FEBRUARY 2009 NEWS
Saturday 28 February 2009
Report on a Florida toll authority soliciting contribitions to political campaigns and "culture of corruption" and "organised shakedown". It appears that in the land of the free, such actions are not criminal - MyFoxOrlando - "Grand Jury releases report on Expressway authority" video WFtv - "Report Hammers Former Expressway Authority Director" video.
Bit more on "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" proposals - East Valley Tribune (Arizona) - "No to mileage tax" Logistics Management - "Transportation infrastructure: New report supports VMT fees and increased gas tax to maintain and expand surface transportation system" Examiner - "Pay by the Mile?" Today's Trucking - "US Commission likes idea of mileage-based fees".
Republicans want an answer on tolls overcharging - Wicked - "GOP senators call for FastLane audit".
Sundry stories - Massachusetts - "DOT chief backs gas tax" Connecticut - "'Congestion pricing' under review by legislators" Florida - "Grand Jury report due on Expressway Authority" Massachusetts - "Business leaders blast toll plan" Massachusetts - "Cape agency floats idea of bridge tolls" Massachusetts - "Governor Patrick
explains gas tax" video
Texas - "Editorial: New LBJ will be revolutionary" "Fitch Downgrades Lake Ozarks Bridge (Missouri) Toll Revenue Bonds to 'BB+".
More on the new bridge tolls to subsidise mass transit plans backed by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver - NY Daily News - "Sheldon Silver $2 bridge toll plan concerns Senate Democrats" NY Times - "Senate Leader Signals East River Toll Support" Reuters - "NYC mayor backs $2 tolls, state senate opposes" Newsday - "Albany nears agreement on MTA tolls".
Humber Tolls Protest
The Inquiry into the proposed tolls increase starts on Tuesday 3rd March and is expected to last at least 3 days because of the strong opposition to having any tolls - Grimsby Telegraph - "Bridge toll protest underway".
Con Cambridgeshire Council opposes Con
Cambridge News - "Congestion charge gets thumbs-down". South Cambridgeshire District Council is Conservative controlled, but then so is Cambridgeshire County Council which is proposing the tolls.
Nottingham Workplace Parking Levy - adjournment debate
Report on what was said in Commons on Monday - Nottingham Evening Post - "Tram and WPL decision 'soon" Hansard (continues onto a second page).
Private toll bridge deal collapses
At the beginning of the month it was reported that the PPP deal for a new toll bridge was only surviving because the Government were going to underwrite the private finance and had agreed that instead of the bridge twinning the existing free bridge, the consortium led by Macquarie would be allowed to demolish it. The latest development is that the Government will not be underwriting the "private" finance, they will be providing it - Globe and Mail - "Province to pay full $2.5-billion after P3 deal collapses" News1130 - "Bad economy strikes Port Mann Bridge project" Canadian Press - "Financing deal for Port Mann Bridge fails, province takes over project" Surrey Leader - "Province jettisons P3 model for Port Mann Bridge rebuild".
It is reported that this latest change will save $200 million, but the overall cost will still be several times higher than if they had gone ahead years ago and built an untolled twin. Are politicians who get involved with these deals stupid enough to fall for slick presentations, or is there another reason why the public interest takes second place to private interests?
Lower tolls or no tolls?
The Japanese Government are lowering tolls, but the main opposition party want to remove the tolls - Japan Times - "Lower House passes ¥88 trillion budget".
Wider warning from EU
It was reported that Portugal had been warned about not complying with EU rules for truck tolls, but it seems that four countries were warned - HGV Ireland - "Commission gives final warning to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal".
Bit more on Second thoughts on Malaysian Toll increases
International Herald Tribune - "Malaysia reverses move to raise tolls amid protest".
Friday 27 February 2009
PS to Bankers still looking on the bright side
We had been expecting today to have sight of the Lloyds accounts for 2008. But we will have to wait a month!
The "News Release" that the company published this morning, which has been treated by most of the news media as if it was the accounts, not only (as we realised) is not the accounts, it also has this at the bottom of page 67 -
"The financial information included in this news release does not constitute statutory accounts within the meaning of section 240 of the Companies Act 1985. Statutory accounts for the year ended 31 December 2008 were approved by the directors on 26 February 2009 and will be delivered to the Registrar of Companies following publication on 28 March 2009.".
The farce is added to by a comment made by Robert Peston in his blog relating to why the Government have not as yet agreed to take over the Lloyds / HBOS toxic debts. It seems that there is "a technical hitch" with the spreadsheet that is to work out the premium the bank will pay the Government, they are not sure whether the figures are correct!! BBC - "HBOS: Strong men will weep".
International Bridge toll increasing
Sault Star (Ontario) - "Bridge tolls on the way up, but there's some relief — Toll for passenger vehicles climbs to $3 effective April 1".
America continues to slide - CNN - "Is Citi the next AIG?" CNN - "GDP slides 6.2% on slower spending" CNN - "Feds step deeper into Citi bailout".
With all the concentration on the Credit Crunch and a little attention on a war or two, there has not been much attention paid to the draft Federal Budget for the next year (October 2009 to September 2010) - Office of Management and Budget- "A New Era of Responsibility - Renewing America’s Promise" pdf- which was published yesterday. The summary on page 114 shows that expenditure is to increase by nearly a trillion dollars from 2,983 billion to 3,938 billion. Receipts will decline by a few hundred billion dollars to 2,186 billion. The deficit will be 1,752 billion dollars. The Government will be spending one dollar eighty cents for every one dollar that it gets as income. With figures like these perhaps the Federal Government should go into the banking business!
More E tolls fun - Indiana's NewsCenter - "Tollway Mystery" WCVB Boston - "Turnpike Blames Overcharging On Technology - Cars Being Mistaken For Larger Trucks".
Sundry stories - Texas - "The New LBJ: More lanes, tolls ahead" inc video Massachusetts - "Toll To Get To Cape?" inc video Florida - "Grand Jury report due on Expressway Authority" Florida - "25-cent expressway toll hike approved, will start April 5" California - "HOT toll lanes commute to Bay Area" Texas - "$2 billion project will add tolls, speed to LBJ Freeway"
Illinois - "No Blago is a good sign" Florida - "Lee County road study calls for more lanes, some tolls" Land Line Mag - "Colorado House OKs road funding bill; tolls, truck fee increases included" Virginia - "Locals Wary of 95/395 HOT Lanes Project" Florida - "Proposed Toll Rate Hike Could Cost Drivers Hundreds" inc video.
A bit more on Massachusettts toll and gas hikes -
Daily News - "Driving in Mass. will cost you - one way or another" Wicked - "A new Tea Party?" Salem News - "Look for tax-and-toll combo" Wicked - "Editorial with poll: Patrick’s transportation plan just a start" Metro West Daily - "GOP lawmakers blast Patrick's toll hike, gas tax ideas" Wicked - "GOP blasts Dems; Sciortino responds: We need reform and revenue" Daily News Tribune - "Editorial: Living with gas price hikes".
More on the new bridge tolls to subsidise mass transit plans backed by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver - NY Daily News - "Silver minds the gap: Assembly speaker shows guts in backing bridge tolls to save mass transit" Newsday - "Slow down this train" Newsday - "Sheldon Silver's plan to add bridge tolls praised" Poughkeepsie Journal - "Editorial: MTA rescue involves misdirected pain"
Yonkers Tribune - "Editorial: MTA rescue involves misdirected pain" NY Times - "Editorial A Smart Way to Help Commuters" Brooklyn Paper - "Shelly’s bridge toll plan divides Brooklyn" NY Daily News - "Albany's Sheldon Silver leans toward okaying tolls to cross East River" Politics on the Hudson - "Silver On MTA Plan: “This Is The Best We Could Do”" NY1 - "Paterson Pushes Recommended Plan For MTA".
There has still been little comment on "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" proposals - Financial Planning - "Tax-Credit Transportation Bonds Urged" AP - "Panel: Raise gas tax, charge drivers by the mile" Land Line Mag - "Commission recommends tolls and taxes, but no reform" LA Times - "Commission recommends federal gas tax increase" InsideGNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) - "Federal Commission Backs Mileage Fees over Gas Taxes, Champions GPS Technology" Traffic World - "Commission Recommends VMT".
Folowing Paul Mulshine's column on Tuesday 24th, someone has sent him a message, possibly by mistake, indicating troll plans - NJ Voices - "They're serious about watching you from outer space".
Portugal warned over EU road tolls for trucks
Portugal News - "Portugal handed final road charging warning".
Latest on House Prices
BBC - "House prices down 15.1% in a year".
Average house prices per the Land Registry reached their highest of £184,725 (Index 295.4) in January 2008, so this January 2009 fall is from the all time peak. Average house prices are still slightly higher than they were in January 2005, so all that has happened is that they have lost 4 year's of growth. The Land Registry index figure is now at 250.7 (base of 100 was January 1995), which is of course 150% inflation over 14 years, an average of 6.8% a year.
Welsh Assembly consulting Scots over Severn crossing tolls
Western Mail - "Assembly committee meeting to be held in Scotland".
More on Humber Tolls Inquiry
The Inquiry into the proposed tolls increase starts on Tuesday 3rd March and is expected to last at least 3 days because of the strong opposition to having any tolls - Hull Daily Mail - "Rallying call for bridge toll inquiry".
PS Tolls are to be lifted for those attending the Inquiry - Scunthorope Telegraph - "Tolls totally lifted for inquiry".
Whitchurch Tolls Increase Inquiry
The group campaigning against Whitchurch tolls" has issued this press release-
The Minister for Transport has ordered a public inquiry (date has not been set yet) to be held into the Whitchurch Toll Bridge following the application to double the toll. This follows a campaign by local residents to hold just such a public inquiry. The campaign was backed by local MPs (Martin Salter and John Howell) from both banks of the river and both main political parties. The call for an inquiry was also joined by SODC and by the three parish councils nearest to the bridge (Pangbourne, Goring Heath and Whitchurch).
The application to double the toll on Whitchurch Bridge follows a doubling in 2005. The bridge company claim that they are short of funds for a rebuilding of the bridge due in 2013. The objectors to the increase point out that the toll company had sufficient funds to increase their dividend payments by 60% over the last three years.
Colin Cooper, spokesperson for TollFreeze.com, said, “The Whitchurch Bridge Company has had more than one hundred years to plan and put aside funds to rebuild the bridge when it reaches its design-life. The fact that they have had to effectively double the tolls twice recently (1995 and 2005) and now seek to do so again shows that something is seriously wrong. The fact that they continue to pay themselves a handsome dividend, and to even increase it substantially, just as they claim a shortfall in funds, is simply rewarding a clear failure on their part. It raises real questions about why the county council chooses to allow this antiquated way to pay for maintenance of a bridge to continue. This is a debate that was held and won in the 1870s – not the 21st century. A public inquiry is long overdue”.
Cambridge loses part of tolls consultation
Cambridge News - "Traffic inquiry data lost in website glitch".
As everyone knows that the Commission will recommend tolls, it really doesn't matter if they lose all the consultation replies.
Second thoughts on Malaysian Toll increases
Malaysia Today - "Unexpected Abdullah respite for toll hikes, cabinet to reconsider today " The Star - "Groups call for buyouts, new highway deals".
Bankers still looking on the bright side
In the year ended 31st December 2008, HBOS made a loss of £10.8 billion pre tax - BBC - "Lloyds sees HBOS loss of £10.8bn" HBOS press release (pdf). HBOS has just been acquired by Lloyds TSB, and reading the just published press release from Lloyds gives one a feeling of unreality.
Lloyds seem to think that they got a bargain acquiring they say £17.9 billion of HBOS net assets for only £7.7 billion. Pre the HBOS aquisition, Lloyds made a profit of £807 million, though they " believe a more appropriate way to view the results is to look at our performance on a continuing business basis, and taking this approach the Group profit before tax was £2,426 million". They highlight "resilient business performance", "Robust income performance", "Excellent cost management", "Strong liquidity and funding position", "Robust capital ratios", and say "asset quality remains satisfactory". As with the statements of most (but not all) major British companies this is just spin that is ignored by the auditors who supposedly look after the interests of shareholders.
The really grim news for Lloyds shareholders (nearly half of which is owned by the Government) is buried in a "pro forma" statement at the end of the press release - on top of what is in the HBOS and Lloyds accounts there are £13 billion of negative "Estimated fair value adjustments" - Lloyds press release. Despite the usual leaks via the BBC, the accounts for 2008 were still not available on the bank's website at 4PM (see PS at top of today's news).
Thursday 26 February 2009
Latest on "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" proposals
So far there has been little comment - NY Times - "Blue-ribbon panel endorses road pricing, shift from gas tax " Christian Science Monitor - "A road map to better US roads - Congress should heed a panel that suggests replacing a tax on gas with one on miles driven" NY Times - "Raise Gas Tax, Then Move to Mileage Tax, Federal Commission Says".
Never mind the Billions what about the pounds?
Odd that the main story today has not been the further vast sums being given to the banks, but the loot that is being taken by one banker - BBC - "Ex-RBS chief vows to keep pension". Even odder is that the whole system is based on the establishment relying on the proles not being aware that it is not only football players who are vastly overpaid.
