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Wednesday 4 April 2012

britain" Debate
  • - "Are road tolls right or wrong?" some comments.

    Thursday 29 March 2012

    britain" Roundup of some of the British stories over last week
  • Tolls for cars using the Humber bridge are to halve from ist April - Scunthorpe Telegraph - "After years of campaigning, the day is almost here for Humber Bridge tolls to drop to £1.50"   Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Job opportunities boosted by Humber Bridge toll cuts"   BBC - "Humber Bridge toll cut led to house sale rise: Estate agent".

  • There have been calls for tolls to be lifted on the Dartford Crossing to cut congestion during the Olympics - News Shopper - "Calls for tolls to be scrapped on Dartford Crossing during Olympics"   BBC - "London 2012: Call to lift Dartford tolls". As the Government is spending over eleven billion pounds on this sports fest it is more likely that they will be robbing even more from drivers to help pay for it.

  • A consultant from Deloitte (who advised Labour on road pricing) casts an eye over David's highway sell off idea - Public Service Europe - "UK private road-building plan 'a win-win'".

  • Here is another view - FT - "Skye bridge haunts UK infrastructure dreams". The Government is of course only going to sell off the roads and toll them in England, where the serfs know their place and will cause no trouble to Laird Cameron.

  • Wales Online - "Severn Bridge tolls set to continue until 2017 - recession and fuel prices blamed". The possible lifting of the Severn tolls has already been pushed back several years because the Government takes one sixth of the tolls as VAT. Though the date when the tolls might come off is academic, as both Labour and the Tories are so dishonest that they will never remove the tolls and will keep them as they have at Dartford. The MPs on both sides of the border are so ineffectual that they will not even whimper a feeble protest.

  • ITV - "Plan that could add tolls to A14 road" video.

    Saturday 24 March 2012

    m6toll M6 Traffic figures
  • The last time that we reported on the M6Toll traffic was in July last year. Since then there have been two more full quarter's figures. The picture continues to be grim for the toll company, with traffic continuing to decline to a new annual low of an average 35,700 vehicles a day. There are more details on our M6 traffic page.
    Perhaps the most surprising story is not the traffic but the way in which so many Tory MPs say that the road is a success even though they must know it has been a failure, and the only way that there will be more toll roads built is if the banks are given guarantees that drivers will be forced to use them.

    Friday 23 March 2012

    britain" Fuel
  • BBC - "Petrol prices hit another record high".
    There is a lot of volatility with crude prices (e.g. Brent Crude was 58 dollars a barrel 5 years ago, and only 17 months later - July 2008 - it was at 134 dollars, a rise of 132 per cent, then 5 months later it was down to 42 dollars). At the latest oil price of 125 dollars it is not that much different to the 115 dollars a year ago - a rise of 9 per cent.
    It is anyone's guess how oil prices might go from here. Demand for oil is down due to the Global slowdown. But supply is restricted due to various measures taken by the Western powers. The restriction of supply may be to help the oil speculators who have bet very heavily on price rises and who have a lot of influence and are backed by the Central banks.
    If you look at the sterling price for a dollar of Bent then over the last 12 months it has gone up from 71 pounds to 79 pounds. A barrel produces about 24 imperial gallons of petrol / diesel and 13 gallons of other products. By our reckoning that would add about 4.5 pence to the price of a litre, not much more than the 3.6 pence that the Chancellor is adding directly at the stroke of a pen.
    Index Mundi - "Crude Oil (petroleum); Dated Brent Daily Price".

    britain" chimaera Risk for Highway Robbers
  • Reuters - "UK "decongestion" toll roads would have volatility risk".

    Thursday 22 March 2012

    britain" Budget
  • One of the tax increases that the Chancellor glossed over yesterday was the effective increase in tax for current and future pensioners. He was able to get away with this because most MPs are innumerate and understand little of what is being said. Once the penny had dropped and the Coalition were being criticised for robbing pensioners, the Tories and Lib Dems retorted that pensioners are benefitting from the biggest ever increase in the basic pension because the Coalition have changed the method by which pensions have been calculated compared with the Scrooge system that Labour had. BBC - "Budget 2012: Ministers under fire over tax allowances for pensioners". .

    Like all good lies this is partly true - the pension system has been changed in a way that may improve the basic pension eventually and in April there will be the biggest ever rise (five pounds 30 as against the previous biggest of five pounds and no pence in April 2001).

