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29 June 2005
Thames Gateway Bridge
News Shopper today reported on the Inquiry into the proposed new "Gateway" bridge over the Thames. Greenwich Coucil has given planning permission for the bridge, but it appears that they may not like the idea that traffic will use it!-   "Council's turn to air concerns"
As with many proposed toll roads, there are lots of objectors. But unfortunately they don't care about tolls, they just don't like roads.
Other recent reports on the proposed bridge include:-
Bexley Express on 15th- "Protestors take to street over bridge plans"    BBC on 7th - "Inquiry into new Thames crossing"    the Wharf on 2nd - "Bridge: `Bad For Traffic'"
Earlier this month we issued this statement:-
"There is no sense in building a new bridge, and then putting a toll on it to discourage people from using it. The Government should make the bridge toll free, and ensure the maximum benefit to the East London economy."

28 June 2005
M6 Tolls Dismay
Elaine Knott from Wolverhampton uses the M6 and in a letter expressed her "utter dismay" at the proposal for tolls on most roads, and the possible use of the West Midlands for a pilot scheme:-   Express & Star - "Workers will be priced out of work"
The M6 Toll road is underused, with much of the traffic that could be on it using other less suitable roads. There is also the long delayed scheme for increasing road capacity between the Cannock end of the M6 Toll and the North West. This was to be done by increasing the number of lanes on the toll free M6, but a year ago the Government "consulted" on a proposal to instead build a new Toll road.
Since the consultation ended, nothing has been heard from the Government. We have contacted the Department for Transport and all they can say is "The Secretary of State is still considering the results of consultation and will announce his decision in due course."
What are they waiting for? A Bad News Day?

24 June 2005
Toll Collect
Robert Wright at today reported on Germany's "Toll Collect" system introduced in January for tolls on trucks using the autobahns. (It is planned that Britain will have the same system in about 3 years.)
"Germany's government will consider whether to extend the country's groundbreaking motorway-truck road pricing scheme to other roads.
Bernd Törkel, an official at the federal ministry of transport, building and housing, said 2 to 5 per cent of truck traffic had diverted from motorways to other roads since a pay-per-distance scheme for charging truck drivers was introduced in January.
It was introduced mainly to ensure the many foreign truckers crossing Germany paid to use the country's roads. It has prompted complaints that truckers are using minor roads to avoid the charges.
Ralf Nagel, state secretary at the German transport ministry, said there were no plans to extend the scheme to non motorways except where there was a diversion problem. Nor were there any plans to extend the scheme to private cars."

Darling's New Darling
Peter Hendy has been appointed as the new chairman of the Comission for Integrated Transport. His predecessor, David Begg, was well known for his anti car views. The new chairman is the Managing Director of Surface Transport at Transport for London. His wide ranging responsibilities at TfL include the "Congestion Charge". The Commission as a whole is anti roads and anti car. Naturally they are very pro road tolls.

23 June 2005
The Piper
A press release has been issued on behalf of DETICA:-   "Public want road pricing to pay for reduction in rail fares and improved services"
DETICA also issued TWO press releases on 9th June claiming that on the basis of polls, most people favoured road pricing:- "Significant public support for use of road user charging to control peak-time congestion" and "Seven in ten would consider fitting an in-car device for road user charging". These were widely reported including in the Guardsian:-   "Public back road pricing scheme"
You may wonder who DETICA are. They are an IT consultancy that appears to mainly work for the Government including "National Security".

22 June 2005
London Assembly Attacks Ken for Phony Consultation
The Assembly today issued this press release-   "Mayor must improve ways to seek views on C-charge extension"
Though Angie Bray and other Assembly members are opposed to the extension of the London Toll or "Con" charge, there is little that they can they do. The Assembly is London's City Council, but MPs gave all the powers to the Mayor.

21 June 2005
London "Con" Charge on Trains?
In a bizarre twist, it is now suggested that there may have to be a "congestion charge" on the railways. The reasons? - One is the possible introduction of universal road tolls driving people onto a rail system that can't cope:-   Evening Standard - "'C-charge' for rail commuters"
Oddly when the "Con" charge was introduced into London, there was an 8% fall in passenger numbers on the Underground. For surface trains there was no change either way, and Transport for London in their January 2005 report on the "Con" charge said that "there was effectively no overall change in the number of people entering central London by rail corresponding to the introduction of charging, and hence no apparent capacity issues arising from the introduction of charging itself".