New National Audit Head says that bank auditors are not to blame
This was at the Public Accounts Cttee on 11th February, but there appears to have been no previous report of it. The new NAO head told MPs that auditors are not supposed "to predict what happens if there is a major financial slump or a crisis of the kind that we have got. They are a true and fair view based on the assumptions that are appropriate at the time." - Accountancy Age - "New NAO chief defends audit of banks".
Sundry stories - Massachusetts - "Fast Lane overcharges drivers" Wisconsin - "Tollbooths merit consideration" Virginia - "Locals Wary of 95/395 HOT Lanes Project" Florida - "Vote On Toll Increase Slated For Today" inc video Florida - "Toll increase proposed" California - "A fair toll for carpoolers on Bay Area bridges" Connecticut - "Toll plan an insult to citizens of state" New York - "Mayor Plans to Close Parts of Broadway to Traffic" Washington State - "Kilmer’s 4 bills ensure our tolls aren’t misused" Florida - "Taking a toll" video Louisiana - "Privatization option may be more costly".
Two views on the Pennsylvania plan to build new rail lines financed by new tolls on roads - Reading Eagle - "Why shouldn't motorists help pay for regional rail?" Reading Eagle - "Don't use tolls to pay for train".
St Petersburg Times (Florida) - "Sansom's friend pushes for toll road through nature preserve".
New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who was credited with stopping the Bloomberg congestion pricing plan is backing tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges with the income from drivers being used to keep mass transit fares down - NY 1 - "Silver Expresses Support For East River Tolls" Daily News - "Sheldon Silver proposes $2 toll plan for East River bridges" NY Times - "Silver Proposes Tolls on East and Harlem River Bridge".
The "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" report has just been published. Apart from the usual trolls, the Commission included a representative of RBS one of the two biggest UK funders of PFI schemes. It has just had a further bail out from UK taxpayers which could be worth up to $450 billion if all the transferred assets are written off.
As expected the Commission recommends replacing the gas tax with tolls based on miles travelled. However it sees this as a long term "solution". In the interim it recommends increasing existing taxes (gas and tolls). Unbelievably it also advocates "financial programs .. focused on facilitating
partnerships with the private sector". It appears that the money raised from drivers would also fund all mass transit spending - "Paying Our Way" full report (large pdf file) summary (pdf file).
More on Massachusettts toll and gas hikes, including various interests claiming that the increases will save drivers money -
Boston Herald - "FastLane slips in stealth fees" Daily News Tribune - "Editorial: Making bad tolls worse" NECN - "Baddour on taxes, tolls: Reform before revenue" inc video Republican - "Bay State gas tax increase to hurt border stations" Boston Globe - "Patrick says he's flexible on size of gas tax hike" Eagle Tribune - "Urgent action needed on transportation" Boston Globe - "Gas tax: Paying cents to save big bucks" Milford Daily News - "Legislators mull gas tax vs. toll hikes"
Wicked - "Patrick would veto gas tax hike he deemed insufficient" WCVB - "Reps Grapple With Gas Tax Pressure" inc video NECN - "Horns honk in protest of gas tax hike" WCVB - "Raising Gas Taxes in Massachusetts".
More Transport Stats
Just in case you needed confirmation that the country is ruled by madmen, the DfT have today issued statistics on what it seems is one of Britain's top priorities - "Public Attitudes towards climate change and the impact of transport" (links at top right to report, tables and questionaire).
The Government will be pleased that 95 per cent of people are fooled into being concerned to some degree about man made Global warming, that only 1% don't believe in it and that 8% actually believe that it is the most important issue facing Britain. Though the DfT don't detail how this concern compared with other issues such as crime, and people were not of course asked whether they were concerned at all about population growth.
The Government will also be pleased that only 29% agree with freedom to use cars as against 41% that oppose such freedom. Even if you only take the figures for drivers it is similar with 32% supporting freedom to use cars and 39% opposing it - it seems that the politicians have almost succeeded in making driving a crime.
Amongst the many questions, was this one - "The UK has signed the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement which commits this country to reducing emissions thought to cause climate change. This includes emissions from cars and domestic plane journeys. Bearing this in mind, which, if any, of the following policies would you support?". Despite the loaded question the only things supported by a majority were spending more on buses (60%), spending more on trains (58%) and "More safe routes for children to walk to school" (55%). People were not in favour of any of the options were they were putting their hand in their (or someone else's) pocket - only 37% for "Higher taxes on less environmentally friendly cars", 16% for "Charging motorists to enter more towns and cities", 8% for "Increasing tax on petrol" and 5% for "Increasing car parking charges". On flying, 19% were in favour of increasing the cost.
Great Bank BUST (Story revised following issue of the official statements)
RBS once the pride of Scotland was effectively bust though Alistair Darling has done his best to disguise this - not difficult given the gullibility of the British public and the practised obfuscation of British politicians.
In order that the bank was able to produce accounts as a going concern, the Government has taken over £325 billion ($460 billion) of toxic debts in exchange for a fee of only £6.25 billion ($9 billion) - the sort of fee that would have been expected if the Government had been acquiring triple AAA debts - for toxic debts at this time a commercial fee would have been a lot nearer to the full nominal value of the debts.
Laughably the Government has in effect given RBS the money to pay this "fee", as it has also handed over to them another £13 billion ($18.5 billion) in exchange for non voting shares and has committed itself to give RBS another £6 billion when they ask for it.
The toxic debts of £325 billion had already been written down by RBS to £302 billion. So it appears that net of the £6.25 billion insurance fee (which the Government in effect paid to themselves) RBS have been given a further immediate benefit of £17 billion. RBS appears to be left with about £59 billion of net "assets" that have not in effect been taken over by the Government. One oddity is that this is an increase from the £53 billion of net assets a year earlier. The increase is because shareholders (almost entirely the Government) in the year to 31st December 2008 had already given RBS £32 billion of cash in exchange for more pieces of paper, and because the provisions for toxic debts are far less than otherwise as the Government has insured over £300 billion of them.)
It was initially reported that the Government losses on the £325 billion were nominally capped at £19.5 billion ($28 billion), but in fact this is the amount that RBS will themselves nominally bear. As further assets are written off the Government will bear 90% and RBS 10%. But this is all meaningless as RBS is only still going because of what the Government has already given it and the Government is in effect responsible for all the liabilities of the bank.
Even after all this the bank still declared losses of £24 billion ($34 billion), but the share price shot up as it is now clear that the Government will pump in whatever is needed to keep the bank nominally not nationalised - BBC - "RBS reports record corporate loss" Reuters - "RBS asset insurance fee not "standard" -UK govt" CNN - "RBS posts record $34 billion loss" ABC - "RBS Posts Record Loss, Unveils Restructuring Plan".
RBS press release and their latest accounts etc - links to all docs their accounts only (pdf).
Bit more on Humber Tolls Debate
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Commons debate: Ministers urged to reject bridge tolls rise" Grimsby Telegraph - "Local MPs back demands".
Hansard - full report of Tuesday's Adjournment debate on Humber Bridge Tolls (over two pages).
Toll increases, though a few tolls removed
The Edge - "BNBBC against toll hike, urges Cabinet to review move" The Star - "Toll increase from March 1 for five highways".
Wednesday 25 February 2009
Travel is not moving
This week's BBC radio "Analysis" programme discuses the importance of mobility to people and suggests that the amount of time and money spent on travelling through necessity or for pleasure has changed little over history. Comments include one that runs counter to orthodoxy by saying that subsidising public transport just encourages people to travel more - BBC iplayer- "Plan to keep fares rising denied" transcript.
Trams fiasco continues
Edinburgh Evening News - "Trams boss: 'We won't be held to ransom' over extra £80m" lots more comments BBC - "Design changes blamed in tram row" BBC - "Auditor asked to review tram row" Scotsman - "Tram trouble: 'Dispute could leave project on a knife edge'" Press release - "SNP demand end to tram misery".
This mess symbolises what is wrong in Scotland and the rest of Britain - incompetent and overpaid British management, use of foreign firms, and politicians (most of them) who will go for any daft idea if it has a green label. The people behind this scheme are the same ones as those who pushed the Edinburgh Congestion charge. It does not augur well for the second Forth road crossing that the SNP were also bounced into supporting. The estimated costs of this scheme beggar belief, even after it has been cut down to an inadequate two lanes each way, and they have already contracted to spend £100 million on pre design work. It might be better if the authorities could find some less painful way of handing public money over to those who gain from this extravagance.
Fat Cats still pushing tolling
RoadTransport.com - "Road network is failing, says CBI".
As it is summer in the Antarctic, it was apparently safe to let politicians and newsmen lose to prove that Global warming really does exist. Their outing was appropriately at Norway's "Troll" Antarctic research station. According to the BBC and others, scientists have now proved that it is getting warmer "at the South Pole" - Smart Brief - "Scientists, wonks meet in Antarctica to hear new warming evidence" BBC - "Ministerial meeting in Antarctica". What is not made clear is that though the western part of the continent appears to be getting warmer, the eastern part of the continent, the surrounding sea and the South Pole itself seemed to be getting colder, but it seems that the global warming scientists have now "reevaluated" the figures.
PS A heretical view from Japan - The Register - "Japan's boffins: Global warming isn't man-made - Climate science is 'ancient astrology', claims report".
Florida suspends license of driver who missed a fifty cent toll due to a passenger having a heart attack. He will have to go to court - WFtv - "Man's License Suspended Despite Paying Toll" inc video.
More on LaHood's suggestion for replacing gas tax with a toll based on miles driven. Judging by the defence of LaHood from the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee it seems that despite the rebuttal from the White House, the Transportation Secretary may have just been letting the cat out of the bag a bit early - ABC News - "Democratic Congressman v Gibbs" Land Line Mag - "Much ado about a mileage tax" Washington Independent - "Experts Say LaHood Tax Plan Has Merit".
PS Leaks - Market Watch - "The U.S. Should Shift From the Gas Tax to a Mileage-Based Usage Fee by 2020 - The current federal motor fuels tax is unsustainable over the long term"indicate that tomorrow's expected report from the "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" will back the tolls plan.
President talks the talk - CNN - transcript of speech ABC - "Obama: 'Day of Reckoning' for U.S. Economy" CNN - "Obama outlines ambitious agenda for 'lasting prosperity'" BBC - "Determined Obama vows to renew US"
The new President talks like a populist, but the reality seems to be that though the old vehicle should be scrapped, America will follow policies which dig it into even deeper debt by trying to repair the old one. To the extent that there are "new" policies such as "clean coal" they come from the greens and like most of their ideas make things less efficient and more uneconomic. He is a fan of "new plug-in hybrids", but doesn't like them running "on batteries made in Korea" (though as most of these batteries depend on rare metals, they may soon not be being made anywhere on this planet). This and other recent speeches suggest that the President is planning a trade war. Given the vast trade imbalance against America, such a war would create a lot of American jobs even though it might increase prices, but it is more likely that the President has no intention of doing this and is just saying what he knows his audience wants to hear.
More on Massachusettts toll and gas hikes, where some interests such as "The Republican" newspaper are pushing for higher tolls and gas tax to bail out the mismanaged Big Dig, featherbedded employees and the mass transit system -
Worcester Telegram - "Officials hope Pike toll hike provisional" Boston Herald - "Gas tax hike protested at State House" Cape Cod Today - "Christy's Stimulus Plan for Massachusetts" Boston Globe - "GOP gas tax protest draws dozens"
WCVB - "GOP Lawmakers To Protest Toll Hikes - Legislators Must Make Decision On Gas Tax" inc video Milford Daily News - "Editorial: Making bad tolls worse" Somerville News - "State Transportation Reform: Serious Leadership for Serious Times" Republican - "Hiking tolls, gas tax add up to solution" Republican - "Lost in transit"
South Coast Today - "Mass. drivers face Turnpike toll increase" Salem News - "Senate president touts transportation reform" Boston Globe - "Turnpike OK's toll increases, awaits decision on gas tax" Metro West - "Local lawmakers blast Pike board for toll vote" Metro - "The vote is in, and your toll is going up" Boston Herald - "Pols turn on Gov. Deval Patrick over gas tax - Board votes to increase Turnpike tolls"
Boston Herald - "Pin the stickup at the tolls on Deval Patrick" The Crimson - "Fueling Change" The Republican - "Transit official says gas tax increase will benefit Western Mass." NECN - "Turnpike Authority approves toll hikes" inc video Reuters - "Massachusetts Turnpike OKs higher tolls"
Wicked - "Turnpike Authority approves toll hike" Valley Advocate - "Between the Lines: From Big Dig to Gas Tax" Boston Herald - "Turnpike approves toll hike before gov files reform bill".
