- Lancashire Evening Post - "Get set for the toll tax".
Indiana Toll Sale
Latest report on court case against Indiana Toll Sale:- Courier Journal - "Indiana justices hear toll-road case".
"It is sad"
More on opposition to Indiana toll sale:- MSNBC / Washington Post - "Strapped states lease roads to private firms".
More Gas = More Con
The Alliance Against Urban 4x4s is pressing for higher "Congestion" charges for those cars (not just 4 wheel drives) producing more than 225g/km of CO2 to pay £20 Con charge a day, instead of £8:- BBC -"£20 c-charge call for 4x4 drivers". The alliance seems to be backed by the usual anti roads interests - Greens, Lib Dems, Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000, etc. The policies of the anti roads interests are usually illogical and damaging, but that doesn't seem to matter as long as they can hurt roads users one way or another.
Illinois V Missouri
The Belleville News Democrat publishes a letter from Illinois transport boss to Missouri's:- "IDOT chief pleads with Missouri counterpart to discuss bridge".
Con charge fantasy
More hype from Cambridgeshire, one of the seven pilot areas for road pricing:- BBC - "County looks at congestion charge".
Tuesday 13 June
"What do we want? No tolls!!"
More on Texas Toll opposition:- News 8 - "CAMPO hears more on toll roads".
Latest on court case against Indiana Toll Sale is that one of the 5 Indiana Supreme Court judges has excused himself from the case. This means it could be a tie, in which case the State wins:- NWI Times - "Justice removes himself from Toll Road case".
More on Indiana Toll court case:- News Sentinel / AP - "State defends highway plan in brief to high court".
There are proposals at an early stage to sell the Illinois Tollway. Any sale is opposed by the Tollway unions (Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters). They say it would be bad for users and taxpayers but are also worried that it would "follow the pattern set by Chicago's recent lease of the Skyway, where long-time city employees were replaced by part-timers earning $10 an hour with no benefits"
If there's one thing that we don't like more than a toll road, it is a privately operated toll road that gets handouts from the taxpayer. Often this is hidden, because there will be secret agreements, and the handouts may be disguised. But in the case of Brisbane's North South Bypass Tunnel some of this is in the public domain. The privately operated tunnel will get a handout of $Aus 377 million ($US 280m or £150M) from the taxpayer. Best of all the operators then plan to hand out $Aus 188 million ($US 140m or £75M) before a single toll is collected.
You have got to admire their style while shedding a tear for the way people are so easily duped:- The Australian - "Tunnel vision's close focus" Courier Mail - "Bonanza for tunnel brokers".
The Tunnel will be 6 kilometres (2 miles) long. If it wasn't for the trolls, bankers and consultants etc would it be costing one billion (Aus) dollars?
Sue Austin from Cary, North Carolina says "It is outrageous that a country as wealthy as ours can't figure out better ways to fund public projects." News & Observer - "Heavy toll".
Monday 12 June
"Disastrous" effect of toll
Churches in South Africa are protesting about the lack of proper consultation and the effect on the poor of the proposed Wild Coast toll highway:- Daily News - "Opposition to N2 toll road gathers".
PS There is a later and fuller report from Tony Carnie in IOL:- "Objectivity of toll road process questioned".
More on Texas tolls
More criticism on toll plans. This time from a state rep Joe Pickett:- "It will take five or six years to fail big time, to cause more congestion and get so bad someone will say 'I thought someone was going to fix it.'. The Texas Transportation Deparetment will stop doing improvements to roads that will compete with their toll projects.". Newspaper Tree - "Done Deal".
PS It seems that some of the politicians are getting worried about all the toll roads that are planned. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have just postponed till July a vote on moving to the next stage.
Following an air pollution court case in Japan, some tolls are to be halved in an "Environmental Road Pricing"
trial to try and attract traffic away from residential areas. One road in the trial normally has a toll of 1,000 yen ($9 or £5), the other is normally 1,400 yen ($12 or £7).