    What the Tories and Lib Dems don't say is that the Scrooge system had been set up in 1980 by Geoffrey Howe and Margaret Thatcher. From 1997 Labour had kept the sytem of linking the basic pension with RPI, but there had been some ad hoc increases which have added about eight to ten pounds above inflation. Labour had also changed the rules so that far more people qualified for the full basic pension. They had also passed an Act which required that by 2015, at the latest, the basic pension should be linked to earnings.

    The increases since the Coalition took over have been solely due to rises in inflation as earnings are not increasing. The record pension increase is because inflation has been at its highest level for many years. That inflation has been deliberately created by the Government and its partners at the Bank of England who at the same time have kept interest rates at record lows which particularly affects pensioners who rely on savings to supplement their pension.

    In 2010, the IFS produced a report on pensions - "The history of state pensions in the UK: 1948 to 2010". Figure 3.1 on page 13 clearly shows how the pension steadily rose in real terms between 1948 and the start of the Thatcher Government in 1979 and were then effectively frozen for about 20 years when Labour started increasing them slightly in real terms. The precise pension figures for each year from 1948 to 2010 are in this ONS / DWP report - "The Abstract of Statistics for Benefits, National Insurance Contributions, and Indices of Prices and Earnings 2010 Edition" (see Table 2.1 on page 11).

    Having said all that the real elephant in the room is not the basic state pension of £107.45 a week or the tax allowances for pensioners, it is Britain's unfair and corrupt dual pension system.

    Wednesday 21 March 2012

    britain" Budget
  • Whichever party is in power the Budget speech from the Chancellor is the same. There are give aways that will only benefit a few people or businesses, tax increases which are glossed over or even omitted from the speech, and there is no reference to how much further we are going into the red.
    The Chancellor said that "We will earn our way in the world by saying to all businesses – large and small: We will provide you with the modern infrastructure ..". The reality is that businesses will see a large part of the infrastructure that they use sold off and they will inevitably have to pay even more to use it. There will also be increases in VED and fuel duty (including VAT the fuel tax increase will be 3.6 pence in August). As to paying our way in the world, Britain has a massive trade deficit - about 30 billion pounds a year. This is one reason that a large part of Britain's industry is now under foreign control. Though the actions and inactions of the Government may be helping to limit the trade deficit, as poorer people spend less on imports.
    HM Treasury - Budget 2012 page.

    britain" chimaera Bit more on the return of the Highway Robbers
  • A selection -
    The Lib Dem Transport Under Secretary tells Norfolk that they won't have to pay road tolls - EDP - "Transport minister Norman Baker rules out tolls on Norfolk roads at launch of community transport association in Norwich". Norfolk has 7 Tory MPs, 2 Lib Dem MPs and no Labour MPs. Is the Cameron plan to only toll Labour areas?

    The people of Cambridgeshire apparently won't have to pay tolls either, even though the Cameron specifically mentioned a road going through their area - Hunts Post - "Local journeys ‘could escape A14 tolls’". There are 6 Tory MPs and 1 Lib Dem MP in the County, and as you may have guessed there are no Labour MPs.

    A Tory MP who was Shadow Roads Minister but is now a whip says that "people are prepared to pay tolls" though it seems the people in his own constituency will be dissapointed as he thinks that they will not have to pay - Scarborough Evening News - "MP supports road plans ".

    Round up of what hauliers etc think of the this Con - Fleet Directory - "“Unthinkable” and “inequitable” – the industry reacts to Cameron’s privatisation plans".

    Tuesday 20 March 2012

    britain" chimaera More on the return of the Highway Robbers
  • Some of today's editorials-

    The FT wants road tolls without privatisation - Editorial - "The wrong route for Britain’s roads".

    The Independent also supports tolls on new roads - providing that there is a free alternative. They seem to be unaware that if there is a free alternative then the new roads will be almost empty - "Leading article: A price will have to be paid for better roads".

    The Telegraph wants a more slash and burn scheme than the PM is admitting to - Telegraph editorial - "A fine diagnosis, but no cure is in sight".

    The main Daily Mail editorial is not about the PM's plan, but there is a long piece from Simon Heffer - "Road tolls: Yet another gratuitous exploitation of the motorist". Though Simon seems to oppose tolls, he believes that the M6 Toll is a success, so he can't know that it is almost empty and that the company that runs it could have been bankrupt if it wasn't owned by a bank. He also thinks that other taxes could be cut if road tolls came in! Apart from the fact that the Government has no intention of cutting taxes on drivers, there is the very high cost of collecting and enforcing tolls and paying charges to the banks if they are privatised.

    The Daily Star is opposed to the PM's plan, but the PM probably thinks that the "Daily Star" is the Sun! "Halt Crazy Tolls Plan".