Other stories - Texas - "Pact Approved By Court Calls For Tolls, Overpasses On Fort Bend’s Portion Of Grand Parkway" Oregon / Washington State - "The way forward across the river" Florida - "Ex-roads director: Try other options before toll hike" Pennsylvania - "Bill aims to ban tolling on I-80" Washington State - "No new bridge? No tolls" Maryland - "Charge toll on bikeway, not ICC, as proposed" "Colorado roads bill inches ahead"
Pennsylvania - "Rail plan switches tracks" Florida - "We think: The Expressway Authority hasn't yet made the case for a toll hike" Kentucky - "Turnpike authority bill filed in Kentucky House".
More on proposal to introduce tolls to reduce congestion on Halifax bridge
Chronicle Herald - "Gearing up for gridlock".
Welsh Lib Dems still pushing to make tolls easier
Free Press - "Cash-only tolls a 'mystery'". Rather sad that any politician could think that this was progress. What next - a softer grade of hemp for the hangman's noose?
It seems that the train operating companies are expecting deflation which would mean that they have to reduce fares and they have asked for a fares freeze - BBC - "Plan to keep fares rising denied".
Given the vast amounts that the Government is force feeding into the financial system, it will be amazing if the RPI goes down over the two years. If it does, then it is likely that the train operators would freeze wages and and that some of their other costs would fall. And if we are to believe what is said about the dire effects of deflation, then there would be falling demand and any increase in fares might actually mean less income for train operators. So why such a strange story?
Proposal to deprivatize North-South Expressway and remove toll in six years
The Sun - "IBuy PLUS shares, toll-free after 2015 : DAP" Malaysian Insider - "DAP shows how North South Expressway can be toll-free by 201".
Proposal to introduce tolls to reduce congestion on bridge
Metro (Halifax) - "Could 'societal change' cut back on bridge congestion?".
Plea for cash without strings
Birmingham Post - "Release cash for public transport in Birmingham now".
More on China's answer to Hilary
Auto Channel - "China Aims To Merge Carmaking Groups To 10".
Melbourne toll road losing money
Sydney Morning Herald - "ConnectEast delivers loss, cuts distribution".
Humber Tolls Debate & Demo
Minister fobs off MPs - Hull Daily Mail- "Disappointment over bridge debate" BBC - "Bridge debt pay-off call rejected" Hull Daily Mail - "Government will not pay off Humber Bridge debt" Grimsby Telegraph - "Bridge tolls debate underway".
Humber Action Against Tolls have organised a brief demonstration for this Saturday. They are asking people to meet at both ends of the Bridge at 9.30am, to start walking at 9.45am and meet in the middle - Grimsby Telegraph - "Tolls protest planned".
Tuesday 24 February 2009
Paul Mulshine reacting to LaHood's suggestion for replacing gas tax with a per mile toll - Star Ledger (NJ) - "A gas tax for every mile, a mile for every gas tax".
Some other reaction over last few days - Delmarva - "Mileage tax a step in wrong direction" Land Line Mag - "Obama administration nixes vehicle-mile tax concept for now" Washington Independent - "A Premature Obit for LaHood’s VMT Tax Plan?"
The Intelligencer (West Virginia) - "Tax Idea Far From A ‘Green’ Policy" National Journal "Expert blog" (ten of them and all trolls) - "Should A Mileage Tax Eventually Replace The Gas Tax?" One News Now(Christian) - "Does proposed 'mileage tax' have hidden agenda?"
Baltimore Sun (Maryland) - "LaHood's mileage tax idea height of stupidity" Daily News Tribune (Massachusetts) - "New way to pay as you go" Dulcinea - "As States Consider Mileage Tax, Obama Administration Split" NewsOK (Oklahoma) - "Will highway patrol add mileage checks?" Courier Express (Pennsylvania) - "Mileage tax for cars? Oh, phooey" Detroit News - "Mich. studies tax per miles driven".
9News (Colorado) - "Going incredible lengths to avoid paying tolls".
Toll protestors in court over freedom - Cape May County Herald (NJ) - "Protestors Have Their Day in Court".
From one of the high priests of tolls and private roads - Forbes - "Let's Stimulate Smart Highways".
More from Massachusettts where the Governor and his troll advisers are taking drivers for a very expensive ride - Wicked - "Lawmakers urge delay of toll vote, doubt gas tax support" Boston Herald - "Turnpike board set to vote toll increase" WBZ - "Turnpike Board To Vote On Toll Hikes, But..." Milford Daily News - "Connaughton: Gas tax plus tolls no bargain" Boston Herald - "Gov adds insult to injury"
Boston Globe - "Bumpy ride ahead for Pike toll rates" Metro - "State may buy Tobin Bridge off Massport" NECN - "Aloisi: Patrick will veto gas tax without reforms" inc video TMC - "Patrick plan fuels debate".
Other stories - Texas - "Crammed 1604 point might not need tolls" New York - "MTA makes final push on Albany to pass bailout and avoid fare hikes" Connecticut - "Money Main Focus During Hearing On Highway Tolls" New Jersey - "Readers say toll hikes are taking big toll on their wallets" California - "For Whom the Tolls Irk"
Florida - "Toll Road Drivers May See 25-Cent Hike" Connecticut - "Tolls could return to state highways".
A year away from no tolls, or forever?
Penrith City Star - "M4 commuters - free at last!".
China gives answer to Hilary
Forbes - "Cars For Comrades". It seems that Human rights and Tibet were abandoned for nothing.
Government scatters some lose change
The Government has divided £10.7 million from its "Urban Congestion Performance Fund" between ten areas - Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Merseyside, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands, London, West of England, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. This includes areas where the Government wants to introduce road tolls - Bristol Evening Post - "Bristol gets extra £500k to cut congestion" Manchester Evening News - "£1m bonus as congestion falls".
Bit on Humber Tolls Debate
Grimsby Telegraph - "Minister to face calls to abolish bridge tolls" Hull Daily Mail - "MPs to hear toll debate".
More money is poured into one hole, while an even bigger hole is ignored
BBC - "Taxpayer may get £500bn liability" BBC - "Mail pensions 'facing collapse'".
It's odd that there is an unlimited amount of money to put the crashed financial system back on the road, but the Post Office has to be sold off to foreign companies. If the real reason for this was the pensions deficit, then on the same basis most of the public services including the Police, the Army, the Education system and the State pension "system" would have to be sold off as their pensions are completely unfunded and their liabilities must run into trillions (see "More news to cheer you up" on 25th January
Monday 23 February 2009
Tolls Discount for people going to Humber Tolls Inquiry
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Half toll gesture is a welcome move" Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Bridge tolls will be lifted for those attending inquiry".
"Post-finance New York" theNewspaper.com - "Congressman Revives Effort to Ban Freeway Tolls" Massachusetts - "New way to pay as you go" "D.C.'s new transportation chief won't rule out tolls".
Florida - "These guys just don't get it . . ." letter Florida - "The nation's giant Ponzi scheme" letter Maryland - "Toll-road rage over modest monthly fee for E-ZPass runs out of gas" North Carolina - "Tolls May Be Ahead For North Raleigh Drivers"
California - "Bridge authorities considering carpooling toll".
Lib Dem councillors want to back Cambridge Con
Cambridge Evening News - "Call to support congestion fee".
Tory Councils driving in different directions on parking
Transport Crucible - "Top Conservative councils head in opposite directions to pioneer the new 'right' way to go with parking charges".
Banned from the new toll road
NewsTalk - "Car rental cos failing to cope with tolls" Car Rentals - "New Zealand rental car company bans toll road use". Meanwhile a new untolled bridge is being built - NZ Herald - "Second bridge now halfway to completion".
Slovakia gives toll contract to most expensive bid and keeps details secret
Spectator - "Contract kept under wraps".
The Dynamic Duo
Britain and America continue to lead the way with "Britain" getting eight Oscars including best picture for a film set in the Bombay slums about someone who takes part in "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", and one for Best actress for Kate Winslett as an ex concentration camp guard - CNN - "A rich night for best picture 'Slumdog Millionaire'" BBC - "The Oscars 2009".
Thogh Hollywood seems more real than what is going on in the minds of business, finance and political leaders in both countries. The same people who crashed the Capitalist car, are now giving advice on how to get back to "normal". Their policy seems to boil down to putting a lot more fuel in the tank and doping the vehicle occupants - particularly the driver. Meanwhile more money is being thown into the fire and it seems that if nothing else the banks will have plenty of cash to pay bonuses - Wall Street Journal - "U.S. Eyes Large Stake in Citi"   Guardian - "Treasury finalises £250bn cover". The British Government is also putting more money into trying to reflate the housing price bubble - just the ticket for those who have two homes - BBC - "Rock to revive mortgage lending".
Sunday 22 February 2009
Tory money comes from a tax exile?
BBC - "Watchdog probes Tory donor's firm" Telegraph - "Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft to be investigated by Electoral Commission".
As with most sleaze affecting individual MPs and their parties most of them will keep mum and cross their fingers, including of course the Lib Dems who's campaign at the last General election was mainly funded by a foreign con man - Independent 29th November - "Lib Dems' biggest donor stole money".
A bit more on the Massachusetts Governor's planned substantial increase in gas tax. The details of his plan are still not clear, particularly as the web site that is supposed to reveal all - You Move Massachusetts is not currently working. But it seems from the Governor's speech - "Comprehensive Transportation Reform" that most of the gas tax increase is to be spent on subsidising mass transit, though this seems to have been ignored by most of the news media. Here are some of the stories which appeared since yesterday - Wicked - "Cambridge residents split on gas tax hike" Boston Herald - "Gas tax, Pike hike add fuel to fire" with comments Enterprise News - "Brockton area drivers spurn plan for gas tax hike" inc video Enterprise News Tribune - "Some lawmakers say higher gas tax makes sense" Enterprise News- "Reform and revenue for transportation".
Other stories - New York - "Councilman takes the toll road" New York - "No tolls on the V-N? Keep dreaming" California - "Carpool lanes might allow solo drivers" West Virginia - "Manchin: No timetable set for ’pike toll increase"
North Carolina - "Tolls May Be Ahead For North Raleigh Drivers" inc video Pennsylvania - "Montco rail plan eyes toll revenue from Route 422" California - "Restart of bridge toll considered to pay for tunnel, reduce traffic" Pennsylvania - "Dwindling traffic saps turnpike of additional revenue" Florida - "Toll fight looming" inc video California - "Public wary of The City’s congestion-pricing plans".
Saturday 21 February 2009
Hilary is in China and has said that issues like Human rights and Tibet are not important and that the Capitalist crisis and Global warming are more important - CNN - "Clinton: Chinese 'human rights can't interfere' with other crises".
There was something strange about the story that LaHood was planning to accelerate down the road towards tolls on all highways and a phasing out of gas taxes. Almost no news sources reported it, apart from the few that we mentioned yesterday, there was only about one more - Automotive News - "We hate the gas tax, but would we change?". Another odd thing is that the his own department issued a denial - CNN - "Transportation agency: Obama will not pursue mileage tax" AP - "Obama nixes plan to tax motorists on mileage" Washington Post - "Gibbs: LaHood Comments on Gas Tax Not Administration Policy".
The Massachusetts Governor's final proposals are now known, sort of. There is to be a substantial increase in gas tax, but the tolls will remain. A large part of the gas tax will be spent on paying off mass transit debts and even indirectly the cost of an airport -
Bostonist - "MassDebate: Commentary on the Gas Tax and Turnpike Trashing" Eagle Tribune - "Governor's proposed gas tax increase fuels frustration for station owner " Worcester Telegram - "Patrick seeks 19-cent gas tax hike"
Sun Chronicle - "Patrick's gas tax hike faces roadblock" Republican - "Gasoline tax hike draws ire in region" Republican - "Merchants gird for business hit" Boston Globe - "Motorists cringe at gas tax plans"
Cape Cod Times - "Patrick pushes gas tax hike" Standard Times - "Part of gas tax hike would fund South Coast Rail" Boston Herald - "Deval Patrick revs up gas tax hike" Boston Globe - "Don't forget the rest of the state"
Herald News - "Patrick calls for gas tax hike" Wicked - "Patrick asks drivers for $8 month" Boston Channel - "Gov. Wants Gas Tax Hike, Nixes Turnpike Authority"
Boston Globe - "Will GM cuts foil Patrick's car tax plans?" Business Week - "Mass. drivers face 19-cent gas tax hike under plan".
Campaigners encourage people to go to Humber Tolls Inquiry
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Bridge tolls campaign gathers pace".
Bit more on Trams fiasco
Edinburgh Evening News - "Contractors face axe over demands for tram money" lots of comments Scotsman - "Capital trams face another year's delay".
Friday 20 February 2009
USA Roundup - later stories
New York - "Health risk at Grand Island tolls" Massachusetts - "Will GM cuts foil Patrick's car tax plans?" American Thinker - "Hey! Let's allow Big Brother to keep track of our highway mileage!" Wisconsin - "Doyle: "I Don't Support Toll Roads"" Pennsylvania - "422 Tolls Proposed to Fund Road Improvements, Train Line".