The first tropical storm of the 2006 season, Alberto, may hit Florida. The Governor has declared a state of emergency which as usual gives him the power to lift tolls so that they don't hamper traffic.
Sunday 11 June
Toll Law 1
Michele Mandel reports how the operators of Toronto's 407ETR have admitted that some people are being charged twice but still wants a "collection fee" for chasing money billed in error. Best of all is that this is the operator that can and does get the authorities to stop licence renewals:- Toronto Sun - "407 fight hits a dead end - Toll firm admits mistake but still wants money".
Toll Law 2
Some of the latest fighting in Somalia erupted when attempts were made to dismantle the checkpoints used by clan militia to extort road tolls from the people.
Saturday 10 June
Most of the Irish press repeat Opposition demands that the tolls be removed from the M50 motorway in Dublin. The renewed pressure follows the worst ever week for traffic congestion with vehicles queuing at the toll barriers for up to an hour.
No More Treasure
The Bridge to Treasure Island in Florida had been tolled since 1939, but today a new untolled bridge will be opened replacing the old bridge. The new bridge is federally funded and toll free. Can this really be Florida?
Also today it was reported that the authorities were borrowing one million dollars to fund a study into tolling the Judge SS Jolley bridge - now that's Florida.
Gas Tax and Tolls
The People's Daily reports that China is thinking about oil and tolls. The paper says "The purpose of a fuel-oil tax is to encourage the saving of energy ... Given the increasingly serious situation with regard to energy demand, no time should be wasted in the formulation of a fuel-oil tax policy.
Road tolls are also closely related to this issue. Although, road tolls play a positive role in the construction, maintenance and operation of highways across the country, road construction is essentially about the provision of a public service. As economic growth means the coffers of the State and some local governments continue to expand, they should gradually be expected to shoulder greater financial responsibilities in this regard. Levying road tolls obviously increases the burden on ordinary consumers and creates an obstacle in terms of sorting out oil-price relationships."
Toll plazas cause congestion and are dangerous places. Many toll roads have switched to one variety or other of electronic tolling, though with drivers switching lanes they can still be dangerous, it also increases the chances of non payment. The Illinois Secretary of State's office is cracking down on non payment and in less than a year has suspended 12,000 driver's licenses and 63,000 license plates:- Daily Herald - "Confused? Or 30,000 cheaters a day?".
Thursday 8 June
Latest on Punic Wars
The Italian Government are telling the toll companies that they will ignore any deadline they put on their proposed merger, and say they want a guarantee of "congruity of price for tolls":- AGI - "I DON'T ACCEPT DEADLINES".
The Emperor Ming, leader of the Lib Dems from the fabled green planet, today revealed his plans if they succeed in their conquest. They will cut UK income tax, and raise other taxes including another £7 billion in taxes on roads users because they are "polluting the planet" (Earth).
This morning's Daily Telegraph reports on last night's ceremony for the "Business Commitment to the Environment Awards". Perhaps a strange subject for the Telegraph, but David Cameron was there. The fat cats have now "formed an unlikely alliance with green lobby groups such as Friends of the Earth to promote the long-term benefits to British business of the government taking a strong position on tackling climate change.... including road pricing.". Are the fat cats conning the greens or vice versa? We don't know, but one thing for certain is that they both want to con everyone else.
This morning's Times has a little list of things Tony Blair must do now "to prove his worth". Road pricing seems to be number 3 after pensions and education.
Paul Keeling gives his views on Vancouver's "Gateway Program", and compares the tolling propsals with what is already happening with Sydney's Cross City Tunnel and Torontos' 407ETR:- The Tyee - "Gateway: For Whom Is the Road Tolled?".
More on opposition to Indiana Toll Sale
From Dave Menzer in Indy Star (who were supporting the sale):- "Variety of Hoosiers oppose Toll Road deal". Link to those fighting in court against the sale.
