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MAY 2005 NEWS

31 May 2005
Ted Heath government rejected road pricing
Government papers released under the 30 year rule show that Ted Heath's Tory government considered and then rejected the idea of "congestion charging". An official advised "... ministers risk being called swindlers if they put up road taxes after road charging is introduced...":-   BBC - "Congestion charge planned in 1971"
A wise decision!

Cambridge Lib Dems Want Tolls
Cambridge's Lib Dem Transport chief thinks that tolls might be a good idea. In the meantime she suggests measures on the roads that "will make it a bit less comfortable for cars":-   Cambridge Evening News - "Study called for on congestion charge"
The people of Cambridge should watch out. When the politicians want Tolls, their first step is to restrict road space and thus create more congestion.


29 May 2005
ABD Attack Road Tax proposal
The Association of British Drivers attack a proposal for higher Road Tax for gas guzzlers:-   ABD - "Proposals For 900 Car Tax -Unnecessary, Unfair And Discriminatory"
The proposal is said to have come from the Energy Saving Trust. EST is a government quango which is jointly funded by the government and the energy industry. There is no mention of this proposal on EST website. In any case we agree that it is a daft idea, as Road Tax is not related to use.
If the aim is to encourage more efficient motor vehicles then that is already being done through the very high tax on fuel for motor vehicles. Road "Tax" should be a low annual charge that just covers administration costs.


26 May 2005
Lib Dems say London Toll Increase is Not Needed
They say that increase is not needed as congestion is said to be falling:-   BBC - "Road toll price hike 'not needed'"
We are pleased to see the Lib Dems opposing the increase to 8, but perhaps they have missed the point. The Charge is not there to reduce Congestion. It is there to drive away motorists and make some money at the same time. Congestion is subjective. The London Toll has deterred some people and cars from entering the charge zone, but it appears to have had almost no effect on overall traffic speeds.


19 May 2005
London Toll Zone Extension is "Poor Value"
The Western extension of the zone fails Government test that says there must be benefits of 90 pence for every 130 pence spent. But the Government rules don't apply to Ken:-   Evening Standard - "C-charge extension fails value for money test"


18 May 2005
AA joins the fight?
The AA Motoring Trust "today joined the campaign against the westward expansion of the congestion charge zone". It says that existing Toll Zone is "crippled by inefficiencies and a lack of respect for motorists":-   Evening Standard - "AA joins C-charge fight"
The AA Motoring Trust are keen supporters of the theory of Tolls. We are pleased that when it comes to the practice of the London Toll, they have seen the light. But this isn't new, they issued a report in April 2004 declaring their opposition to the expansion of the Toll Zone:-   AA Motoring Trust - Extension of Zone

Tolls Baroness wins appeal against London Toll
We reported on 14th April that a Baroness who was a strong toll supporter had appealed against a London Toll fine. Well she won in the High Court:-   BBC - "Peer wins battle over road toll"
Six thousand people a day get a penalty charge notice; will other people who may have a penalty due to a mistake or oversight be treated the same?


16 May 2005
M6 Tolls to rise
Midland Expressway Limited (MEL) have announced increased charges for the M6 toll road from 14th June. The increases range from 16% to 50%.
The 50% increase is for motorbikes using the road at night, where charge will go up to 1.50. The daytime rate for cars and small vans goes up from 3 to 3.50. The rates for lorries go up by 1:-   BBC - "Cost of using M6 Toll to increase"    M6 toll Prices fron 14 June
Newratings.com later reported:- "Merrill Lynch raises Macquarie Infrastructure Group's (MIG.AU) price target to A$4.10 from A$4.00 after it raises tolls on M6 highway; combination of higher tolls with driver sensitivity to increases will translate into softer traffic growth near term but revenue growth will likely prevail in trade-off between higher tolls and softer traffic."
The government wants more tolls, but roads users do not want any. Roads users should send a message to the government by avoiding tolled roads as far as possible.


13 May 2005
Toll fines error
During the recent Tower Bridge diversion, motorists using the diversion where not supposed to be charged. It is now revealed that 2,500 have been fined in error:-   BBC - "Fines error over bridge diversion"    Evening Standard - "C-charge blunder as drivers are wrongly fined"
2,500 people wrongly charged is a lot, but it is a drop in the ocean compared with the six thousand people a day who get a penalty charge notice and the two million 5 excess charges issued each year for paying between 10 PM and midnight.
The scheme relies on all these people to generate a profit.