When we and others were campaigning against the Edinburgh "congestion charge" plans, we were joined by those who may have been indifferent on that issue but were opposed to the object that the supposed profits would be spent on - trams. The Labour City Council was replaced by a Lib Dem led coalition that was still keen on trams, and last year all the other parties at Holyrood ganged up on the SNP to force the trams scheme through. The construction of the tram lines has caused massive chaos, with a moratorium around Christmas and there is now a problem with the cost of the scheme - Edinburgh Evening News - "Tram wars as German contractor walks off the job" Telegraph - "Edinburgh's excitement as tram scheme could be binned" BBC - "Contract row derails tram project". This story was published just before the latest development - Scotsman - "Road closed… but Edinburgh still open".
Unions say an unnamed car plant may close
BBC - "UK car plant 'at risk of closure'".
Trolls still at it - 1
London trolls unleashed through the pages of the Evening Standard - "The Mayor needs a Plan B to avoid getting stuck in traffic problem" "Tell us, Boris, how you'll stop jams when the C-charge extension goes".
This and other recent stories show that those who want to grab more money from drivers are still very powerful and prepared to invest in another assault.
Trolls still at it - 2
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association are trying to revive the road pricing corpse - Fleet News - "Road pricing the only solution to congestion". The association are part of the DfT's so called "Motorists' Forum" which includes various establishment interests such as the Police and CBI and excludes the only two bodies that really represent motorists - the ABD and the Driver's Alliance.
Trolls still at it - 3
"Centre of Cities" the group that champions "congestion charging" and has strong links to Manchester is telling Obama to go for congestion charging - Public Service - "Lessons we can share with Obama, part one".
LaHood has now confirmed that the new Administration will accelerate down the road towards tolls on all highways and a phasing out of gas taxes - Associated Press - "LaHood eyes taxing miles driven".
This again raises the question of why the oil industry lobby and the various troll interests are so successful in getting what they want.
It also indicated that the "National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission" has won its tussle with the "National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission" who wanted increases in the gas tax. The Infrastructure Financing Commission members include toll advocates, "consultants" and private finance interests (including RBS which is now owned by the British government) and it is due to release its final report on the 26th. Its website says - "The Commission will offer specific recommendations for increasing investment in transportation infrastructure while at the same time moving the Federal Government away from reliance on motor fuel taxes toward more direct fees charged to transportation infrastructure users." It also says that its aim is "Building what President Obama calls “the roads and bridges…necessary to make this country great again.”".
It should be known today what the Massachusetts Governor's final proposals are after airing possible increases in gas tax, tolls going up and down and out, a mileage tax, and a "gas guzzler" auto tax - Wicked - "Patrick to seek 19-cent gas tax hike" Mass Live - "MA drivers face 19-cent gas tax hike under plan" WWLP - "Gas tax announcement
expected today" inc video NECN - "Gov. Patrick favors steep gas tax hike" inc video Worcester Telegram - "Airport takeover, Patrick also seeks increase in gas tax" Boston Globe - "Patrick seeks hike of 19 cents in gas tax" Boston Herald - "Transportation bill won’t stall toll vote" CBS - "Tolls Versus Gas Increase" inc video Wired - "Tax a Hummer, Save a Highway" NECN - "Gov. Patrick considers gas guzzler tax" inc video Wicked - "Many legislators, residents object to tax idea".
Meanwhile less people are using the toll road - Boston Globe - "Toll declines continue at Turnpike".
Other stories - Connecticut - "Wheels turn on tolls: State panel weighing 9 options, all electronic, to raise revenue" Connecticut - "Study recommends against setting up new tolls on I-95" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "Pa. Legislators: We Will Stop DRPA 'Pet Projects'" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "AAA Urges Corzine To Veto DRPA Spending"
Wisconsin - "Barrett Opposes Toll Roads" Florida - "Ax the Tax: Abolish the Expressway Authority" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "DRPA Decisions taking their toll here" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "DRPA will waste another $11 million" California - "Poll shows S.F. voters oppose tax proposals" New York - "Urgent new call to tear down tolls"
Virginia - "Toll road authority measure advances" Pennsylvania - "Tolls on Route 422 could put rail line into Berks on track" Connecticut - "Lawmakers approach toll decision" Arkansas - "Lawmaker Proposes Financing Plan For Bella Vista Bypass" California - "Toll Returning to Coronado Bridge?"
Pennsylvania - "Legislation would prohibit the tolling of federal highways" Oregon - "Portland City Council asks: What do you think of tolling on I-205?" Wisconsin - "Doyle clarifies toll road statements" inc audio California - "Coronado Officials To Discuss Bridge Toll Return" inc video Connecticut - "Study: Tolls could hurt state's business climate"
Washington State - "Tolls could go up" Wisconsin - "Doyle Says He Still Opposes Toll Roads" video Washington State - "Kilmer sponsors bills to keep Narrows bridge costs down" North Carolina - "CAMPO calls for turning Outer Loop into toll road" North Carolina - "Toll booths may be in I-540's future" Pennsylvania - "I-80 tolls not dead" Colorado - "OOIDA Call to Action"
Texas - "NTTA, TxDOT reach complete State Highway 161 agreement" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "Critics rebuffed by port authority".
Boom expected in sale of life size dolls!
Portugal News - "Special lanes for high-occupancy cars".
End to Toll border war
Monsters & Critics - "Serbia levels highway toll charge for local and foreign traffic". NATO has denied that it planned to bomb Belgrade's bridges if it did not comply with European rules!!
Maquarie view of the new private finance model
More on the "privately" financed bridge at Port Mann, British Columbia where - "The government actually stepped in and they have underwritten the whole debt" - Business Spectator (Oz) - "Lessons from Canada".
World of two billion cars
The National - "Maximum overdrive".
When India became independent in 1947, the population (excluding Pakistan) was about 350 million, it is now 1.15 billion and is growing at 1.4% a year, if it maintains the current growth rate then by 2050 the Indian population will have reached two billion - let's hope that they can't all drive!
Thursday 19 February 2009
RHA reaction to "green" toll plans
roadtransport.com - "HGV pollution tax in race against time".
CBS (LA) - "New Weapon To Fight Traffic: Higher Parking Rates".
The DRPA yesterday agreed to continue using bridge tolls money to finance various pet schemes including the President's House memorial. The authority implied that the money spent on these schemes (over $300 million so far) had no effect on tolls, but few will have fallen for this - Philadelphia Inquirer - "DRPA OKs $11 million for six projects" Philadelphia Inquirer - "Should DRPA fund President’s House? No" Daily Times - "Despite protests, DRPA OKs projects" Courier Post - "DRPA gets pats, pans as it OKs $11M in grants" ABC - "DRPA's development plans conflict" inc video.
Hoax of the year? Oregon - "Willamette toll hearing just a formality, officials say".
Boston Herald - "Governor sees gas-hogs paying higher fees" Boston Globe - "Hummers might face extra fee". Drivers in Massachusetts are already dizzy with the many tax proposals from the Governor, but this new one may be the daftest. If you want to encourage fuel economy then you do it with a gas tax, not with a tax that is fixed even if your car never leaves the drive.
The Governor addressed a meeting of business people at which there was an impromptu vote on whether they supported a gas tax increase or a toll increase. Many sat on their hands but there was an overwhelming preference for gas tax to tolls - Wicked - "Patrick calls higher tolls, gas tax mutually exclusive" NECN - "Gov. Patrick turns tables on gas tax questioner at breakfast".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "On transportation, gov won’t get in gear" West Virginia - "Future of Tamarack, tolls" Washington State - "DOT’s use of Narrows bridge toll funds under fire" Florida - "DOT's lane math lies behind I-95 toll plan" New York - "Toll-And-Tax 'Poison' Best Cure For Mta Woes: Ravitch" Massachusetts - "Many legislators, residents object to tax idea"
Washington State - "House bill would limit toll to 520" Land Line Mag - "Colorado House panel OKs road funding bill with tolls, truck fee increases" Massachusetts - "Gas tax support part of broad solution " Wisconsin - "Governor not opposed to tolls" Connecticut - "State debates the goal of tolls".
Latest helicopter figures
Bank of England - "Provisional estimates of broad money (M4) and credit (M4 lending)
January 2009" The latest figures show that in the 12 months to the end of January, Britain's broad money supply grew by 17.5%. If the aim of the Bank is to make the pound worth-less they are doing well.
BBC - "US fraud charge tycoon disappears" This latest multi billion financial fraud again raises questions about the involvement of accountants, auditors, politicians and regulators. Why did they allow corruption and reckless risk taking on such a large scale?
Wednesday 18 February 2009
Popularity of tolls
Admiral Insurance have just published their latest - "Annual Survey of British Motorists" pdf file. The survey was done by You Gov who questioned 2,500 motorists.
It is amazing to us how popular tolls (Section 8 pages 24/26) are. 44% would use a toll road and 19% support more toll roads with 2% prepared to pay tolls of over five pounds. 20% support the London Congestion Charge, and 23% would support toll zones in other towns and cities. What is not revealed is how many of these people who are keen to pay more for using the roads are bankers or MPs.
Admiral have also provided a facility whereby the national results can be compared with the regions -
See "Results by region" at bottom of the page. It seems that Londoners are keener on tolls than people in the rest of Britain are.
India's "scamsters" to save the world's capitalist system?
Live Mint - "The Capitalist | India and China may hold the key to world’s economic survival".
The Home Secretary's "second home" allowance is to be reluctantly investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner - BBC - "Smith asked to explain expenses".
There is a rumour that to reinforce the War Against Terror there will be a decision that her second home will be redesignated as a tin shed somewhere in Afghanistan where more American troops are to be sent - BBC - "US to boost troops in Afghanistan". The war which has largely been fought by American and British troops started shortly after the horrific 9/11 attacks on New York. Allied forces invaded to overthrow the Afghan Government and to hunt for the elusive "al-Qaeda" - who were originally an American backed organisation based in Pakistan which organised mujahedeen volunteers to attack the Soviet Union forces backing the then Communist Government in Afghanistan.
View from Deutschland of planned Dutch road tolls
Der Spiegel - "Dutch Road Toll System Gets Surprising Green Light".
The Dutch system as we pointed out on the 18th December under the "Shape of things to come" is about the daftest plan that anyone could come up with. In fact it is so daft it may not be too long before we have it in Britain, particularly if the order comes from Brussels.
PS Some comments after the above report suggest that it is not yet certain that the Netherlands are daft enough to go ahead with actually implementing this plan.
Thai court rules against trolls claim
Bangkok Post - "Court dismisses expressway claim".
Tolls up, profits down
The Age - "Transurban cuts luxuries as crisis bites".
Private toll operators around the world are now wholly reliant on Governments who are forcing interest rates down and providing the trolls indirectly with finance. Is this a new capitalist model, where the people have to pay twice for their ball and chain?
The new Privatization blurs the lines - News Herald (Ohio) - "Public-private merger: A new capital offense?".
Auditor who was to try and clean up one Florida toll system resigns - Orlando Sentinel - "Xway auditor quits, citing 'posturing,' not reform".
Latest on Connecticut considering the reintroduction of tolls (it is one of the few States that removed tolls - due to deaths) - Stamford Advocate - "Panel to discuss results of tolls study".
More on the attempt to stop DRPA from distributing tolls money to their pet projects - The Bulletin (Philadelphia) - "DRPA To Vote On Funds Today" The Bulletin - "NJ Governor Corzine Holds DRPA Veto Power" Gloucester County Times (NJ) - "DRPA to decide on use of old funds for projects".
Though it seems that the attempt is doomed to fail as Governor Rendell is fully behind the rip-off - Philadelphia Inquirer - "Should DRPA fund President’s House? Yes".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "Decision On Gas Tax Or Toll Hike Coming Friday" Arkansas - "Council head: Fund bypass of 412 with toll" Massachusetts - "Spread transportation costs fairly" Florida - "Ready to be quartered? Toll may rise - Some motorists say they'll take congested roads instead of paying" California - "Tolls on Bay Area bridges could be going up — and carpoolers won't be exempt"
Colorado - "House committee backs car fee hikes, tolling" Virginia - "Richmond could help us break up traffic jams" Florida - "Will Palm Beach County see express toll lanes on Interstate 95?" Florida - "Expwy To Commit Suicide, Raise Tolls" Florida - "Quarter Toll Hike Planned" inc video
Colorado - "Lawmakers divided on fee hikes for road-repair measure" New York - "Waterloo woman accused of stealing tolls" Florida - "Orange Co. Drivers: Get Ready To Pay More For Tolls".
Please sir, can we have some more?
CNN - "GM, Chrysler ask for $21.6 billion more" BBC - "US car giants seek $21bn funding".
It would give a boost to the whole economy, not just the car makers, if the country got rid of all existing tolls particularly on those roads that cross State borders.
Ireland solved financial crisis
Independent - "End of the road for toll dodgers".
There is a risk that Ireland will go bust - Guardian - "Irish government faces growing fears of debt default". The Irish economic success was built on vast handouts from the EU and a housing price bubble. Rather than taking drivers to court, it would be a better help to the economy if the country removed its corrupt tolls system.
Bit more on Humber Tolls Inquiry
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Campaigners to represent public at inquest".
Tax for living in the wrong suburb
Penrith City Star - "Western commuters slugged by higher tolls".
