previous month   following month   Other News   Home page


30 November 2005

m6toll Road Show
Doctor Ladyman is on the road trying to sell plans for another M6 toll:- BBC - "Minister wants to ease M6 traffic".

china Chinese Congestion Charge
"Red" China has more toll roads then the rest of the world put together. But they are now looking at "Congestion" charges:- China Daily - "Congestion fee ignites heated debate". Some people are in favour but not all "Although she has not got a car, Ren Cao, an accountant, regards it as unfair for private car owners to pay this sort of extra fee. "Nobody wants to drive during rush hour, people do so because they have to, even if they have to pay," she said. "Government should try to find a way to improve traffic conditions, not just charge fees."

chimaera Times not a-changin' - still backs tolls
The Times leader yesterday seemed to identify some of the problems with so called "congestion" charging, but then backed the Government's pilot schemes for road charging. Why are we not surprised? "Charging ahead".

28 November 2005

chimaera The Seven Dwarves - Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey and Dopey
This morning prior to addressing CBI bosses, Alistair told the BBC about his toll plans and that he would soon announce where the pilot schemes will be. Well we didn't have to wait long! The embargoed press release flooded the media at lunchtime, here is the updated BBC report:- "Road pricing cash to be announced", and here is the DfT press release.
Seven areas will share £7.5 million ($13 million). The Edinburgh Toll plan cost £9 million ($15 million) to produce and attempt to sell to the people (see story on 21st November). So this £7.5 million will do little more than whet the appetite of the consultants:- Transport News Network
PS Chris Kelly, boss of a haulage firm, has asked businesses to lobby on the "West Midlands Local Transport Plan". Chris thinks that the plan will aim to frustrate the free movement of traffic in the region, and could include "more unnecessary traffic lights, dual carriageways reduced to single lanes, more bus lay-bys filled in, more bus lanes etc." The plan also includes tolls:- Birmingham Mail - "Hauliers' stand on road network"

usa Thanks
There have been the usual Thanksgiving traffic jams, particularly at the toll booths. Unbelievably, the Florida Turnpike temporarily suspended some of the tolls "to try to keep vehicles moving"

usa sweden london edinburgh "Stockholm Syndrome"
Some business interests want tolls in New York, similar to the existing London "Congestion charge" and the one that Stockholm will introduce in January. But Johan Wennström of Swedish pro-market organization Captus:- Tech Central Station - "New York's Stockholm Syndrome" points out the problems with the London scheme and tells us what is happening in Stockholm:- "Already, merchants are worried about the economic consequences... It is not only a blow to those merchants, but also to the dynamic inner city life. Everyone in the Swedish capital -- except the coalition of greens and socialists who concocted the plan -- expects traffic chaos when the tolls are raised.... Video cameras hanging over the main approaches to Stockholm, look off-putting, and give visitors the impression of a besieged city, protected by a great wall made up of tariffs." He ends:- "Why make it harder for New York to recover by imposing a toll system which, if following the international pattern, will only hurt merchants and consumers alike?"
PS As in Edinburgh, the people of Stockholm are to be given a vote on the Toll - but only after it has been introduced. Sweden's online English language paper reports on the row over what goes on the ballot paper:- The Local - "Stockholm congestion charge vote "a farce""

chimaera Big Bosses Back Tolls
  • Actually it is the people who control the Confederation of British Industry who want Tolls, as it appears that company bosses don't - according to a survey conducted for the CBI and railway companies. The survey has been released on the eve of a conference to be addressed by Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Ken Livingstone - the road users friends! BBC. The FT says "The survey suggests that the government has not yet convinced business about its suggestion of solving congestion through a national system of road pricing, under which motorists would be charged according to the roads they use, the distance they drive and the time of day as a solution to congestion. Only one in five ofthe companies questioned thought this would deliver significant improvements for their business. The CBI, which backs the principle of road pricing, said the government had not yet made its case strongly enough to convince the business community.". The Independent says "Although the CBI is a strong supporter of road pricing, only a fifth of those polled backed the measure. Two-thirds said the answer lay in building more roads".

  • The FT reports on a call for road pricing from the policy director of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. He says that congestion in the West Midlands costs the economy 2.3 billion pounds (4 billion dollars) a year. We wonder why he didn't suggest removing charges from the almost empty M6 toll road?