The Telegraph reports on last night's ceremony for the "Business Commitment to the Environment Awards". Perhaps a strange subject for the Telegraph, but David Cameron was there. The fat cats have now "formed an unlikely alliance with green lobby groups such as Friends of the Earth to promote the long-term benefits to British business of the government taking a strong position on tackling climate change.... including road pricing.". Are the fat cats conning the greens or vice versa? We don't know, but one thing for certain is that they both want to con everyone else.
This morning's Times has a little list of things Tony Blair must do now "to prove his worth". Road pricing seems to be number 3 after pensions and education.
No tolls please - we're not British
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC have uncovered that over £8 million is owed in "Congestion" charges on 90,000 foreign cars. They seem to have come a long way to avoid the charge, including Cambodia and the Solomon Islands:- "Foreign cars evade London charge". The mystery to us, is why do any of them pay?
Pushing Bike use
Yesterday the BBC repeated a story from the Independent which said that "Britain is in the grip of a cycling revolution....New figures show there has been a dramatic leap in number of cyclists". Cycling is a healthy exercise, but this is the usual green hype. Despite David Cameron getting on his bike, the official figures do not show that the amount of cycling is increasing. In fact it is almost too small to measure. In 2004, the average person travelled nearly 6,800 miles, of which 5,500 miles was by car, and 36 miles by bicycle.
Wednesday 7 June
The Amherst Record reports that the New York Thruway authority is spending several million dollars replacing toll booths at locations where it is hoped that the tolls will soon be removed. Carl Paladino, a protestor, says "That's because they are idiots, and they haven't figured out yet that those tolls booths are coming down." "Controversial toll booths receive update".
Christian Science view:- "Cash-strapped states embrace toll roads".
Cherie Blair has been "barred" from the Malaysian case between the old and new owners of a toll road and involving Malaysian Government corruption (see 30 May):- DNA India - "Cherie barred from acting in Malaysian court case".
No Tolls for VIPs
Veeresh Malik has been using the Right to Information Act 2005 to try and find out about the toll exemptions given to Indian VIPs. Such concessions are against the Constitution of India. The authorities have admitted that they have been giving exemptions, but refuse to say who these "VIP"s are.
Tolls - Popular or not?
According to a poll organised by transport officials, up to 70% of Vancouver residents support tolling the Port Mann bridge as part of the "Gateway Program".
A separate report says that many people are opposed to the overall scheme and says:- "City staff said traffic diverting to the Pattullo and Queensborough bridges to avoid tolling on the Port Mann is likely to add to congestion on the Kingsway and Marine Drive corridors into southeast Vancouver, in addition to arterial roads that carry traffic from the highway in northeast Vancouver.".
Climate - No change
The relentless propaganda on Global Warming from the establishment, greens and some business interests continues.
Last night the BBC had another "Climate Chaos" programme, this time concentrating on problems in 4 cities and Tuvalu, a group of coral atolls. If they hadn't stressed that it was showing the effects of Global Warming, one would have assumed that most of the problems shown were due to over population and pollution from industry. We had the usual drama and no facts. How warmer has the earth got over say the last 100 years? And how high have sea levels risen? And of course how did they work all this out and calculate the effect of burning fossil fuels?
Representatives of big business, inspired by the Prince of Wales, yesterday sent a delegation to Tony Blair to "urge tougher action on climate change". BBC - "PM praises business pledge on CO2" FT - "Business leaders lobby Blair to set tougher targets on greenhouse gases" "Captains of industry call for action on climate change"
It was the establishment talking to the establishment being reported on by the establishment. The delegation included the oil giant Shell and BAA (who own London's and many other airports and are being taken over by a Spanish tolls firm). So what did they suggest - a significant tax on fuel used by aircraft, and for heating, industry etc? It seems not, instead they suggested "road pricing and congestion charging". We know that the greens will believe this, but will ordinary people be duped?
Tuesday 6 June
Switzerland is under pressure from railway unions and greens to make its road tax vignette system even tougher, especially for foreign (i.e. EU) lorries. The money is spent on the railways:- NZZ - "Introduction of road tax to be kept on course".
No Tolls for Three Wheels
Vietnam is removing tolls for two and three wheelers to "ease congestion" at the tolls. Vietnam News.