More toll bridges?
canada.com - "Anti-gridlock program may take a toll".
Drivers shun Shanghai E-tolls
Shanghai Daily - "High-tech e-toll system stuck in first gear". One possible reason for drivers not using the new system is that they may have believed it when the Government said that tolls were being removed from the 1st January - 2009!
Indian tolls contagion spreading
Times of India - "Soon, you may pay for access to a busy road!".
Tuesday 17 February 2009
A third world toll
We last mentioned Cambodia in 2005 when in one paper there was a denial that "Roadblocks and extortion are a daily part of Cambodia overland travel", as despite impressions these were "legitimate tolls". The country is in the news today because of the trial of a Khmer Rouge boss - BBC - "Landmark Khmer Rouge trial starts". Some may wonder why the UN sponsored trial is only beginning now when Vietnam toppled the Khmer Rouge regime 30 years ago, but then most people outside Cambodia will have forgotten or never knew how other countries had some responsibility for part of what happened - Taxi Vantha - "The history of Cambodia".
A selection of items on Cambodian tolls - News VoA - "Cambodian Police Break Up Protest Over New Road Toll" Asian Human Rights Commission - "Development firm allegedly hires gunmen to extort poor villagers through an illegal toll-booth" Crossing Cambodia - "On toll roads".
Singapore to copy London!!
Asia One - "Off-peak car scheme to get a tune-up ".
The story says that the Head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport "suggested an electronic system like London's camera-based congestion charging system". This may be a clue to one of the mysteries with Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing system - Is the back up ANPR system non existent so that they have to rely on drivers having onboard tracking and charging devices?
Bristol people marched closer to the cliff
Bristol Evening Post - "Bristol congestion charge limited to morning rush hour".
The people behind this are the West of England Partnership. This consists of -
Bristol City Council which is run by Labour with 24 seats. Though not only do they have no overall control, they are not even the biggest party. The Lib Dems are the biggest with 32 seats, but Labour are in control as the Tories with 13 seats and Greens with 1 seat did not want Lib Dems in power.
Bath and North East Somerset Council is run by the Tories with 31 seats though they have no overall control. The Lib Dems have 26 seats, Labour 5 and Independents 3.
North Somerset Council is run by the Tories with 46 seats. The Lib Dems have 5, Labour 3, Independents 6 and the Greens 1 seat.
South Gloucestershire Council is run by the Tories with 33 seats though they have no overall control. The Lib Dems have 28 and Labour 9 seats.
By coincidence the Tories have today issued a document - "Control Shift
- Returning Power To Local Communities" pdf which makes great mention of referenda including - "We will give power to residents to hold local referendums on any local issue by legislating to ensure that a referendum is
held in a localr within a six month period.". As three of the four Councils have Tory Leaders, and the Tories are the biggest group (though they do not have an overall majority) it will be interesting to see if they will foist this tolls plan on local people without a fairly conducted poll.
Seacoast Online (New Hampshire) - "Toll hike may help tourism". The logic seems to be that those travelling the toll road will get off sooner.
The New Jersey and Pennsylvania politicians who control the DRPA may be stopped from diverting toll monies to their pet schemes such as sports arenas and concert halls. So far they have spent nearly 400 million dollars of tolls on these schemes - Philadelphia Inquirer - "Legislators eye limits on DRPA spending".
The LA Times has been asking the candidates for Mayor various questions including - "Do you favor putting toll lanes in place of freeway lanes?". The incumbent - Antonio Villaraigosa and one other candidate - David 'Zuma Dogg' Saltsburg - ignored the question. Here is what the rest said -
Phil Jennerjahn - "Toll lanes? No. Big no on that. We are overtaxed here to begin with.".
Walter Moore - "As for toll roads: no, no, no, no, and hell no. We are overtaxed already. Furthermore, the voters just passed Measure R specifically to fund mass transit. To hit voters with that burden and then add tolls on top of it would be especially unfair.".
David R. Hernandez - "No toll lanes on the freeway. The mayor's willingness to place a toll on the section of freeway (110 Harbor Freeway) across some of the economically depressed areas of Los Angeles smacks of class warfare. It is unfair to the community which has the freeway passing through it.".
Carlos Alvarez - "I do not support toll lanes. No one should have to pay to use a road. Tolls penalize poor people by treating them as equal to the rich.".
Craig X Rubin - "Not at all . . . they are called freeways for a reason . . . they are FREE. If we start to create a public space where wealthier individuals can just buy a lane for themselves even though the system was built with public money it would set a bad precedent.".
Pot-pourri from Massachusetts - Sun Chronicle - "Taxing the open road" Boston Herald - "Mass Pike plan: Drive fast or pay up" Boston Globe - "Revenue? Reform? Try both".
Other stories - Florida - "Orange County Expressway Authority wants at least 25 cents more for tolls" New Hampshire - "Locals concerned toll hikes, E-ZPass discount nix would hit at same time" "Georgia Manages Lane Use to Improve Highway Efficiency" Texas - "Raising gasoline tax makes sense".
Talking down Inflation
The Establishment spin doctors are doing their best to make people think that we need inflation to help the economy and that there is not enough of it - BBC - "UK inflation rate declines to 3%".
In the real world, inflation is still above the level (two percent) at which Mervyn King has to write an excuse letter to the Chancellor. Official inflation is also above the level of interest rates on savings (even before tax is deducted). The latest Money Supply figures will be published next week and will indicate how much money the Bank of England is already throwing out of the helicopter.
Bit on Humber Tolls Inquiry
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Just hours to register to speak at inquiry".
Bit more on removal of one Malaysian toll
The Star - "IJM to be compensated".
Monday 16 February 2009
Higher Harbour bridge tolls encouraging traffic to use more congested routes
Sydney Morning Herald - "Freeway clears as motorists go the free way instead".
Doing things the right way. Some of the billions from the Obama Stimulus package may be spent on eliminating delays of up to an hour at Delaware's Interstate 95 toll plaza. Are they removing the tolls? No, they will add more toll booths - Baltimore Sun - "Delaware's crowded toll plaza could get boost from stimulus".
A radical idea for getting new income and forcing drivers off the road - Berkshire Eagle - (Massachusetts) - "Make drivers take a refresher course".
Other stories - Ohio - "Give idea of toll road a chance" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "Auto club objects to DRPA plans".
In the Vietnam / American War, there were over three million killed, mainly civilians. Despite this Vietnam has in recent years gone down the American toll road, including the link between two of the bombed cities - Hanoi and Hai Phong - Vietnam News - "Construction to begin on Ha Noi-Hai Phong highway".
Sunday 15 February 2009
"Maine Turnpike Authority takes its toll on motorists" "Ohio Turnpike toll plan takes page from other states" DC / Virginia - "Leaders want more info on HOT lanes" Massachusetts - "Mass. gas tax may be first step in political tango".
Saturday 14 February 2009
More tolls likely
The Age - "Road toll critics sniff new charges in wind". One "nutcase" (i.e. tolls opponent) - Sydney Morning Herald - "Blacktown MP in 'nutcase' assault claim".
Colorado - "E-470 paves new path with cashless tolls" Massachusetss - "GOP hits Patrick stimulus chief" Massachusetss - "Gov. Deval Patrick lobbies Western Mass. residents to support tax, tolls and transportation reform plans" Washington State - "I-90 area lawmaker pushing tolls only on 520 bridge, despite research recommending tolls on both ".
Report on Fuel prices compared with Earnings etc
The Driver's Alliance has produced a report "Traffic and congestion levels fall as the cost of fuel drives people off the road". It compares fuel costs with average earnings and inflation over various periods. A lot of course depends on the year that you pick as the base, but since 1995 pump prices have not only risen more than inflation, they have also risen more than average earnings. The report also covers use made of cars. Miles travelled by car per person has been on a plateau since around 1987.
The Troll Times has an article about AJP Taylor, the historian who came from a Quaker family and was one of the first to say "The Establishment" when referring to Britain's ruling class. He is blamed for Bolshie drivers who don't know their place - "The left-wing don who drove on the right". Rupert Murdoch will no doubt be happy when only the elite can afford to drive.
Dispute over credit for removing a Malaysian toll
Straits Times - "Shouting match over toll move". Apart from the more common reasons, the Malaysian tolls are particularly unpopular due to corruption, and the toll delays - Malaysia Today - "How Long Should We Endure The Nightmare Called Toll Highways?".
Four Billion target
Following yesterday's story about children becoming parents, it has been revealed that the mother is one of six children and the father is one of nine children. The PM has now announced that Alistair Darling as well as taking care of our finances is to be "Minister for Population Growth". The new Minister said that with this example before us, even if immigration were to dry up it should now be possible to increase the UK population by a factor of about 8 every 25 years. At that rate it would only take 50 years to reach a population of four billion. He said that he was confident that this would reinflate the housing price bubble and protect MPs' second home scams.
Irish reaction to "green" toll plans
HGV Ireland - "Extra HGV tolls would be disastrous for Ireland - Higgins". British hauliers it seems are either unaware of the plans or don't care.
Humber Tolls - bit more on forthcoming debate
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Minister to respond to MPs over tolls".
Friday 13 February 2009
British babies for British boys
Sun - "Baby-faced boy Alfie Patten is father at 13". Is this a secret Government plan to further increase population growth and stimulate the economy?
New technology to help in the push to slow drivers down and create congestion
Transport Crucible - "Bad side-effects of road humps are finally acknowledged – now that 20 mph average speed cameras can replace them".
Massachusetts - "Gas-tax proposal gets cold reception" New Hampshire - "Toll hikes proposed across the state" Washington State - "Early one-way toll on 520 proposed" Alabama - "Toll road: A boost for Pike?".
New British recklessness record?
BBC - "Lloyds shares tumble after update". Will the bankers at Lloyds TSB who were persuaded by the Government to pay £12 billion for a worthless HBOS be made Earls by the Queen or be castigated by politicians for taking excessive risks?
Humber Tolls - Debate arranged
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Commons debate on tolls". Little attention is paid to what MPs say in Parliament, and an Adjournment debate is held when 99% of MPs have gone "home", but it is still a lot better than nothing.
Indian military don't want to pay
India Law News - "Armed forces appeal for exemption of toll charges". Can there really be an Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901? Did Kipling draft it? What was India doing with an Air Force in 1901?
Thursday 12 February 2009
The road ahead in the "United" States - Valley Breeze (New England) - "Tollbooth controversy: It's the income that counts".
Most of the stories in Massachusetts today are how the Governor has appointed a real estate developer to decide how the State will spend its share (one to two billion dollars) from the Federal throw away money plan - Boston Globe - "Patrick taps real estate developer to oversee federal stimulus spending in Mass." Boston Herald - "Deval Patrick appoints spending czar" (some interesting comments). Part of the money is to go into roads and bridges, but as the State managed to spend fifteen billion dollars on the tolled Big Dig, it should have no trouble in throwing this money away.
There are also some further stories touching on the proposal for a higher gas tax, toll up and downs, new tolls and a "mileage tax" - Gloucester Times - "State's revenue push leaves key question: Where are the reforms?" Daily News - "'Open tolling' should hit a dead end " Boston Globe - "Patrick and the gas tax: Will he or won't he?" Enterprise - "Raise tolls before raising gas tax" Wicked - "Patrick says gas tax hike must come with 'radical simplification'".
Other stories - California - "Bay Area Bridge Toll Hikes" New York - "Tolling Bridges, Taxing Rich, Chaining City Workers to Desks Among City's Budget Options" Alabama - "Panel pushing W. Ala. highway wants to keep going" Ohio - "Residents don't need to pay twice for corridor" Virginia /DC - "HOT lane plans draw skepticism"
New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "DRPA defends plan to spend millions on projects" Oregon - "Build the right bridge, with tolls" New York - "What’s the meter? Slopers cool on city’s higher cost parking plan" "Is Kansas Turnpike a cash cow?" Kansas - "Highway tolls: KTA a survivor".
Ex Socialist PM defends Capitalism
The PM was today grilled by the chairs of all the Commons committees - BBC - "Brown defends Crosby appointment".
If MPs were not themselves actors in a Kafka nightmare, they might have wondered how far the PM was in touch with reality. Yesterday at PM's questions, a Labour MP said that he was sure that the PM "would agree that we must not let the financial crisis deflect us from tackling climate change" and asked how the PM was going to protect "companies involved in developing low-carbon technologies ... from the credit crunch". The PM replied - "My hon. Friend is absolutely right; there is a growing low-carbon environmental sector in this country that we need to support. It is worth about £100 billion and employs about 800,000 people, and we will do what we can to support it, even if the Conservative party seems to have a huge disinterest in the environment now.". If it is worth that much perhaps Mervyn King could pop round and ask for a loan?
More on - Humber Bridge Board asking Government to reduce tolls
Grimsby Telegraph - "Humber Bridge Board calls for £1 toll trial" Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Bridge board's £1 toll plan for Humber" Hull Daily Mail - "Bridge tolls could be cut to £1".