Hoist by their own Petard
In a bizarre twist, it is now suggested that there may have to be a "congestion charge" on the railways. The reasons? - One is the possible introduction of universal road tolls driving people onto a rail system that can't cope.
A rail union leader said: 'This is another classic bit of upside-down logic from a bunch of privateers whose main function is to remove large sums of taxpayers'and passengers' cash from the railway industry.' :-   Dail Mail / Evening Standard - "Rush-hour congestion charge for trains"   Sun - "Peak Trips Charge 'Mad'"   BBC - "Rail 'congestion charge' proposed"
Trains, though highly subsidised, are not significant. Only 6% of person miles travelled are by Trains & Underground, as against 90% by road (Cars 77%; Bus 7%; Vans, bikes and taxis etc 6%). (Walking is 3%: and trams, planes and ferries are 1%).
It doesn't need a genius to see that only a small shift from road to rail would cause a problem. If trains did cope, it would be at the cost of more massive subsidies combined with a fall in the number of road users to be fleeced by the Chancellor.

17 June 2005
Spy Not In The Sky
Transport for London are trying out new digital cameras for the London Toll. They can zoom in closer and pick out small details:-   Evening Standard - "Trials for super-spy cameras"
The report ends "TfL confirmed the cameras were filming, but all images were deleted immediately." What a relief, we thought that someoimne might be using them for something or other!

French say "Non" to the London Toll
The University of Paris has carried out a cost and benefits study of the Con Charge. They reckon that the annual cost is £123 million and the benefits are £72 million:-   Evening Standard - "French experts brand C-charge a 'failure'"
Transport for London disputed the result. Our view is that the loss is even bigger if you add the costs of lost business.

15 June 2005
Tories support Tolls
It would be good to be able to say that at least one of Britain's parties supports the roads user. But Francis Maude, Tory party chairman, in a speech today to the Centre for Policy Studies said "It is no good us claiming that we are simply the party of the motorist. We should accept also that even allowing for road pricing, which we should certainly support in principle, the stark reality is that the major improvements in transport infrastructure that Britain needs will require activist government and some serious commitment of taxpayers' money."

14 June 2005
Newcastle opposes "Con" charge
Today and yesterday, the Journal reports opposition from local people to suggestion from Newcastle City Council that there should be a "congestion" charge:-  13th - "Can we afford the big 'C'?"   14th - "C-charge 'could damage Tyneside'"

M6 Tolls rise today
Tolls go up today (see 16 May for details). We hope that drivers will use this opportunity to send a clear message to Alistair Darling of what drivers think of the idea of tolls on all Britain's roads:-   BBC - "Cost of using M6 Toll increases"
The new M6 Toll of £3.50 for cars works out at 14 pence per mile. We suppose that might seem a bargain compared with the Government suggestion of tolls of up to £1.34 a mile on other roads.

13 June 2005
Lib Dems atttack 4x4s
London Lib Dems say that 4 wheel drive vehicles should pay a double "congestion charge" because they cause more pollution:-   Evening Standard - "'Double C-charge for drivers of off-roaders'"
If four wheel drive vehicles do less miles to the gallon / litre, then they are already paying more through fuel duty. The worst polluters are buses, lorries and taxis. Buses and taxis don't pay the London Toll, and lorries only pay the same as a car.

12th June 2005

Observer - "Out of a jam, but at a price"

10th June 2005

Simon Jenkins tells Alistair to "Keep It Simple, Stupid"
Simon is all in favour of hitting motorists. (A pity!) But he thinks that tolls idea is crazy as it is too complicated. Instead he suggests higher fuel taxes, higher parking charges, more loading restrictions, and supplementary licences for driving in congested city areas. (Ouch!)   Evening Standard - "Just keep it simple, Darling"

Racing Driver and his Three wheeler
Stirling Moss complains that he is exepcted to pay the London Toll on his three wheeled scooter:-   Evening Standard - "Moss's blow for three-wheel power"

Tories say that Commons have been ignored (report from Press Association):-
"Tories called for Alistair Darling to be reprimanded over his failure to make a statement to MPs over road pricing proposals. Shadow commons leader Chris Grayling said he should possibly even be suspended from the house over the move, which he claimed breached guidance from the Speaker. The Commons leader, Geoff Hoon, insisted the proposals were at a consultation stage only and would not necessarily become government policy."