M6 Toll decline ends (virtually)
A month ago we reported that the decline in M6 Toll traffic was over, at least it was if you allowed for the unusually high number of non working days in April. The May figures were released today in Australia, and the story is similar, i.e. the decline is over - well virtually over, as there were only 79 fewer vehicles than in April 2005:- Detailed traffic figures.
Con Charge? - No thanks
Following last week's' "news" that Cambridge was supposed to be introducing "Congestion" charges, there are unfavourable reactions from business:- Cambridge Evening News - "Let's bypass congestion charge plan".
Road Toll Sell
The Freight Transport Association have been writing, under the names of regional officers, almost identical letters to papers around Britain. They are trying to sell the idea of Road Pricing. Why? Express & Star - "Road charges are essential".
This version refers to "the growth of car traffic" and says "lorry miles are basically falling". The official figures for the last quarter actually show that compared with 4 years ago, miles travelled by cars is up less than 1%, goods vehicle miles is up 8%, and vans up 25%!
Spanish Troll, Ferrovial, is to take over BAA (formerly the British Airports Authority) who's airports are used by over 60% of air travellers. Ferrovial's current interests include 20 or so Toll roads, including roads sold to them by the Americans (Chigago Skyway and Indiana Toll). Perhaps it is hoping it will be well placed for British road sales? Ferrovial toll roads.
More on Cross City Tunnel
Australasian Transport News reports that the toll for the Tunnel is being reduced from $Aus 3.67 to $Aus 3.50, but the company is still threatening to sue the Government for reneging on the deal to force drivers into the tunnel. The National Road and Motorists Association said "You can't buy anything for 17 cents" (13 US cents or 7 British pence) "Toll cut 17c on Cross City Tunnel".
PS The Tolls boss says ""The Government's tricked us." "Motorists shun Cross City Tunnel".
Monday 5 June
Bulgaria to "Scrap Road Toll"
That's what the headline on Sofia News Agency says, but it seems that they may just be changing one form of toll for another, following orders from Brussels:- "Bulgaria to Scrap Road Toll in 2007".
Best of friends
The BBC had a radio programme today on what to do about traffic congestion, including a suggestion for tolls. We listened enthralled as we had been invited to speak, but again we were missed. What we did hear though was that the AA Motoring Trust and Friends of the Earth are united in at least one thing - neither of them want more or better roads - as it would just encourage more traffic.
Nice New Toll Roads but few users
The Korea Herald reports that the Supreme Court has ruled against environmentalists opposed to a new tunnel. The paper complains about numerous road projects "that are ruining the landscape ... (and) ... newly constructed expressways remaining unused as a result of sloppy research ... and ... the tolls .."
Climate Change causes just about everything
The promotion of Climate Change seems to be accelerating. John Prescott has been sent to US for 4 days to tell them all about it (Climate change that is). We wonder how much fuel this trip will take even without his 200 yard car trip.
There are also reports that water tables are rising and causing salinity, and other reports that water tables are falling.
Last night on Panorama, the BBC accused President Bush and the US Government of lying about Global Warming, and to prove their case there were lots of pictures of hurricanes, forest fires etc.
If it really is getting warmer (whether due to man or not) one advantage might have been that less fuel would be used on heating, but no - this morning the BBC tell us that there will be a net increase in fuel burnt due to air conditioning.
Sydney Drivers not to be forced into Toll
The New South Wales Government are reported to be planning to reverse some of the 70 road changes and closures that were designed to force traffic into Sydney's new Cross City Tunnel. This may just be a political trick, if not then it is likely that the Government will be sued by the toll road operator:- Australian - "Tunnel changes scrapped".
It is also reported in todays' Sydney Morning Herald that the fall out over the tunnel and the realisation that these can be "highly unpopular and expensive rip-offs" will mean that future roads will be financed by borrowing rather than as private sector toll roads.