Manchester "Plan B" - call for TIF cash to be handed out without strings
Local Gov Chronicle - "Manchester in funding jam". The "Centre for Cities" has various Manchester people on its board so this is not suprising given the defeat of the toll plan in the poll. Though it is odd that another board member is Tony Travers who is involved with the Cambridgeshire TIF plan.
Tolls corruption "is the most lightsome event" in poll of stories
Makfax. For details of the original story see our news for 29th November.
More on - MEPS agree higher "green" toll plans
EurActiv - "MEPs divided over congestion charges for trucks" BBC - "EU plans new charges for lorries" EU Observer - "Lorries in EU could be slapped with noise and congestion tolls" European Voice - "Pressure mounts for green levy on lorries".
A little reaction to Lib Dem plan to cut Roads spending
Cambridge Evening Post - "A14 MP attacks call to cut national roads cash". There was hardly any mention of the overall plan in other papers, and no reaction to the roads cut - Telegraph - "Nick Clegg vows to scraps tax credits for high earners in £20 billion 'austerity' cuts".
Jumbo Transport Stats
The DfT have published a new edition of "Transport Trends" (whole 150 pages as a pdf file). This page has links to separate chapters and also to additional tables as Excel files.
Obama asked to save the Planet
BBC - "Obama 'must act now' on climate". Is this the same Obama who two weeks ago complained because his childrens' school was closed due to the cold weather? AP - "President Obama "Ices" D.C.'s Winter Weather School Cancellations".
How to succeed in Britain
If you want to be above suspicion, eligible to countersign passport applications and most of the time be above the law, then in Britain you can do this by being a professional, such as a banker or a doctor - BBC - "Shipman response 'lacks progress'".
New Train set
The Government is trumpeting that it is to spend £7.5 billion on some new trains to be built by a "British" led consortium - BBC - "New train fleet 'to boost jobs' " DfT press release - "Passengers and economy to benefit from biggest investment in trains for a generation".
Each train will carry up to 649 people, but the DfT do not make it clear how many trains they are getting. The invitation to tender said that it was between 500 and 2,000, and the press release says "up to" 1,200. So it seems that each train will cost at least £6 million.
It is not clear how "British" these trains will be - Reuters - "Government chooses Hitachi for trains deal". One of the failed bids was from the only firm that currently makes trains in Britain. Is this a case of "British Jobs for Japanese workers"?
Wednesday 11 February 2009
How do you solve a problem like Congestion? A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!
Austrian Times - "Traffic problems a campaign issue in Salzburg city".
More on the leaked proposal for Massachusetts to substantially increase the gas tax to subsidise mass transit, with some tolls coming down but a new toll being added to the Interstate and a new "mileage tax". There are also reports on the State's share of the Stimulus throwaway -
Salem News - "Gas tax hike a no-go with lawmakers" NECN - "Money 'czar' may be appointed in Massachusetts" inc video Boston Herald - "The Massachusetts gas tax bait and switch" Republican - "No on a gas tax: OK on toll hike"
Patriot Ledger - "Doubling gas tax would throttle commerce, working-class residents" Republican - "Patrick waits on gas tax hike" South Coast Today - "Keep the tolls" Metro West - "Local reps say gas tax OK, if tolls come down now" Boston Globe - "Patrick says he hasn't decided on gas tax hike" MSN - "Mass. gov: I-93 tolls possible given finance gap" Worcester Telegram - "Beacon Hill gas fumes"
Wicked - "Lawmakers show little love for Patrick gas tax proposal" NECN - "Higher gas tax may be coming to a pump near you" inc video Wicked - "Timeline: Gov. Deval Patrick’s gas tax evolution" Boston Herald - "Gov. Deval Patrick mulls border tolls on I-93" Worcester Telegram - "Patrick says I-93 tolls possible given finance gap".
Part of the Massachusetts proposal is tagging cars, here is some reaction - Boston Herald - "Foes spy security holes in tax plan".
Other stories - New Hampshire - "E-ZPass discount may end" New York - "Port Authority targets another alleged scofflaw" Connecticut - "State debates the goal of tolls" Virginia - "Drop the tolls" letter New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "AAA to DRPA: Don't spend $9.5 million on projects" Florida - "Bridge offices' overhaul goes on - Expansion criticized amid hole in budget" New Hampshire - "Transport chief looks at NH tolls, turnpikes".
Humber bridge - Board to ask Government to make big reduction in tolls
Grimsby Telegraph - "Bridge Board's plea to Government".
MEPS today agreed higher "green" toll plans
European Parliament - "Eurovignette: MEPs back "polluter pays" principle for lorry charges".
Former bank boss leaves FSA
BBC - "Sir James Crosby resigns from FSA".
Who will the establishment find to help keep up the illusion that there is meaningful regulation while the cats eat up all the mice? There are certainly plenty of people available as most of the bosses in the financial sector seem to think that they were unlucky that the risks that they took went wrong while they were still around to take the blame.
The other half of the non regulation of the financial sector is the Bank of England. Due to their oversupply of money and lack of effective control of the banks we are
now in "recession". Their solution is to further increase money supply - BBC - "Bank says UK 'in deep recession'". It seems that Merdle's bank has escaped the pages of Dickens.
Cambridgeshire - compulsory park and ride?
Hunts Post - "Park-and-ride Not Congestion Charge".
Another report on China's supposed abolition of tolls
China Business Post - "Fuel for Thought".
Interestingly this report emphasises that the abolition was not intended to apply to all toll roads and that even where it was supposed to happen it won't. The report refers to the problem that if the Government policy of replacing tolls (with a fuel tax to encourage fuel economy and reduce pollution) was carried through in reality then it would mean the loss of 300,000 toll collection jobs on "second-tier highways" alone. It also refers to the debts of about 73 billion US dollars on the toll roads (though this will only be a small percentage of what China las lost over the last year on its holdings of US paper).
Real chance that the party that rules Japan will be replaced by party that has said it will remove tolls
Yomiuri - "Support rating fall blamed on Aso gaffes".
Much ado about the wrong thing
Bristol Evening Post - "Severn bridge VAT cut failure cost £128k".
As the income goes into paying off the "debt", there is no gain to drivers either way. The real story as usual is ignored. Whether at 17.5% or 15%, the VAT is pocketed by the Government and does not help to pay off the debt - a fact which the Government have misled people about and which the Tory opposition at Westminster and none of the parties in the Welsh Assembly seem to care about.
First anniversary of a toll free Scotland
From the Courier, the paper whose campaign waas a significant factor in getting the last two tolls removed - Courier - "Reflecting on a toll-free year" "Praise for The Courier’s scrapping campaign" "Business maintains removal only fair" "Hauliers hail the benefits".
The Scotsman group of papers backed the establishment who wanted to keep the tolls. They still try and foster the false idea that removal of the tolls caused increased traffic and congestion. We anticipated such claims and before the tolls were removed asked the authorities to continue to monitor traffic levels and particularly the split traffic figures between peak and off peak - they seemed to ignore our request.
This is the spin that the Scotsman have now put on selected traffic figures - "Traffic on Forth Road Bridge up by 2%".
On the Forth bridge prior to the removal of the tolls there were two ways of counting traffic - at the toll booths and at the "weigh" station. The toll figures were northbound only but the weigh figures were available for both directions. Unfortunately for many months before and after the removal of tolls the weigh figures are unreliable, so it seems that they have picked certain months and got the result that they hoped for, without of course giving the crucial split between peak and off peak. Though they are not accurate - the weigh figures on the bridge authority's site for the last three years do not show any increase since tolls were removed (figures used are those for the Northbound tolled direction) - 2006 - 11,792,000, 2007 10,897,000, 2008 10,762,000.
Official jobless just under two million
BBC - "UK jobless total at 1.97 million".
Tuesday 10 February 2009
USA goes for broke and throws another 2.3 trillion dollars into the pot
ABC - "$2 Trillion More - Gasp - to Rescue the Economy" BBC - "US unveils new $1.5 trillion plan" CNN - "Geithner unveils new bank rescue plan" ABC - "Senate passes stimulus" BBC - "US Senate approves stimulus plan".
BBC - "Jobs hope as city link road opens".
A possible 27,000 jobs is not a bad return on an investment of £32 million on a new road. How much better off could the people of Britain be if more of the £50 billion that the Government is paid by drivers was actually spent on roads?
Use of Dartford crossing falling
The tolls on the Crossing were recently increased for most users, but it seems that the number of vehicles using the Crossing has been falling each year since 2004 - East Anglian Daily Times - scroll down to "The Milch Cows That Are The Crossings At Dartford".
The decline is over one million vehicles. Where are they going to? Are they adding to the congestion on the M25 by taking the long way round to avoid the tolls?
A Tory wants a Bristol Toll Poll
Bristol Evening Post - "Call for Bristol congestion charge vote".
theNewspaper.com - "Fitch Goes Negative on California Toll Roads".
The Big Dig lawyer that the Governor put in charge in December has come up with a revised plan for Massachusetts tolls according to documents obtained by AP - NECN - "Gov Patrick considers new plan for gas tax" inc video The Republican - "Patrick eyes 27-cent gas tax hike" Worcester Telegram - "Big gas tax hike eyed" Boston Globe - "Governor not certain on gas tax hike" South Coast Today - "SouthCoast lawmakers fume over gas tax" Boston Herald - "Gas tax hike fuels business ire" WWLP - "Governor Patrick considers gas tax hike" inc video Metro - "Gov.'s gas tax report panned by legislature" Boston Herald - "Tolls, taxes or fares ... pick one" Boston Globe - "AP NewsBreak: Patrick weighs 27 cent gas tax hike" TMC - "Proposed Mass. gas-tax hike still on road after DiMasi's exit".
Though the picture is not clear, this story is a good illustration of the power of the tolls lobby. The discussions in Massachusetts started a few months ago when because of the continuing Big Dig debt problems it was proposed that there be a substantial increases in Big Dig tolls and a possible removal of Pike tolls. Those who opposed any increases suggested that instead there should be a significant gas tax increase, and it was then suggested that all the tolls in Massachussets could be removed and replaced with gas tax. Now we have a plan that keeps parts of the inefficient tolls system and the bureaucracy that bleeds it. There would be increases in the gas tax but a large part of that would be used to subsidise mass transit. There would also be a new "mileage" tax which would require tags in all cars and another bureaucracy to oversee it. Massachusetts drivers would be refunded the increased part of the gas tax, so in effect this would be a border tax. If the new President does not stop these beggar my neighbour developments, then it will be clear who is calling the tune.
Our view is that the Stimulus plan will mean more toll roads and privatization, but some think the opposite - Reuters - "U.S. stimulus plan might curb state privatizations" Reuters - "Outlook for U.S. public-private partnerships dims".
Though the pollution and lost time caused by tolls was never accepted as a reason for removing them, it is given as a reason for making them eazier to pay - Nashua Telegraph - "The time has come for open-road tolling".
Other stories - Colorado - "Gibbs expects FASTER road-funding bill to be slowed in the House" New York - "MTA links buses with tolls - ‘It’s a package,’ head honcho sez" New York - "If Drivers Win, Riders Lose" Virginia - "VDOT Solicits Proposals for Downtown Tunnel\Midtown Tunnel\MLK Extension Project" Virginia - "Proposed HOT lanes draw frustration" Virginia - "Va. Holds Meeting on Toll Lanes" inc video Ohio - "Officials Discuss Putting Tolls On Part Of U.S. 22" Pennsylvania - "Solebury man gets turnpike investigator job" Virginia - "Drivers steered clear of Greenway in 2008".
Letter in Surrey Now - "Bridge toll a double standard meant to gouge poorer people".
More on European toll plans
Euractiv - "Parliament to revive EU talks on 'green' road tolls".
PS Official press release - "MEPs discuss green levies on lorries" inc link to a debate on Wednesday. It seems that we have a new euphemism for tolls - "levies"
Humber tolls - warning to local taxpayers
Grimsby Telegraph - "Taxpayer may foot Humber Bridge bill - but not in N E Lincs" Scunthorpe Telegraph - "'We must not pay price for bridge'".
In the overtaking lane
It seems that China is going to consume more of what it produces rather than exchanging goods for IOUs such as dollars and pound notes - Bloomberg - "China’s Vehicle Sales Top U.S. for First Time".
This story says China has "abolished road tolls". This is what the Government decided with effect from 1st January, but local toll barons will have largely ignored this even to the extent of introducing new tolls.
The forest fires in Victoria which have killed nearly two hundred people have of course been blamed on Global Warming - australia + fire + global + warming - gives 9,000 hits on Google news. Though according to one report - "The country's most eminent bushfire expert" says that the reason the fires are worse than usual is because "authorities have bowed to the environmental lobby and discontinued setting fire to forests in winter to reduce the fuel load of branches and dead leaves" - Earth Times - "Australia's fires taken as a portent of global warming".
MPs are today to grill some of the people who were bank bosses - BBC - "MPs to quiz former banking bosses".
