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MARCH 2005 NEWS

30 March 2005
Car Pool Lanes
The Department for Transport propose that part of the M25 should have a "carpool" lane. This follows a proposal in December for a carpool lane on part of M1:-   DfT Press Release


24 March 2005
Aim is less cars AND less pedestrians?
London has been monitoring pollution. "Expert" suggestions include "fewer pavements on busy roads" and "the only way to reduce pollution was to ban traffic in central London":-  Evening Standard - "Traffic ban is the solution to pollution"
We are puzzled where the pedestrians will go if there are less pavements. Are they to be herded onto public transport?
We are interested that they seem to be admitting that the London Toll aka "congestion charge" has failed.

Four wheels bad. Two wheels may also be bad.
Ross Lydall reports that Transport for London is considering including motorbikes and scooters in the charge:-  Evening Standard - "Scooters face C-charge"
Nationally there is no consistency as to whether motorbikes pay tolls or not. Where they are charged it is usually at a lower rate than cars. If TfL are tempted by the money and start charging then they will have to face the wrath of the motorbike lobby.

MPs back Tolls
The Commons Transport Committee today published the first part of it's report on Road Pricing:-   BBC - "Road charging gets MPs' backing"
You can see the report at:-   Parliament - web version of report    Parliament - pdf version of report
As expected the Transport Committee is broadly in favour of road pricing. This is not unexpected. Nearly all the evidence submitted to the committee was from groups who favour tolls, and they did not call any witnesses from the few groups that are opposed to tolls. Most of the committee in effect voted in favour of tolls and toll increases when the issue came up with the Mersey Tunnels Bill in 2003.
It seems that instead of spending more of the roads taxes on roads, most politicians want to try and solve the congestion problem by hitting motorists with more taxes. Conclusion 4 of the report says: "There are strong arguments behind introducing road pricing on a revenue raising, rather than a revenue neutral, approach".
There is one consolation, and that is that the MPs have called for more research.


23 March 2005
"One thing to improve the Welsh economy"
Today's Western Mail carried an interview ny Rhodri Evans. The interviewee was John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach Wales.
Question- "If you could introduce one thing to improve the Welsh economy what would it be?"
Answer - "Abolish tolls on the Severn crossings."


22 March 2005
"Traffic fumes may cause lung cancer"
The BBC reports on a Taiwanese study that found higher than average level of a certain chemical (8-OhdG) in the urine of female toll booth operators. It has been deduced that this is due to the toll collectors being exposed to high levels of oxygen free radicals. Someone in Britain has then suggested that "long-term exposure to traffic fumes may be a cause of lung cancer and the like":-   BBC - "Traffic fumes 'damage human DNA'"
Bizarrely this report may be used by the anti roads lobby to argue that there should be more tolls.
The suggestion that traffic fumes may cause lung cancer may also be welcomed by the tobacco lobby.
There is already a substantial amount known about oxygen free radicals and their harmful effects. Some of these radicals are produced in the body. Of those that are exogenous i.e. not comimg from the human body, this is what one source has to say:- "Exogenous sources of free radicals include air pollution, of which industrial waste and cigarette smoke are major contributors. Cigarette smoke, which literally bristles with oxidants, was discussed in a previous review.
Radiation and trace metals, notably lead, mercury, iron and copper, are also major sources of free radical generation.
Normal diets containing plant foods with large quantities of certain compounds such as phenols and even caffeine may contribute to the exogenous supply of oxidants to the body.
(Oxygen free radicals)

17 March 2005
To Inquire or Not to Inquire?
Ross Lydall reports that the 33 local authorities who make up the Association of London Government want Ken to have an inquiry before he goes ahead with his plans to extend the London Toll Zone:-  Evening Standard - "Public inquiry call over C-charge plan"
The chances of Ken altering his opinions on Tolls are ZERO. Tony Blair decided that it would be a good idea if London was run the same way as the country. Londoners did get to select who their dictator would be and they twice went for cuddly Ken. The only way to stop him now is to reveal the myths of the "success" of the London Tolls.


16 March 2005
Has the Chancellor hit motorists in today's Budget?
Yes and Yes:-

1. He has increased the tax on the oil companies by 1.1 billion. In theory this is just them paying some tax earlier than they would otherwise have done. But a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as there is no guarantee that the oil companies will get a tax savings in 2020 or whenever.
So how will oil companies react? Well they haven't said anything, but they won't want their bottom lines threatened. They may juggle their accounts to protect profits, by excluding the tax they are having to pay earlier. But that would mean that Gordon is counting the tax as current income but the companies are ignoring it as current expenditure.
The other possibility is that the companies will count it as current expenditure and recoup (very quietly) from the motorists by not cutting pump prices when crude prices fall at the next fluctuation. Gordon may know this and be secretly gloating that he has got his fuel duty increase through the back door.