Guardian - "Green anger at plan to tax journeys, not gas-guzzlers"

Telegraph - "'Gas guzzlers' to escape steeper road charge"

Times - "Free ride for gas guzzlers as top scientist attacks 'gutless' policies"

9 June 2005
Today was the official unveiling at the Social Market Foundation of the plans "leaked" on Sunday.

BBC - "Car charge trials 'in five years'"

BBC - "In full: Alistair Darling's speech"

BBC - "At-a-glance: Road charge plans"

itv - "Road Pricing: An Alternative View"

Guardian - "Will the new road charging technology work?"

Guardian - "Darling unveils road charging plans"

Telegraph - "Q&A: Road charging plans"

Tolls Threat from Darling
We issued a press release which was drowned out by the Government spin machine and the views of well known organisations that supposedly represent roads users, but most of whom are in fact in favour of tolls.

6th June 2005

Darling's Tolls and London
If Darling's national scheme comes in, then the London Toll will go. David Williams writes "Experts say that for a typical motorist driving in and out of central London at peak times, the charge could be as high as £134 a week - about £6,400 a year."   Evening Standard - "Road tolls signal end of congestion charge"
Looks like the £8 London Toll might be recalled with fondness.

Guardian - "Charging plan aims to prevent road gridlock "

Telegraph - "£1.30 a mile to drive in a city at rush hour"

Times - "New rail lines, runways and roads urged to beat gridlock"

5 June 2005
Tolls Threat from Darling
Alastair Darling, the Transport Secretary, has revealed to the Sunday papers his plans for tolls of up to £1.34 a mile on British roads":-   The Observer - "Drivers to pay £1.30 per mile"   Sunday Times - "New plan for drivers to pay £1.30 a mile"   BBC - "'Pay-as-you-go' road charge plan"

The politicians are trying to sell the idea of Tolls to the British people. On Friday we had Ken Livingstone arguing for more "congestion charges" at the U.N. World Environment Day Conference. Today we have Alistair Darling again trying to convince people to accept tolls.

Road users don't want more road tolls, they want to see existing tolls scrapped. Tolls hit the poorest drivers hardest and force some drivers to use less suitable longer routes. Earlier this year both Livingstone and Darling tried to sell the idea of Tolls to the people of Edinburgh and they gave them a very definite NO!

The politicians argue that without tolls there will be gridlock. But the latest National Travel Survey (National Transport Survey (published 28 April) - (Chapter 1 - Table 1.1 Distance, trips and hours travelled per person per year: 1972/73 to 2002/03)) showed that over the last 30 years the amount of time spent travelling has stayed about the same - one hour a day on average. This is depite the distance travelled per person increasing by over 50%.

But this greater mobility and efficient use of roads is unlikely to continue as we increasingly suffer from a deliberate policy of inadequate spending on improved and new roads. There is a tremendous gap between the taxes on roads of over £40 billion and roads spending of only £7 billion. And much of this £7 billion is spent on schemes to impede traffic rather than reduce congestion!

The greatest threat to drivers is Tolls. They are widely unpopular so will be disguised as "congestion charges" or "road user pricing" or "private financing of roads". Some people believe that tolls will just replace other roads taxes. But the all party Commons Transport Committee suggested in March (Transport Cttee report(March 2005) - para 24 ) that tolls be used as "a revenue raising, rather than a revenue neutral, approach".

Collecting Tolls does not come cheap. The Department for Transport said in July (DfT report on Road Pricing (July 2004) - Annex J- (estimated costs at para J6)) that the cost of implementing tolling on all roads could be between £10 billion and £62 billion, with annual running costs of £5 billion.
Money should be spent on improving the roads not on another stick to beat the motorists with.

3 June 2005
100,000 Drivers Don't Pay London Toll Fines
Ross Lyall reports on drivers not paying London Toll fines. The information in the story was obtained by Angie Bray, Greater London Assembly member and the Tory spokesperson for the charge:-   Evening Standard - "One in three fails to pay C-charge fines"
We are not sure which is more amazing the 100,000 not paying or the 250,000 who have paid!

Tower Bridge closed again
Tower bridge, which is on the boundary of the Toll Zone, was closed most of yesterday. The bridge was stuck in the open position for ships to pass through. Many of the 40,000 vehicles that use the bridge each day will have had to divert through the Zone. TfL say that drivers doing so won't be charged. But the last time that they said this, many drivers did get a fine and had to appeal.

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