    The Mirror is also opposed to the PM's plan - "Cameron will pay a heavy toll for extra charges on motorists".

    The Economist seems to believe that there will be few new tolls and that the PM's privatisation plan may in the longer term mean worse problems for public finances - "The open road".

    The Murdoch Times editorial is behind a pay wall, but as might be expected they are enthusiatic about the PM's plan.

  • More comments and news reports -
    Telegraph - "David Cameron's half-hearted plans for road privatisation will fail to deliver"   Guardian - "David Cameron's roads privatisation: are we going round in circles?"   Guardian - "David Cameron's road plans are already happening"   Click Liverpool - "'Kill toll roads plan' say campaigners"   Telegraph - "Privatised roads: Drivers have had enough of highway robbery".
    FT - "Road network could be sold on long leases"   Independent - "Roads to riches – or highways to hell?"   Independent - "What kind of nation can't maintain its own roads?"   Express - "David Cameron Blasted In Road Tolls Backlash"   Mirror - "Fatcat lanes for the rich: AA's warning over road privatisation plans ".

  • The PM's scam will only apply to England, though Wales is worried that their budgets may be cut to force them down the same road - Wales Online - "UK Government's roads privatisation plan "poorly thought through", says devolution expert"   This is South Wales - "Road toll campaigner's fears over PM's plans".

    In Scotland the SNP made it clear back in 2006 that if they formed a Government they would have no truck with any form of road tolls. Following yesterday's announcement in London, the SNP have reiterated their opposition to tolls, but Scotland still has its trolls - Scotsman - "Business leaders call on SNP to lease out Scotland’s road network".

  • PS This is from the official transcript of what the Cameron yesterday told the trolls at ICE about tolls -
    "The massive programme announced in last year’s Growth Review made a good start; but how do we do more, frankly, when there isn’t enough money? I think we need to look at innovative approaches to the funding of our national roads to increase investment to reduce congestion.
    Now, road tolling is one option, but we are only considering this for new, not existing capacity. For example, we’re looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part-funded through tolling. But we now need to be more ambitious. We should be asking ourselves, ‘Why is it that other infrastructure’ — for example, water — ‘is funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated utilities, but roads in Britain still call on the public finances for funding?’ We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network; from sovereign wealth funds, from pension funds, from other investors. That is why I’ve asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the national roads system and to report progress to me in the autumn.
    Let me be clear: this is not about mass tolling and, as I’ve said, we’re not tolling existing roads; it’s about getting more out of the money that motorists already pay."

    Monday 19 March 2012

    britain" chimaera Déjà vu
  • We have been "off the air" since August last year but have come back to report on a revived threat. The Prime Minister has announced today that the Government is to look at privatising Britain's main roads -
    BBC - "Private cash needed to boost roads network, says David Cameron"   Evening Standard - "Privatised roads deals bonanza"   Telegraph - "Shadow Transport Secretary: Road tolls 'will be another Tory rip-off'"   Piston Heads - "Privatised Roads: A Back Door For Road Pricing?"   WSJ - "U.K. Considers Part-Privatization of the National Road Network".
    Express - "Toll Roads To Cover Britain"   Guardian - "Road privatisation is the latest step in the stripping of Britain's assets"   Spectator - "Where will Cameron's road proposal take us?"   New Statesman - "Why Cameron is brave to propose road tolls"
    Guardian - "David Cameron unveils plan to sell off the roads"   Independent - "Cameron to fill hole in nation's finances by privatising roads"   Guardian - "Selling the roads to private companies: will it work?"   Telegraph - "Privatising the roads may be sensible, but that doesn't make it good politics"
    Guardian - "Privatising the roads: ensuring the wheels don't come off the plan"   Daily Mail - "New age of pay-to-drive: Motorists face more tolls under plans to lease roads".

    Some of the reports after the official leaks were confirmed at lunchtime - Left Foot Forward - "Here’s why Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ plans are nonsensical"   Spectator - "Yes to new roads, no to a pensions raid"   Telegraph - "David Cameron calls for new toll roads to fund infrastructure"   RHA - "Road users must see a return on their investment says RHA"   BBC - "Miliband's warning to PM on roads"   BBC - "Q&A: Private investment in roads"   Morning Star - "A goldmine for speculators"   Morning Star - "Britain on the road to ruin".
    The FTA as usual seems to fail to realise that any new system can not be cost neutral for roads users - "FTA welcomes private roads investment but warns against additional costs for lorries".
    The BBC in its gives 10 reasons why the Government want raod tolls and two reasons against - "Roads Plc? Why privatisation might look tempting", They also give links to two reports from troll orgnaistaions that cosistently back road tolls, and give no links to those of us who oppose it.