It is a pity that there is not a Peoples Star Chamber which could grill the MPs who have collected their salaries and expenses and ignored what was happening over the last decade. An example of the mind of most MPs was yesterday when in the Commons they joined in with the Home Secretary in attacking the Professor (who is chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) and who had pointed out that Ecstasy (which is in the same Class A as the most dangerous drugs) kills 30 people a year while horseriding kills 100 people - BBC - "Drugs adviser criticised by Smith" There was no mention by MPs of the second homes perk, but then people who live in glass houses ...
Balls looks into the Crystal ball - BBC - "Recession 'worst for 100 years'".
MPs who also seem to think that a successful economy is one where house prices soar and people spend as much as possible will be pleased to see that spending was up in January compared with 12 months earlier (though this may not last) - BBC - "UK retail sales 'rose in January'". The December Balance of Payments figures are due this week, and we will see how much of this spending is part of Britain's efforts to stimulate the global economy by importing.
Monday 9 February 2009
Bit more on privatisation of Indian roads
Live Mint - "Highway projects that failed to attract bids may be ‘restructured".
Northern Ireland Environment Minister denies that the Sun goes round the Earth
BBC - "Resign call over blocked green ad".
New York - "Assault On Bridge Commission's Secrecy" Ohio / Kentucky - "Tolls, location problems in bridge planning" Florida - "Delays plaguing SunPass option to pay for airport parking" Illinois - "New tollway chief? No one told the new governor".
Minister repeats promise that Scotland will stay toll free
Courier - "Minister vows new Forth crossing will be ‘toll free’".
PS The above story had something about traffic levels since the tolls were lifted. This was the subsequent letter from Tom Minogue of NAATS in the next day's Courier - "Bridge congestion—we can see what happened".
Lib dems would cut Roads spending
BBC - "Lib Dems to unveil spending plans". This is like saying that you are going to cure a sick person by clogging up their blood circulation.
PS After the plans were unveiled it was said that £980 million would be cut from roads. As only about £7 billion is currently spent on building, maintaining, lighting and repairing all roads, footpathes etc, such a cut would have severe effects.
M6 Toll traffic still going down
We missed reporting on the M6 Toll traffic figures for the fourth quarter of 2008 which were released a month ago. Traffic was down 12 percent compared with the same quarter in 2007, which confirms the downward trend of the last two years. (Though income will be up due to price increases.) More details - Our M6 Toll traffic figures page .
Bit more on the Government still want road charging
On Friday we had a story about what the Transport Secretary said in a chat with journalists from the regional papers. Yesterday there was a bit more - Bristol Evening Post - "Bristol congestion charge 'still on agenda'".
Sunday 8 February 2009
Some are more equal than others OR Bust bank to pay billion in bonuses while the Home Secretary banks home allowance
A major feature of the British system is the way in which there is almost no control over what top bosses decide to pay themselves. The Government is making some noises about stopping this. But it won't, and MPs are still within their own rules able to get their own perks, like the allowances for a supposed "second" home - BBC - "Chancellor warns RBS over bonuses" BBC - "Smith denies expenses wrongdoing ".
"Maine is latest to toss its coin toll system" Ohio / Kentucky - "Toll question dominates bridge talk".
Malaysia considering some toll reductions
The Star - "Cabinet to discuss toll rates on Wednesday".
Saturday 7 February 2009
Attempt to get Niagara Falls bridges agency to fully open its books
Buffalo News (NY) - "Maziarz, Golisano team to sue bridge agency".
LaHood the Toll seems to have truckers eating out of his hand - The Trucker - "DOT chief emphasizes new jobs, safety to Mid-West truckers".
Meanwhile there is still opposition from the Republicans in the Senate to large parts of the $800 billion give away bill that is supposed to give a further stimulus to the US economy. The Bill as it left the House of Representatives had about 650 pages, so they have been using some expensive paper! Very little of the give away is for roads and bridges, and our suspicion is that a large proportion of that will be used to encourage toll schemes - CNN - "Vote expected Tuesday on stimulus after bipartisan deal" ABC - "Senate Debates $780 Billion Stimulus Deal".
Other stories - Ohio / Pennsylvania - "Committee discusses toll road to Pittsburgh" Washington State - "Light rail wrong answer for Bellevue" Land Line Mag - "Colorado Senate advances road funding bill; includes tolls, truck fee increases" Texas - "Before the Trinity River Toll Road Referendum, Mayor Tom Leppert Promised the NTTA Would Kick In a Billion. Whoopsie." Illinois - "Proposed name-ban a sign of the times".
Situation Normal? All Frozen Up
BBC - Snow conditions set to continue". Global Warming acolytes will be relieved to know that warming will resume - in 2014 - Telegraph - "Further snow and ice forecast for rest of the winter".
PS Page 3 of today's Daily Express is a story on the plight of the Polar bears who are in danger due to Global Warming. There is a picture of the bears on a sunny day with no snow in sight. An amazing picture as it is currently Winter twilight in the Arctic, or should we all be moving there to avoid the snow and ice?
Manchester campaigner complains about the cost of Toll Poll
Prestwich and Whitefield Guide - "Council gets £170,000 bill for congestion vote". This bill is the tip of the iceberg, as the whole exercise will have cost nearly £40 million.
Friday 6 February 2009
The two toll bridges into South Wales have been closed due to ice falling from the cables. What chance that as the bridges reopen, drivers will not be forced as usual to wait in line to pay their tolls? BBC - "Ice-fall on cars shuts M4 bridges".
I spy with my little eye
The "Surveillance: Citizens and the State" report from the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords became available today - Volume one: Report Volume one: Report (pdf) Volume Two: the evidence Volume Two: the evidence (pdf).
As a campaigning group our main concern is the surveillance that would not have come to the attention of the committee - the possible abuse of RIPA powers to see what the opponents of the local authorities and the Government are doing.
Geoff wants Con so he can find a parking space!
The Transport Secretary has been having a chat with journalists from the regional papers. According to the Birmingham Mail he said that "the Government still hoped to see road-charging schemes in major towns and cities". There is also this story - Journal Live - "Can't find a parking space? Neither can the Transport Secretary".
Bit more on San Francisco "congestion pricing" - Examiner - "Baby, you can’t drive my car: congestion pricing in SF ".
Other stories - Texas - "Details offered on bus, toll agency" West Virginia - "Road to higher tolls begins" Connecticut - "Expect 'painless' per-mile toll, like in Texas" letter Massachusetts - "Speaker DeLeo hints at gas tax hike" Texas - "NTTA says it can't fill Trinity toll road cost gap of nearly $1 billion " Colorado - "Politics collide over tolls in transportation bill".
More on Liverpool tolls
Tolls to cross the river are to go up by 14 per cent, with the increase delayed for a year - Click Liverpool - "Tunnel tolls to rise by 14%... next year" BBC - "Mersey Tunnel tolls are 'frozen'" Liverpool Daily Post - "Free Mersey Tunnel tolls plan thrown out" Mersey Tunnels Users Association.
Latest on new toll - Cheshire News - "Tolls are a must if bridge is to be built". Amazing that the news media are keeping quiet about the fact that when the toll bridge is built the official forecast is that there will be less traffic crossing the river than if it was not built.
More on Humber tolls including Geof Hoon saying that he has set up a "group" to look at bridge finances
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Government to 'look hard' at tolls" Grimsby Telegraph - "Bridge hearing plea rejected" Scunthorpe Telegraph - "10,000 back bridge toll campaign".
Cyclists against Con
Essex County Standard - "Colchester: Bill could lead to back door taxes, it is warned". The cycling establishment are usually amongst the most rabid supporters of tolls, the views of those in Colchester are a welcome change.
Road toll supporters come out against Parking levy
Telegraph - "Workplace parking levy would cost business £3.4 billion, says British Chambers of Commerce".
More on the Irish Government's Con plans
Independent - "€4.5bn transport plan is a 'repeat of old promises'- Initiative to get commuters out their cars greeted with scepticism".
Bit more on Manchester "Plan B"
Local Gov - "City rules out road-pricing alternatives" Bolton News - "Minister's 'no' sparks fresh TIF cash row".
Bit more on new B.C. toll bridge
Vancouver Sun - "How good a deal is this bridge for taxpayers?" News1130 - "TransLink: Funding will determine whether transit is viable option to bridge tolls" Tri-City News - "Coquitlam-Surrey lanes part of bridge".
Freak weather or not?
BBC - "Death-trap fear as salt runs low". It seems that the authorities actually believe their hype about Global Warming and don't have enough salt. In the real world, an Ice Age started about three million years ago and we are at the moment part way though an interglacial minima that started about 10,000 years ago. There is no way of knowing whether for one reason or another this has been a relatively short Ice Age and has ended after "only" three million years, or if we are heading towards more normal Ice Age conditions where most of Britain will be covered in ice up to a mile thick. There will definitely not be enough salt then! Wikipedia - "Ice Age" Daily Mail 13 Nonv 2008 - "Global warning: We are actually heading towards a new Ice Age, claim scientists".
Thursday 5 February 2009
San Francisco, the city that is considering "congestion pricing", has over 1,000 "light-duty passenger vehicles" where the lucky users get everything paid including bridge tolls - SF Examiner - "S.F. plans to scrutinize workers' vehicle privileges".
More tolls evangelising - National Review - Relieve Traffic Congestion".
The Democrat Trolls defeat Republican opposition in Colorado - Denver Post - "Senate approves transportation bill 19-16" Face The State - "Dems' Transportation bill survives heated Senate debate" Denver Post- "Bipartisanship comes to stop on roads bill".
Other stories - West Virginia - "Driving Toward Toll Increase" Ohio - "Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland could be a toll road, ODOT says" Florida - "DOT may raise tolls on Cape bridges" Land Line Mag - "Maryland increases tolls as truckers call for relief" Massachusetts - "Border tolls on Pike considered" West Virginia - "Toll Hike Opposition".
Another pathetic boast
DfT press release - "66 million boost for local roads in England ". Sixty six million is what they collect from drivers in half a day. How about the other 364 1/2 days of roads taxes?
Reading Con - neighbouring Council supports it though Reading residents will not pay
Reading Chronicle - "Woodley and Earley promised a say on C-Charge".
Bank of England further reduces value of money as Housing Price bubble starts to reinflate
BBC - "UK reduces interest rates to 1%" BBC - "House prices 'up 1.9% in January'".
Tale of Two Cities
A letter in a Manchester paper - "London example proves congestion is caused by bus lanes and traffic calming".
A Toll Inquiry Too Far
Grimsby Telegraph - "South Bank bridge tolls inquiry denied".
Latest traffic statistics
The DfT have published the traffic and congestion figures for fourth quarter 2008 - DfT - "Road Traffic and Congestion in Great Britain: Quarter 4 2008" links to figures are at top right.
Traffic is one per cent down for 2008 as a whole compared with 2007. The long term trend of increasing light van traffic continued. Miles travelled by cars and by HGVs is actually now below 2004 levels, but light van traffic is up 15% compared with 2004.
Congestion on motorways and trunk roads in 2008 was eight per cent down on 2007. Congestion on local roads in 2007/08 was the same as the previous yaer, which was about three per cent down on the base period (2004/06).
Further evidence to the Transport Committee on "Taxes And Charges On Road Users"
The committee had another session last Wednesday and the uncorrected transcript is now available - "Taxes And Charges On Road Users". There were three subsessions -
In the first, representatives of TfL, the London Mayor and the London authorities were questioned about the London Congestion Charge. It seems that despite the new Mayor some things have not changed - there is no intention of removing the charge (except presumably for the western extension which gets little mention); the charge improved air quality (though there is no evidence for this); and businesses, large and small support the charge (certainly not correct as far as small businesses are concerned). There is however an admission that congestion is back to pre charge levels - though it is claimed that this is because they have reduced road space by 20 per cent!
The second session had representatives from the Local Government Association (who happens to also be the person originally pushing the Cambridgeshire Con plans), Bolton Council / AGMA, and Nottingham City Council. The LGA seem to be still supporting local toll schemes with their main hopes being Cambridgeshire, Bristol and Reading.
The Bolton representative was a Tory who opposed the Manchester Con plan. He said that even if there had been a bigger bribe, people would still have voted aginst it, if given the chance.
Nottingham are anticipating that their Working place levy scheme
will cause firms that are affected (more than 10 spaces) to reduce parking spaces and cause cars to be parked on local roads. They therefore plan to bring in more parking restrictions on local roads and streets.
The third session was for the Highways Agency. Some members of the Commitee tried to get the Agency to say that the Agency supported toll schemes and that if there were no tolls then either traffic would seize up or there would have to be more roads built. The representatives from the Agency did not cooperate with this line and instead indicated that they were working on the assumption that there would be no tolls, and that the motorway network could cope with traffic though their plans for traffic management schemes which had been tried out on the M42. There was also some discussion of the M6Toll.
New B.C. bridge to be bigger and older one scrapped
Last Thursday it was revealed that the firms financing a twin for the existing Port Mann bridge near Vancouver would have to borrow money from the Government. Today it has been revealed that the trolls have told the Government that they are going to build a bigger bridge and scrap the old free bridge - News1130 - "Future Port Mann Bridge: Drivers not thrilled about toll" Vancouver Sun - "Four-step program for buying a bigger bridge blows the budget" Province - "10-lane bridge to replace Port Mann" Vancouver Sun - "New bridge to replace Port Mann crossing" Metro - "Port Mann single span" Peace Arch News - "10-lane superbridge replaces twin plan" News 1130 - "Future Port Mann Bridge: One bridge, 10 lanes, not 'twinned'".