11 May 2005
M6 Tolls Traffic figures
New Ratings and Australian Investment Review report that MIG has held a briefing for investors. NR says:- "... downgrades Macquarie Infrastructure Group to Marketperform/Hold from Outperform/Buy, citing disappointing M6 toll road traffic figures, closing of discount to valuation, likely lower returns on any new toll roads."
Investors may be disappointed, but the rest of us will be pleased if toll roads prove not to be a licence to print money. If profit expectations are reduced, then there may be less demand for construction of more toll roads.


10 May 2005
Wrong roads
The RAC Foundation says that many of the roads inside the proposed western extension of the Toll Zone are not as big a problem as roads elsewhere in London:-   Evening Standard - "C-charge extension 'targets the wrong area'"
All roads are the wrong roads for Tolls. But then we reckon that Ken and his pals are not going to stop at the western zone!

9 May 2005
Have your say!
Consultation on the western extension of the Toll Zone starts today and continues till 15th July:-   TfL -Detailed Proposal for a Western Extension -Have your say
Ken will not pay any attention, but if you live or work in london, then please complete the Questionaire - Online version

Never mind the stick
Ken has offered two "sweeteners" to counter the criticism of the doubling in size of the London Toll Zone. The Toll period would end at 6.00 PM instead of 6.30 PM. And the 20,000 residents in the Earl's Court, West Brompton and Shepherd's Bush areas would qualify for 90% resident's discount, though they are outside the Zone:-   Evening Standard - "C-charge to end earlier"

Keep the Fines rolling in
A businessman had set up a car club that was to register as a fleet with Transport for London. Members of the club would have avoided the risk of the large fines for not paying the toll on time, but the scheme has been stopped by TfL:-   Evening Standard - "TfL changes rules to stop C-charge 'fleet' scheme"


6 May 2005
Tower Bridge reopens
The road reopens this weekend after being closed for over a week for a survey. "TfL feared pounding from millions of cars may have damaged the bridge - which forms part of the congestion charge boundary.":-   Evening Standard - "Tower Bridge detour ends"
Seems pretty obvious that vehicles will avoid a toll if they can, and so the boundary of the Toll Zone will get more traffic.

Severn Tolls Rip Off
When VAT was introduced on some tolls, the Government indicated that motorists would not be affected. It is now revealed that on the Severn at least, this is not so, as tolls will be collected for over two years longer to make up for the VAT:-   Western Mail - "Fury as government extends Severn tolls"
The story says that a Department for Transport spokesman claimed "The bridge concessionaires don't get the VAT back, they get the same amount of money handed back to them from the Government." - This is not what NAAT have been told, we have been told that the Government are NOT handing any money over.

General Election Result
What does Labour's victory with a reduced majority mean?
One of the few comments this morning is in online Retail Week:- "Labour is committed to developing charges for road use, similar to the congestion charge in London. This policy is bound to anger retailers, which have claimed rising costs in the capital as a result."
Daily Telegraph as part of a story by Rachel Sylvester on Labour's third term says- "At the same time the Government will consult voters about proposals to replace the road tax with a road pricing system, which would see motorists charged according to the distance they drive."
Tolls and "congestion charges" were not an election issue. Labour and the Lib Dems both quietly supported them, and the Tories hardly mentioned them. Even in Edinburgh where the Labour Toll plans were defeated in February, Labour still won at this election.
We expect Labour to creep along with it's Toll plans, but it will spin even harder to sucker motorists that they are not being plundered.
We hope that before the next General Election, one of the other parties will wholeheartedly come out against Tolls, but given what the Tory transport spokesman said on the 4th, we are not hopeful.

M6 Tolls Traffic figures
The M6 Toll operators have released their figures for April 2005. The company's figures show that the reversal of the fall in traffic has continued on weekdays. It will be a few months more before any clear trend will be seen.