2. Also in the budget report is a section on "National road user charging". It says:-
"Congestion is a serious and growing problem in the UK. Unpredictable and rising journey times raise costs for individuals and businesses, and have an adverse effect on UK productivity and economic growth. Congestion also creates localised air-quality hotspots, often in highly populated urban areas. While there is a case for increased investment and better management of the road network, it will not be possible to build a way out of congestion and the problems that it will cause. The feasibility study into road pricing, published by DfT in July 2004, concluded that a carefully-designed national road pricing scheme could reduce congestion by up to a half, as well as delivering environmental benefits.
In the Future of Transport White Paper, the Government welcomed the feasibility study and committed to taking a number of actions in response to its recommendations. It also recognised that establishing a number of congestion charging schemes at the local level would be an important part of any trajectory towards a national road pricing system."

So it would seem that despite the resounding rejection of tolls by the people of Edinburgh, Gordon is intent on introducing further taxes on road use. But next time they won't make the mistake of consulting the people. And with road tolls, a few pence a litre on fuel will really seem like nothing at all.


15 March 2005
Big Brother ever vigilant
London is considering enforcing bus lane and "red route" (no stopping) rules, 24 hours a day every day of the year:-  Evening Standard - "Drivers face being fined around the clock"


14 March 2005
Ken proved right!
The London Mayor has been claiming that the London Toll is speeding up traffic. Well it seems he may be right as Lower Thames Street (which is in the charging zone) has been declared the site of Britain's most lucrative speed trap:-  Evening Standard - "4,000-a-day City speed trap"


11 March 2005
London Toll - Good for some, Not for others
There have been complaints about the money made by some of the directors of the firm that runs the London Toll:-  Evening Standard - "C-charge fat cats bonanza"
The previous day there was a report from Jane Padgham in the Evening Standard that "Confidence among London firms has plummeted over the past three months" though it was still higher then the rest of the country. The President of the London Society of Chartered Accountants said:- "Firms' expectations of more profitable business growth must be set against the possibility of an increase in business rates and an extension of the congestion charge scheme having a negative impact."

Where do Dartford Tolls go? Into the pot!
A Tory candidate for Basildon & East Thurrock is complaining that none of the tolls collected on the Dartford crossing goes to the area:-   Thurrock Gazette - "Toll cash is lost to region"
The Dartford Crossings were paid for some years ago, so the tolls are now largely profit. It all goes into Gordon Brown's big pot. It is naiive to assume that it would go to the area. MPs and candidates should be campaigning for an end to tolls.


10 March 2005
Money not to be thrown in the bin - at least not yet
Plans to waste nearly 2 million on new toll equipment for the Tamar Bridge hacve been delayed. Have they seen sense? No, they have not yet been able to find a suitable contractor:-   BBC - "New toll scheme could face delays"


8 March 2005
Wrong man fined
A man from Kent says that he is being charged for a car that he did not own at the time that it infringed the Congestion charging scheme:-  BBC - "Charges sent to 'wrong' car owner"
The London congestion charging scheme as at the end of December 2004 had issued around 2.5 million penalty charge notices and over 300 thousand warrants to bailiffs for recovery of outstanding debts.
When the scheme started in 2003, 64% of people receiving penalty notices made representations. Now that the scheme has settled down it is about 20% i.e. about 1,400 people a day who believe that they have wrongly been issued with a penalty notice.

Capita pays fines too
The firm that collects the charge has been fined for missing some of the targets set by TfL. Though 4.5 million is minute compared with the 70 million or so a year that it collects in fines from those who have not paid the charge on time:-  Evening Standard - "C-charge firm fined 4.5million"


7 March 2005
M6 Tolls Decline Stops
The M6 Toll operators have released their figures for February 2005. They show that decline in daily traffic has stopped. But the average daily figure for February is still below July to December 2004 level.

3 March 2005
Buses
London is the only British city where the local authority still decides what buses run where and when. Elsewhere in Britain this is mainly left to the market, though many cities are complaining that it would be better if they were like London. Well this is what London is like:-  Evening Standard - "Inquiry into bus complaints"


1 March 2005
"Time for the Mayor to come clean"
The Evening Standard discusses why Ken needs to extend the zone and increase the charge:-  Evening Standard - "Motorists misled over C-charge extension"
Perhaps it's simply a case of reinforcing failure. On a double or quits basis, Ken will eventually win, though there will be a lot of losers.


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