  • The Times reports on the views of the two Davids competing to be Tory leader. It says that David Cameron "supports only two new ideas for directly charging public-service users: university top-up fees and road tolls - taboos that Labour has already overcome". As far as we know both Davids support tolls, though it is not clear how far they would move towards New Labour on this.

    27 November 2005

    australia britain High Cost of Tolls
    John Cox, a transport consultant and author of Refocusing Road Reform and Roads in the Community, explains in the Australian "Caught on the road to nowhere" why he opposes "direct road tolls" including "Not only are there extra capital and operating costs involved in tolling, but direct tolling forces between 20 and 40 per cent of motorists off these low-cost infrastructure facilities on to more expensive stop-start arterial roads, and therefore reduces the economic benefits of the facility."
    John also says that "A University of Manchester evaluation of the first of these PPP projects that were signed in 1996 for eight Design, Build, Finance and Operate highways in Britain found the government had paid private operators more than the capital cost of these projects after only three years of operation. They concluded: "Irrespective of how they are funded (via taxation, direct tolls or more usually some combination of the two), the turn to private finance is very expensive and more expensive than public finance for gains that have yet to be substantiated."

    usa australia Big Toll Sell goes on
    The move in USA to more tolls goes on, led by the trolls and many politicians. Though they are not fooling everyone, as many people realise that:-
  • toll roads cost more to finance,
  • tolls are random, with some parts of a state having a lot more toll roads than other parts,
  • tolls and other roads taxes are being diverted to fund railways or even general expendituire,
  • gas taxes are better than road tolls.
    Oregon, where state gas tax is the equivalent of less than two cents a mile, has invited MIG from Australia to what appear to be exclusive talks on building three new toll roads. Today's Sunday Oregonian "Detour looms on how we pay for roads" asks "Q: Who are these Australians, and what are they doing here? Q: If tolling is such a good idea, why can't the state do the same thing? Q: How high would tolls have to be? Q: What devils lurk in the details? Q: Can private interests and public interests really get along?"

    israel Levantine Economics and Genetic Engineering
    Dan Ben-David asks why "it was decided to charge a tax that counters economic intuition and acts as an incentive for drivers to remain on the congested roads ... And what a tax it is. The Levantine version of capitalism is not content on simply distorting economic theory. If there is going to be a tax, then it is imperative to implement an additional sleight-of-hand." He ends "That's how they are making a killing at our expense. We pay excessive taxes to enable those we elect to provide services. But the money disappears in the heavy haze called "the government budget," and then we are required to pay again - at exorbitant prices officially sanctioned by those same elected representatives of ours. Israel's world-renowned Volcani Center is justifiably proud of its ground-breaking discoveries in the field of genetic engineering. However, the most incredible feat of genetic engineering to have emerged in this country is that of the Israeli chump who continues to vote time after time for those same elected officials.":- Ha' - "Route 6 and Levantine capitalism".

    26 November 2005

    london usa Golden Goodbye
    The American who is "credited" with introducing London's "Congestion charge" is leaving early. There is controversy over his terms of departure:- Guardian - "Assembly to look at transport chief's £1.5m deal"

    25 November 2005

    china Tolls reduced to draw traffic away
    We thought this was funny - China is hosting the World Trade Organization conference in December at Hong Kong. It has been announced that the Eastern Harbour Crossing and Western Harbour Tunnel are reducing tolls throughout the conference to attract vehicles away from the city center.

    london Ken's Contract
    Maureen Lipman tells Guardian readers about her week, including her experience of the London Con Charge:-
    "On Thursday I took out a contract on the life of Ken Livingstone. If the mayor of London washes up on the tide by Eel Pie Island, it was me. I confess it. My defence however, will stand up in any court in the land. The thing about the congestion charge is that despite what Ken, with his own brand of nasal congestion, talks about, it actually causes congestion.
    From 6pm until 6.30pm, all around the outer zone, you can see skulking Skodas and hovering Hondas in every side street of the capital. In one of them is me. In Audrey, my audacious Audi. On the stroke of 6.30pm, we all rev up and head for the same street at the same time. On Thursday, gridlocked into Gower Street until 45 minutes before curtain up, I ended up opening the car door, yelling g'bye to Natalie, who was driving me, and legging it into the frozen night. The reason for the jam? Thought you'd like to know ... Eleven buses in a row. Just the 11. All, I repeat, all, virtually empty, all out of the bus lane, and a big bendy bastard, on the yellow box at the junction, screwing up the others - totally empty! Then we wonder why audiences are thin in the West End."