5 May 2005
Tolls Kill Fish
Alistair Foster reports that a family fishmonger has closed after 100 years trading - due to the London Toll.
Barbara Windsor said "It's dreadful"   Evening Standard - "C-charge has finished us off"


4 May 2005
Tories join Labour in Tolls threat
Alistair Darling, the transport secretary, has told the Financial Times - "A national system of road pricing, that would replace taxes on motorists with charges for each journey, could be approved halfway through a third Labour."
Alistair Darling seems to be getting even keener on Tolls. What is more alarming is that the story goes on - "Tim Yeo, shadow transport secretary, said yesterday there was a good case in principle for such a scheme. "I would certainly engage with Labour - either as a government or in opposition - to achieve bipartisan consensus". The Liberal Democrats also support road pricing."


3 May 2005
Durham Town to get Second Toll?
Durham, home of Britain's first Toll Zone, is considering a new Toll:-   BBC - "Second city toll plan 'an option'"
The existing Toll Zone only applies to one road where the Cathedral and castle are located. It's effect may be little more than a parking charge. But if they now want more tolls, then NAAT believe that there should be a referendum as in Edinburgh. Better still they sould save the expense and just abandon any toll plans.


2 May 2005
NAAT Press Release - "BLEAK FUTURE FOR DRIVERS"
"DRIVERS make up 70% * of the electorate, but they face a bleak future whatever happens on Thursday.

There will be increasing prices for fuel, and the authorities will turn the screw tighter in their effort to stop motorists from travelling on the roads!
But this will not be the worst of it, as it is likely that tolls will spread to all of Britain's roads.

The latest National Transport Survey, published last week, showed ** that distance travelled per person has increased by over 50% over the last 30 years. While the amount of time spent travelling has stayed about the same - one hour a day on average.
But this greater mobility and efficient use of roads is unlikely to continue as we increasingly suffer from a deliberate policy of inadequate spending on improved and new roads. There is a tremendous gap between the taxes on roads of over 40 billion and roads spending of only 7 billion. And much of this 7 billion is spent on schemes to impede traffic rather than reduce congestion!

Labour and the Lib Dems openly admit their aim is to drive drivers off the roads. The Tories are silent but we suspect that like the other two parties, they will treat the motorists as a compliant cash cow. A cash cow that will be used to finance other spending plans or other tax cuts.

The failure of the recent fuel protests may further encourage whichever party is in power to turn the pressure up till there are clear signs of rebellion from drivers.

The greatest threat to drivers is Tolls. They are widely unpopular so will be disguised as "congestion charges" or "road user pricing" or "private financing of roads". Some people believe that tolls will just replace other roads taxes. But the all party Commons Transport Committee suggested in March *** that tolls be used as "a revenue raising, rather than a revenue neutral, approach".
And collecting Tolls does not come cheap. The Department for Transport said in July **** that the cost of implementing tolling on all roads could be between 10 billion and 62 billion, with annual running costs of 5 billion.
"
* National Travel Survey - Chapter 4 - 61% of women over 17 are licensed, and 81% of men.

** National Travel Survey - Chapter 1 - Table 1.1 Distance, trips and hours travelled per person per year: 1972/73 to 2002/03.

*** Transport Cttee report:- "Road Pricing: The Next Steps" - Para 24 - "revenue raising".

**** DfT report on Road Pricing (July 2004):- Annex J - Para J6 - estimated costs
Tolls money to be thrown in the Bin after all
We have reported previously on the plan to spend 2 million on new toll equipment on Tamar bridge. We later reported that it had been delayed because they could not find a suitable contractor. It seems they have now found one, but cost is now 3 million:-   BBC - "Bridge toll scheme sees cost rise"
The bridge authority say that the expense will not be passed on to motorists.
The cost may not lead to an immediate toll rise, but does anyone think that the cost won't come out of tolls money or be bizarrely used to justify keeping tolls.


1 May 2005
USA Tolls
Our apologies for not covering what has been happening in USA. To some extent we are swamped by the number of news stories!
The battle has been continuing between the Tolls lobbies and those who oppose tolls.
The Tolls lobby and their politicians want tolls:- a) as a hidden tax, b) to keep the construction companies happy, and c) keep gas taxes relatively low.
Toll opponents, say that:- a) they are a double charge for using the roads, b) some parts of a state are hit far more than others, c) toll booths cause queues.

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