This is a good example of where "privately" financing a crossing means that the decisions are what is best for the trolls and not what overall is best for users or the environment. Two bridges would also have given some cover in the case of a disaster.
Russia moves further right
Because of the cost of its Bank bailout, Russia is to cut spending on roads and other infrastructure. Roads will be tolled and financed by the - banks! Moscow Times - "Shuvalov Offers Peek at Budget Cuts".
Wednesday 4 February 2009
More on Liverpool tolls
Cheshire News - "No tolls for bridge vow". More proof that you CAN fool all the people all the time.
The story says that there will be no tolls "even if a new crossing is not built". The fact is that the plan is that if a new crossing is built then there will be tolls on all the crossings of the river to Liverpool. The paper does not mention why this issue has risen - it is because the authority who plan the new crossing issued in December a draft Order to put tolls on the existing free crossing.
We had a news story last year about how easy it was for anyone (not just the official snoopers) to track and clone the RFID devices used with cashless tolls - Dark Reading - "FasTrak Toll Hacked, Exposing Privacy Dangers". There are now reports (again not in the mainstream press) about how a British "white hat" has done the same with American passports - VNU Net - "Hacker clones passports in drive-by RFID heist" The Register - "Passport RFIDs cloned wholesale by $250 eBay auction spree" link at the bottom to a video.
New toll roads for Euro 2012 Football Championship
Mondaq - "New Law Of Ukraine On Road Concessions".
The Terminator orders State employees to take days off - without pay - but toll collectors are exempt - KCBS - "CA Furlough Could Slow Your Errands" .
Border problem - Today TMJ (Wisconsin) - "I Pass, you Don't".
Other stories - Massachusetts / New Hampshire - "Tolls would make I-93 traffic worse" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "Decisions by DRPA are taking toll on motorists" Massachusetts - "Officials concerned over state's proposed gas tax hike" Colorado - "Road-funds bill drives into chasm" Colorado - "Penry vows GOP fight on bridge, roads bill" Texas - "Hearing set on transportation merger plans" Georgia - "Transportation bill calls for new Northern Arc, tunnel" California - "Fitch: Negative Outlook on Foothill Toll Road".
Possible bridge privatization
Today's Trucking - "Potential for privatizing Maritime bridge".
Smithfield market traders push for special exemption from the Con
Islington Gazette - "Traders call on Mayor to make good on C-Charge pledge".
More on the fun at the cashless toll on the new toll road
Drivers are now being officially advised that if they pay at the cashless toll kiosks, the queuing will cancel out the time that they save by using the new road - New Zealand Herald - "Avoid the toll tunnel kiosk, motorists told".
Plea for cut in ERP tolls and "foreign maid levies"
Straits Times - "Cut ERP, levies urges Inderjit".
It seems that Alistair Darling may be missing a possible source of new tax income. though it may be MPs who would be worst hit by such a levy!
Surrey Leader - "Bridges - toll them all, or none at all".
Bit more on Toll border war
B92 - "Greece releases over 100 Serbian trucks".
Next phase of London Low Emission Zone put on ice
On Monday the Mayor announced that the introduction of the next phase of the Low Emission toll zone would be deferred - Press Release - "Reprieve for small businesses as Mayor suspends phase three of Low Emission Zone". The snow pushed it out of the news till yesterday - BBC - "Van emission charge plan halted" Guardian - "London low emission zone plan stalled", and today we have an Evening Standard columnist attacking the Mayor - Evening Standard - "You can’t back down on clean air, Boris".
Though the Mayor is keeping the first two phases of the Low Emission Zone, it is an example of the way that under the former Mayor, London embarked on crazy schemes designed to hit drivers and ignoring the costs to businesses. Targets for vehicle emissions should be set nationally, and however they are set they are a tax on the law abiding as the worst offenders will evade it.
Tuesday 3 February 2009
Cambridgeshire Con consultation
There is now a web site for this "consultation" exercise, though everyone knows what the result is likely to be - Hunts Post - "1,500 visit congestion charge website" the new site - "Cambridgeshire Transport Commission ".
There is a questionaire, naturally the important question - "To obtain the £500 million of Government money to improve public transport, walking and cycling facilities, and the road network in and around Cambridge, a form of demand management, such as congestion charging, is needed. This is part of Cambridgeshire County Council's proposals. Does the need to tackle congestion justify a charge for most vehicles coming into Cambridge in the morning peak (7.30am until 9.30am)? Are there alternati ways of reducing congestion and greenhouse gases?" - is last. Interesting that reducing greenhouses gases is an objective of the scam. The deadline for responses is 6th March, and the Council have been brave enough to let visitors to the site see the answers that they have got so far.
Reading Con forging ahead
The story says that Reading is being backed by Oxfordshire County Council - Reading Chronicle - "Villages in a TIF over transport plan".
BBC - "Ford and Vauxhall raise UK prices". It may seem strange to have car prices rising 5 per cent in a recession, but the action taken by the Bank of England - low interest rates and high money supply - is inflationary, particularly where goods are imported as a pound is now worth less.
Britain is a net importer of goods, and with higher import prices it will be interesting to see if we import less goods (and export more) or end up with an even more massive trade deficit. We are also of course importers of labour as highlighted at the Lindsey oil refinery - BBC - "Fresh talks in foreign worker row".
Toll border war - not over?
EMPortal - "300 Bulgarian trucks wait in line at Kulata, 150 Serbian truckers have been blocked by Greek authorities".
Interview with TfL boss
Evening Standard - "Peter Hendy: I do get on better with Boris than Ken".
Moving the congestion
The Province - "Toll plan for Port Mann twin will drive away motorists".
Latest on Canada buying the American half of toll crossing
Windsor Star - "Detroit seeks $100M for tunnel agreement".
Columbian - "Stimulus bill may carry help for bridge project". Whatever the reason is for the addition to the Giveaway Bill of $5.5 billion for "projects of national, regional or metropolitan importance", it is likely that a large chunk will be spent on otherwise uneconomic toll roads.
AP - "Fewer drivers hit the road, but tolls costing more".
Other stories - Maine - "Dodging 'pike still takes toll" Maine - "Effect of toll increases varies" Ohio - "Gov. Strickland's transportation plan: more tolls, costlier car registration, cross-state train" "West Virginia Turnpike authority must detail use of proposed toll increases" Massachusetts - "Lawmakers push reactivation of state credit behind Pike rate swap deals".
Tolls are good for you
Abby News (BC) - "Tolls good for the Valley".
Argument for scrapping one of Singapore's many car taxes
AsiaOne - "Time to scrap car transfer fee".
Monday 2 February 2009
USA Roundup later stories
"Lawmaker wants Kansas Turnpike brought under state umbrella".
Old toll law
Near Liverpool there is a first for Britain, in that an existing free bridge is to be tolled when a second bridge is built. The effect of the tolls is such that there will actually be less traffic with two tolled bridges than there is with the existing one free bridge.
In December the Council behind the scheme issued the draft Order to put tolls on the free bridge. They are today denying that this means anything. The Council have with the aid of much of the local press managed to somehow befuddle local people so that they don't seem to know that they will be doubly worse off - Click Liverpool - "A bridge over troubled waters at Runcorn" Click Liverpool - "Runcorn Bridge: tolls order already in place". One mystery with this is why did the Council issue an order in December, when if they had waited till next week they could have used the new toll laws?
New toll laws come into force on the 9th February
The Local Transport Act 2008 which makes it easier for local authorities to toll any highway or river crossing got the Royal assent on the 26th November, but the provisions were not to come into force till an Order was made. The involvement of the new Integrated Transport Authorities in the scams was in sections 103 to 109 of the Act. The main Road User Charging provisions were in sections 110 to 121 of the Act, and Sections 122 to 123 covered tolls on trunk roads in Wales.
An Order has now (26th January) been made and today appeared on the web - Opsi - "The Local Transport Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2009". The provisions come into force in England on the 9th February. (There is no date for Wales, and the new law does not apply in Scotland.)
Bridge for sale
Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - "Historic Guist toll bridge up for sale".
Con gone for the day
Some white stuff (is it ash from people burning worthless pound notes to keep warm?) has been falling on the South East, causing major disruption to both roads and public transport. One consolation is that the Mayor has suspended the Congestion charge - BBC - "Heavy snow disrupts London travel" Mayor's Press release Guardian - "Boris Johnson suspends congestion charge for one day due to snow".
All right after all
There have been rumours of economic problems, but they don't affect the really important things. The National Galleries of Scotland and London's National Gallery have come up with fifty million pounds for one painting - BBC - "Funds secured for Titian painting". And the Welsh Assembly is seeking a new law that would force those private firms surviving the recession to use the Welsh language - BBC - "Welsh language legal bid starts ".
More on congestion pricing for cars that don't move - Oregonian / AP - "$4 parking meter: traffic decongestant?".
It is reported that the woman who gave birth to eight babies (see 27th January) had received fertility treatment, and was already the single mother of six children - ABC - "Octuplets' Mom: Can She Afford to Raise 14 Kids?".
It seems that America is going into mass production to ensure plenty of customers for the toll roads and California's "congestion pricing" plans!
Other stories - Massachusetts "Turnpike Authority redefines ‘free’".
"West Virginia Turnpike promotes hike in toll price" Texas - "Stick replacing carrot for serial toll offenders" Texas - "Getting fleeced by tolls" letter.
Bit more on - Toll border war
B92 - "130 Serbian trucks stranded in Greece" Em Portal - "Greek FM and OSCE Chairwoman in Belgrade , Greece bans Serbian trucks".
PS This later report says that Serbia has given in to Greece - Earth Times - "Serbia levels toll charge to end transport row with Greece".
No consolation prizes
Manchester Evening News - "No hope of a C-charge 'reward'".
Lord Adonis, the Transport Minster, says of the Manchester Toll Poll - ""All my political colleagues were telling me it would be much closer. No one thought it would be so decisive. But if a decision was going to be taken against the idea, it is better that it was so clear." For once we agree.
Tit for tat
Russian tolls on foreign trucks entering the country came into effect yesterday. They are only charged on trucks from those countries that charge tolls on Russian trucks. The trolls at the European Commission are complaining that the Russians are discriminating.
More on privatisation of Indian roads
Live Mint - "Private developers to maintain highways soon".
More of the same
It is widely assumed that this week the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee will reduce Base Rate to 1 per cent. As some banks and building societies have tracker mortgages based on that rate minus 1.1%, it seems that borrowers will be able to claim interest from the lenders. Based on the usual leak on the BBC Today programme, it also seems that the Bank of England will today pump another £50 billion into the system by buying corporate bonds and similar "assets" from the banks. It seems that the Bank of England is determined to stop the recession and reinflate the housing price bubble at any cost. It is puzzling why any foreign investor would continue to hold pounds, when their real value is bound to fall further than other currencies where they have the problem of a recession but don't have the burden of a housing price bubble.
Sunday 1 February 2009
The Day After Tomorrow is Today
The news media are reporting on deaths from the Australian heat wave. This is said to be due to Global warming - Independent - "Parched: Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in".
Australia is largely a desert that was once only occupied by a small number of dark skinned aboriginal people. In 1788 there were 859 Europeans and it is estimated 300,000 aborigines (by 1920 the number of aborgines had fallen to 75,000). By the end of the Second World War the total population had grown to 7.6 million people. Today there are 21.6 million people.
It is also reported that there are a higher than usual number of deaths in North America due to the colder than average winter weather that is affecting most of the Northern hemisphere. And, yes, this is also said to be due to Global Warming.
It is also reported that oceans are turning to acid due to CO2 - BBC - "Acid oceans 'need urgent action' ".
Scofflaw of the Year - Staten Island Live - "E-ZPass free rides screech to a halt".
Privacy concerns - Review Journal (Nevada) - "Exactly where have you been? States preparing to track your vehicle location". Though some are rubbing their hands in anticipation - Philadelphia Inquirer - "Firm tracks evidence generated by e-devices - Clients are considering suits, or fear being sued.".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "Tolls the wrong way to go - Experience in Conn. shows that highway booths a danger " California - "Legislature's 'stealth' bill to charge a Doyle toll" Massachusetts - "New political players shift transit debate" Washington State - "Most people don’t want tolls" letter West Virginia - "Senate leaders criticized for opposition to toll hike" "Texas 45 SE tollway to open in April" Oregon / Washington State - "Leonard leads way on I-5 bridge" eTrucker - "Maryland hikes truck tolls".
Toll border war
B92 - "Transport companies barred from Greece".
Bit more on the new congestion tolls on the Harbour bridge
Blayney Chronicle - "Case of the vanishing cars: clear run confuses".
Bit more on the new toll road
Daily Commercial News - "RCCAO notes ‘interesting shift’ in Ontario’s 407 plans ".