    chimaera london Road spies
    There is another report today, about the police using cameras similar to those used for the London Congestion Charge. They will be monitoring all vehicles on all motorways and at some other locations:- This is Local London - "Hendon base for spy camera network"

    24 November 2005

    usa Not so EZ
    There are more reports of problems with electronic tolls in USA. A lot of toll authorities don't bother to chase people who don't pay. But when they do chase people who apparently have not paid, they get complaints. Problems can be caused by improperly mounted transponders, low batteries or faulty toll-plaza equipment. The problems are not just with one equipmemt supplier. The Orlando Sentinel reports on Mike Hargreaves, a former Orange County Sheriff's Office employee who had four incorrect citations which led to his license suspension. Mike spent spent days working with court clerks trying to get his license restored. He said of SunPass - "They're letting us out to hang."

    london MP wants cars banned from toll bridge
    The Inquiry into the proposed so called "Gateway" bridge over the Thames is still dragging on. The lengthy process is due to the vast number of objectors to the tolled bridge. Most of them want tolls - bur they don't want a bridge! Today the Bexley Express reports that a local MP has suggested to the inquiry that cars should not be allowed to use the bridge and he complained that "tolls will not be a deterrent".

    usa No Tolls at Thanksgiving
    A State Senator for Long Island, Michael Balboni, is to introduce a bill in January saying that tolls should not be collected on Thanksgiving Day. He wants to reduce delays and traffic jams at toll plazas. We reckon his chances are zero, if motorists experience the benefit of no tolls, they might start asking why they have to suffer the other 364 days.

    23 November 2005

    britain europe<bTruckers Report
    The Burns Inquiry looking into taxation of lorries on British roads has completed it's work and has submitted a report to the Government. The Inquiry was set up by the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association afer the Government abandoned its Lorry Road User Charging scheme. The LRUC scheme was daft as it cost far more to administer than it would raise from foreiegn truckers (British hauliers were effectively exempt - or so they believed!), but the truckers were upset when it was abandoned. Though the Government has seen the report, for some reason the rest of us can't see it till the 29th.

    london Rat Run
    The Islington Gazette reports that a scheme introduced in 2003 to deter traffic trying to avoid the London Con charge has failed. One resident says "The amount of traffic is reducing quality of life for us, there are queues which causes pollution, there is more noise and it is potentially more dangerous for residents.":- "Road scheme has just made traffic worse, say residents".

    canada Toll Bridge Celebration
    Today's papers carry a story about a "historic bridge crossing" and the "billionth" customer to cross the 50 year old A. Murray MacKay Toll Bridge. Did this mean that after half a century, they would be removing the tolls? - Answers on a post card to Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission.

    australia Motorists Want Congestion Charge!
    The RAC of Queensland says that their members want congestion charging. The reason is that they want such charges to replace the existing system of tolls on many roads:- RACQ Press Release. We wonder why they were not brave enough to suggest just scrapping the tolls, as congestion charges are very expensive to administer.
    Brisbane City Council has rejected the idea. They say "Such a levy would be too broad and would force everyone to pay, including motorists stuck in traffic.":- ABC NewsOnLine - "Council rejects 'congestion charge' for busy roads".

    22 November 2005

    newzealand New Zealand AA support motorists
    Yesterday we reported that New Zealand trolls wanted a lot more tolls. Today, Matthew Dearnaley in the New Zealand Herald reports the reaction of the Automobile Association. It seems that the AA in New Zealand have not been taken in, as they say:- "Taxing motorists through petrol sales is the fairest way of raising money to pay for roads, and the Government should simply stop siphoning much of that into its general account.":- "AA opposes road funding change".

