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Apologies for February news being so scant. We were distracted by the struggle against tolls in Edinburgh.

28 February 2005
Consultation ends
The consultation on zone extension is ending:-  BBC - "Congestion toll consultation ends"
If Ken pays as much attention as he does to other consultations, one wonders what the point is.

More businesses oppose charge - but not KPMG
Latest survey from CBI says 90% of businesses are opposed to Ken's plans for extension of zone. Though surprisingly 25% of businesses support the existing charge:-  Evening Standard - 'Nine in 10 firms reject expansion of C-charge'   CBI Press Release
You may notice that KPMG who did the survey stressed that they thought the scheme had a positive impact. Last time that we checked, KPMG were the auditors to Transport for London. They are also reportedly saving a considerable amount in taxi fares!

26 February 2005
"Don't ask my opinion"
We have dealt with the Edinburgh Toll Poll on the Edinburgh pages. But the defeat was such a shock to the establishment, we would like to give you a flavour of their reaction, as it will affect what happens now all over Britain.
This is Matthew Parris in today's Times:- "The conclusion? Edinburgh residents should never have been asked... This coalition of the apathetic and short-sighted ... needed only 32% to win."
This was our reply (unprinted):- The proportion voting in the Edinburgh Toll Poll was higher than the last General Election and they said "No" to tolls by nearly 3 to 1.
This was despite the massive resources that the Yes campaign had and continual spin. The result was also despite 42% of Edinburgh households not having a car. The people who would be most likely to pay the toll were those from outside the city who enter Edinburgh in the peak period, and they didn't have a vote at all.

Toll roads potentially just move congestion or business elsewhere, with much of the revenue wasted in the cost of collection. Perhaps though the people of Edinburgh are not apparently "forward thinkers" they understood this better than Matthew.

Matthew may be one of the many who believes in the myth of the success of the London charge. If he looks at the latest impact report published by Transport for London in January, he will see that they admit (page 19) that ""Of those respondents who report change in Inner London, a slightly higher proportion say more time is spent travelling now than before the introduction of the charge".

25 February 2005
Capita Profits
The firm that run "congestion" charging reports record profits:-  Evening Standard - "Record windfall for C-charge firm"

Drivers Against Congestion Charging
The BBC reports that a motor retailer has surveyed drivers from Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. The result was that just under 25% wanted congestion charging on the town centre routes that they used. We can only assume that they either didn't understand the question, or are wealthy or someoneelse would pay it for them!

19 February 2005
Golden Rule Windfall for Gordon
It has recently been revealed that the Office for National Statistics has agreed that the cost of road repairs and maintenance will be switched from "current" to "capital" expenditure. The figure has been quoted as being between 2.0 and 2.7 billion.
The switch will make it easier for the Chancellor to keep within the "rules" as to what the Government can borrow for over an economic cycle.
Road users are not worried about "creative" changes to figures. But as Gordon collects over 42 billion a year in taxes from roads users, we do wonder where the other 40 billion a year is going.

17 February 2005
Not Just
The Local Government Association today published a report arguing for road pricing:-   Just down the Road?
The local politicians that make up the LGA seem to be suffering from the same delusions as the national politicians. They think that roads users can be conned that tolls are just a switch in taxation, and that it will cost no more to collect.
The LGA also have the odd notion that fuel duty is "a tax on vehicle ownership rather than use". And that therefore it has no effect on vehicle use, but that tolls will have a miraculous effect of "freeing" the roads.
If tolls are applied to all roads and raise the same amount as fuel duty then they will have no effect at all. If they are only applied to some roads then drivers will divert on to other roads.
Why can't the local politicians argue for more spending of roads taxes on roads?

16 February 2005 2005
Please Mr Blair
Protestors from the West London Resident's Association handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street. They are opposed to the extension of the charge zone.

14 February 2005 2005
Fewer Accidents - but
An insurance company claim that they have carried out research showing that the London "Congestion" Charge has resulted in fewer accidents and they want similar schemes all over Britain:-   BBC - "Fewer crashes 'since toll charge'"
Transport for London recently issued their latest report on the charge. In the year after the charge was introduced, reported personal injury road accidents within the zone and inside charging hours fell by 152 or 11%, compared with the year before. But that year (before the charge was introduced) there was a fall of 226 or 14% compared with the year before that.:- TfL - London Toll Impact Report January 2005  (page 32)
This seems to indicate a downward trend in such accidents. Given that there is a reduction in the number of vehicles entering the charging zone, one might expect an accelerated reduction in accidents, but the figures do not prove this.

Chamber of Commerce survey
Yet another survey showing the adverse effect of the charge on retail businesses:-  Evening Standard - 'C-charge blamed as profits drop'
TfL say only a handful of people and organisations question the success of the scheme. We must admit that TfL have succeeded in making a lot of people believe that the charge is a success. But surely they don't believe that they have succeeded in converting all the people?

11 February 2005 2005
Oxford Street Horror
Ken Livingstone says of Oxford Street - "The environment there is so horrendous. You are being buffeted all the time by people." He also says there are too many buses:-   Evening Standard - 'Oxford Street is in decline'
Perhaps he will introduce congestion charges for pedestrians and for buses. Or perhaps he would be happier somewhere quieter and less busy - say London a few years ahead?

9 February 2005
M6 Tolls Decline Continues
The M6 Toll operators have released their figures for January 2005. They show further decline in daily traffic, though the road operators are putting a brave face on it. We issued a press release, which was generally ignored. Though it was mentioned by:-   Birmingham Post - "M6 Toll under fire again as users drop"   and  BBC - "Year-on-year rise in toll users"   and  The Scotsman - "Toll M-Way Traffic Up by 25%"

3 February 2005
M6 Tolls Decline Continues
The Commons Transport Committee has been continuing to look at toll roads and particularly the M6. The NAAT submitted eveidence to the Committee, but it appears to have only called witnesses who are broadly in favour of tolls.
At the hearings the Highways Agency admitted that they did not know how many lorries were using the toll road. But it was said that the overall number of vehicles using the old M6 had reduced from 140,000 to 110,000 since the toll road was opened:-   Birmingham Post 1 Feb - "Toll bosses called before MPs"   and  BBC 2 Feb - "Committee debates Toll extension"   and  Birmingham Post 3 Feb- "Toll roads are here to stay"

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