Fairer Fuel Tax Share = No Tolls
Dr John Cox in The Age argues for a fairer mechanism for sharing fuel tax between the states and the Federal government. He says that this would mean the states getting 30 cents out of the 38.1 cents a litre fuel tax. "This would not only bring demand into balance but would generate sufficient revenue to ensure that governments would not need to turn to the private sector to build any more non-economic toll roads, where community benefits are halved because of the reduction in traffic due to tolls on these low-cost facilities." "Funding reform a long, winding road".
Nice New Toll Roads but few users
The Korea Herald reports that the Supreme Court has ruled against environmentalists opposed to a new road. The paper complains about numerous road projects "that are ruining the landscape ... (and) ... newly constructed expressways remaining unused as a result of sloppy research ... and ... the tolls .."
We reported on 25th May, a fire in a tolls tunnel at Liverpool, where some of the traffic had to pay an exit toll to get out. It has since emerged that traffic was paying an entrance toll and being allowed into the tunnel after the fire started, and that some of the emergency phones were not working:- Liverpool Echo - "We're SOS sorry".
Friday 2 June
"No Tolls" in South Africa
South Africa is consulting, or at least going through the motions, about the proposed Wild Coast toll highway. Anti Toll road campaigners include the Upper South Coast Anti-Toll Alliance:- iol - "Wild Coast toll road process 'totally flawed'". We wish the campaigners well, though the Trolls have lots of money and nearly always win.
The BBC reports that the Tories are making some proposals for reducing road congestion. As John Redwood is in charge, we are relieved they haven't suggested tolls:- "Left turns at red lights proposed"
Shortest Suicide note in History
Grant from Bloxwich in the Express and Star mentions the "underwhelming success of the M6 Toll" and compares the Road pricing plans with Labour's 1982 manifesto or "the longest suicide note in history". He also suggests that West Midlands engineers should develop a Hydrogen powered car:- "Hydrogen is the answer"
Another Suicide note
The Kent establishment wants to introduce road pricing and other constraints on road use. The Labour leader of Gravesham Council says it "is very tricky for us to talk about, particularly with next May's elections":- Kent Messenger - "Drivers may face charges to use M2 and A2" (there is a link at bottom to readers' views).
The Appleseed Center for Law and Justice has organised a contest of ideas for "Solving DC's problems". There were over 900 suggestions, and a panel has whittled them down to 20, which have gone to an Internet vote which ends today. One of the 20 is that they should "erect toll booths at every major entry point into the District". It will be interesting to see how many votes this gets. The idea was proposed by Heather from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Surprise!
PS Unfortunately the announced result only gave the first three, (which didn't include the tolls one).
American truckers are unhappy about Virginian proposal to charge them $120 (£65) for driving down a widened Interstate 81:- etrucker - "ATA rallies opposition to I-81 toll plan".
The Tacoma Narrows toll bridge is due to open in July. Washington state officials are having a massive "Good to Go" campaign to persuade drivers to use transponders. If the campaign fails then the approach to the toll booths will be clogged .
Companies are complaining about the headache of administering Con charge fines on company cars:- Accountancy Age - "Driven up the Wall".
Thursday 1 June
The Truth (we hope)
A report in tonight's Cambridge Evening News says that the city have studied various options including a £4 ($7.50) "Congestion" charge. Though it seems that we needn't worry as a council spokeswoman says "The £4 figure was only a hypothetical charge ... The council has no plans whatsoever to introduce any sort of charging in Cambridge. The figure was only used as part of a modelling exercise and there are no plans for congestion charging.":- "Would you pay £4 to get in the city?". "So what?" you may think - except that the city is one of the Government's seven pilots for road pricing. They are supposed to at least pretend that they believe in it!
PS Report on the 2nd in the Cambridge Evening News:- "'Riot' is predicted if £4 charge arrives".
Who's in charge?
Some Texans apparently don't like foreign toll firms deciding where new roads will be built:- Star Telegram - "Toll-road issue growing heated".
You might think that this could only happen in the USA, but on 24th May, it was announced that an Australian owned company were to build a new road so as to draw traffic into their existing M6 toll road.
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