    21 November 2005

    singapore london Singapore Con charge hits "bustling hub"
    Singapore has on some roads extended the hours that are subject to "Electronic Road Pricing". "Today on Line" reports that it has had a major adverse effect on retail businesses and the area has ceased to be a "bustling hub":- ERP changes impact retail business . London shops and restaurants could have told them that would happen!

    australia Expensive "Free" Ride
    To try and attract more users, Sydney's Cross City Tunnel is having a free trial period. Except that motorists entering it from the Eastern Distributor have unexpectedly ended up with $14.50 bills for the 800 yard stretch of distributor leading to the Tunnel:- Sydney Morning Herald - "A free tunnel trip that'll cost you $14.50".
    PS Australian Tolls group - MIG - have commissioned "an independent body to look at the social benefits of toll roads in terms of reduced congestion, fewer accidents and reduced emissions" . Any guesses what this "independent" body will say?

    london No Con charge at Xmas
    Transport for London say that there will be no Congestion charge between Xmas and New Year:- TfL Press Release. TfL can't resist repeating the myth that "congestion" is reduced by 30 per cent!

    edinburgh chimaera Nine Million Pounds for Tolls Poll
    Alan Roden in the Evening News using the Freedom of Information Act has uncovered that Edinburgh's abortive attempt to introduce Tolls cost the taxpayers £9 million. (Publicity campaign cost £1.5million, Staff pay cost £0.8 million, Poll cost £0.5 million, Legal costs £1.2 million, Technical costs £2.1 million, and "Other costs" £2.9 million.)
    The waste was condemned by Scottish Socialists, SNP and the Tories:- "Road tolls sent £9m of our cash down drain". But the Labour leader said that "For every pound spent on congestion charging, we have secured over £100 for transport improvements. If the council had not .. (pursued) congestion charging the city would not have been rewarded with such money." Is this an indication of what will happen with Darling's Shilling? Will local authorities in England be rewarded for just saying that they will have tolls, though everyone knows that they are not wanted, not economic and just shunt traffic round.
    PS The Evening News also reports that the Scottish Executive are hiring MORI to see why the Toll Poll went "wrong". Does this mean they plan to try another con trick? "Study to lift the lid on referendum defeat"

    south South Africa says Not Tolls
    We reported on 31 October, the unusual news that some officials and politicians were opposed to tolls. That was in South Africa. Today there is a report that Colin Boyes of the Cape Regional Chamber of Commerce said: "We are concerned about the poor state of roads in the province and we believe that it's the government's responsibility to fix them up, but the way we go about it is very important. We are not in support of toll roads and believe the funding should be raised through a provincial fuel levy and not tolls.":- Cape Argus.

    newzealand New Zealand Pound of Flesh
    This story is from New Zealand but it could be anywhere. The trolls, in this case the paid officials, want a lot more tolls. The reason given is that fuel taxes are falling because of more fuel efficient cars:- New Zealand Herald - "Motorists face new charges". The trolls rely on people's ignorance to get away with extorting more money from roads users. Direct taxes on roads users earn the NZ Government about $NZ 2.5 billion and they spend about $NZ 1 billion on roads, that's a surplus of $NZ 1.5 billion ($US 1 billion or 600 million pounds). Why are roads users treated as a cash cow? If vehicles are getting more fuel efficient should that not be welcomed, and if they still want their pound of flesh, then tolls are the most inefficient aggravating way to get it!

    london New London group
    A new group has been formed to campaign on various issues including "against the operation of the existing congestion charge, any increases in the rates of the charge, its extension to other areas of London and any extension of its time of operation". Of the 7 directors, only two appear to have taken a previous interest in the Congestion charge! We hope that this group achieves something and does not have a negative effect:- London Motorists Action Group Limited.