    No doubt many of the usual road trolls will creep out of the woodwork, such as the RAC Foundation, the likes of the CBI and some of the news media. Also no doubt that though the vast majority of people will instinctively oppose this scam, they will largely be kept in the dark about how bad an idea it is, as the Government and the trolls (toll operators, construction companies and the banks) will use their influence to make sure that they get most of the news coverage.

    This was our press release -
    "Whatever the Government may want people to believe, any leasing of roads to the banks will just be the start of a slippery slope down into a hell of a toll tax on most main roads."

    "We have been here before, Alistair Darling, as Labour Transport Secretary, came out with a similar scheme. But that threat was eventually killed as the public made their opposition clear in toll polls in Edinburgh and Manchester and by signing the anti road pricing petition to 10 Downing Street which had a record 1.8 million signatures."

    "There are many reasons why people don't like tolls. One enormous reason is the amount that drivers are already paying in taxes - about one billion pounds - every week. Only about 15 per cent of that money is spent on maintaining or improving the roads system, and it is a scandal to propose that drivers should pay more. And if more money really has to be extorted from drivers, then the charging of tolls is the worst way to do it. In 2004 consultants working for the Government estimated that a national toll scheme would cost between £10 billion and £62 billion to implement, with annual running costs of £5 billion on top. If you average the figures out it would be the equivalent of adding another 20 pence a litre to the cost of fuel - before you would start generating any new money to pay for roads."

    "The Prime Minister suggests that any tolls would only be on new roads or lanes, but he should know that the banks would never invest money in such a scheme. The M6 Toll road which was opened in 2003 has consistently lost money as most drivers avoid it, even if it means longer journey times. There is further proof of this in the North West, where plans for a new toll bridge across the Mersey are only going ahead because the Government has agreed to allow a toll on the existing free alternative, the politicians stay that they have to do this as no one would use the new bridge but would instead "trundle" across the existing untolled bridge."

    "It has also been suggested that the Government would repay the banks that buy our roads by paying them money based on roads usage. Such a system is usually called "shadow tolling", and research (by Professor Shaoul of Manchester University Business School) has demonstrated that this is the most expensive way to pay for roads. In this case it will be even worse as instead of one operator providing the roads, there will be lots of different owners and an end to a properly integrated road network."

    "The roads were built over many generations and are a national asset which is essential for the movement of people and goods. Instead of selling off our roads to the banks and charging drivers even more to use them, the Government should be using a bigger share of our existing road and fuel taxes to remove the worst bottlenecks. They could start by removing the tolls on the Dartford Crossing which are the cause of some of the biggest traffic queues in Britain."

    Wednesday 22 February 2012

    denmark Not going Dutch
  • Copenhagen Post - "Congestion charge proposal ends in rubbish bin" a few comments.
    Here is one report that suggests that if this had gone ahaed then it would have had little effect on air pollution - Danish Centre for Environment - "Road pricing helps curb health-damaging air pollution".
    Some older reports (htt Brian)- Copenhagen Post, Jan 2012 - "Congestion charge is “not perfect” – but it's coming anyway"   Copenhagen Post, Dec 2011 - "Zealand mayors rebel over congestion zone"   Road Pricing Blog - "Copenhagen congestion charge looks likely with change in government"   World Watch Institute, Sep 2011 - "Elections in Denmark: A Congestion Charge Grabs Most of the Attention".

    Wednesday 25 January 2012

    britain" chimaera Lorry tolls
    BBC - "Foreign lorries face £10 daily charge on UK roads"   DfT press release - "A fairer deal for UK hauliers"   DfT further info following the consultation.

    Thursday 24 November 2011

    britain" chimaera Paving the way for another go at road tolls and privatisation
    DfT - Transport Secretary's statement to Parliament - "Independent review of strategic road network in England"   DfT more on the Cook report.


    Links to some older news stories may no longer work. If so we suggest that you search on the web for the headline.
    2011: August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2010: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2009: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2008: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2007: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2006: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2005: December   November   October   September   August   July   June   May   April   March   February   January
    2004: December   November   October   September   August   July

    For the Scotland tolls battle from 2004 to March 2008 go to - Scotland News (separate pages for each year)
    For the Edinburgh "congestion charge" from August 2004 to May 2005 go to - Edinburgh News
    For the Manchester "congestion charge" from January 2007 to December 2008 go to - Manchester News (separate pages for each year)
    For the plans to toll existing free bridge over the Mersey - Runcorn News

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