    20 November 2005

    australia Cuddly Koala Politicians
    Australia's politicians demonstrate why they are so loved - it is their willingness to share in the misery of the suckers (oops that should read voters). The Daily Telegraph has under Freedom of Information rights discovered that Government and opposition bosses have their tolls paid for by the suckers (oops again, that should of course be voters). Some of the toll bills are over $A4,000 ($US3,000 or £1,700):- "MPs run up $25,000 toll bill"   "Roll back the tollway revolution".

    usa FBI investigates Eagles seats
    In the city of brotherly love, the FBI are looking at who is getting seats to American Football games. The authorities have "free" sets in return for their $12 million (7 million pounds) contribution to the cost of building the stadium. What's this got to do with tolls? Guess where the money came from:- Centre Daily Times - "FBI probes DRPA's Eagles tickets".

    jamaica Tolled bridge replaces free bridge
    The Jamaica Observer reports that the new Portmore Causeway is nearing completion. The bridge forms part of a new toll road - the Highway 2000. When the new tolled bridge is ready, the existing free Portmore bridge will be demolished. The local people have naturally been fighting this. But those unaffected don't care, and those who will profit can stifle the protests Portmore Toll protestors.

    usa Tolls "the best thing"
    The big sell of tolls continues in many US papers. The trolls are certainly getting their money's worth from the lobbyists. Many politicians will be easily convinced one way or another, but how many Americans will they fool into believing that more toll roads is the answer to their problems.

    australia Toll Tunnel Inquiry
    Next month, the former premier, former treasurer and former infrastructure minister are to be "star" witnesses at the parliamentary inquiry into Sydney's Cross City Tunnel contract, which required existing streets and traffic lanes closed to funnel traffic into the toll tunnel:- Sydney Morning Herald - "Stage set for fight at end of the tunnel".

    19 November 2005

    pacific Pacific tolls
    Not many people will think that the Pacific Islands have a congestion problem - on dry land or water! But "Island Business" based in Fiji says that they are being advised by an official with the "Pacific Forum Islands Council Secretariat" (consisting of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.) to consider "road gate tolls". - The reason? - the high cost of fuel - We think that this logical leap must be due to influence from the Land of Oz.

    cambodia Untamed tolls
    "Farang Untamed World" (from Thailand) reports on "Strange facts, odd figures" and under "Urban Legends" has:- "Roadblocks and extortion are a daily part of Cambodia overland travel. Wrong! There hasn't been a reported highway shakedown in over two years. Any roadblocks and cash payments you witness are legitimate tolls. They just haven't built the fancy tollbooths the Western world has." - So next time you are held up, remember it may like tolls be legalised robbery.

    18 November 2005

    chimaera m6toll Gimme, gimme road charges
  • Main roads and motorways in the West Midlands area are the busiest in the country according to todays's Birmingham Post. The solution? - Road pricing, according to local Transport chiefs who want Alistair Darling to give them lots of money to employ consultants to come up with a tolls scheme. Meanwhile the M6 Toll road which could relieve a lot of the pressure is almost empty. What a sad country, when politicians either can't draw the obvious conclusion or are so anti car that they don't care.
  • Also today it was reported that the people of Harrogate in Yorkshire want a bypass to relieve congestion. But councillors have told them that they can't build the new road until other ways of forcing traffic off the road have been exhausted.

    17 November 2005

    london Toll Baroness is told to pay toll
    We reported on 18th May, that a Baroness had won an appeal in the High Court against London Con charge. She had paid the charge but given the wrong licence number. The case is a bit odd because the Baroness is a strong supporter of tolls including the Con charge. Her tolls ardour didn't impress Ken Livingstone's men as they appealed the decision. They have now won their case in the Court of Appeal:- BBC - "Peer's road toll victory quashed". We wonder what will happen now, it is possible that Ken will quietly wipe out the amount owed, but we think not. So will the Baroness pay up or take the fight to her fellow peers?

    australia Toll Tunnel buy back
    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the State Government are considering buying back the tolled Cross City Tunnel. But it is waiting to see if the Tunnel fails, thus making it cheaper to buy. The price would be even cheaper, if the Government hadn't contracted to close and restrict alternative roads to try and force traffic into the tolled tunnel:- "Tunnel strategy: wait for it to fail". The Tunnel is currently going through a toll free period to try and attract more custom.

    europe EU to make it easier to privatise roads
    Charlie McCreevy, the Irish accountant who is Europe's Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, today told a conference that rules will be changed for Public Private Partnerships schemes (in Britain called Private Finance Initiative). The main example he gives is a tolled motorway:- European Commission Press Release.

    usa More Big Toll Sell
  • There are further reports on what seems to be a concerted campaign fronted by various organisations to push for a lot more tolls on US roads. This is reflected in reports like this one from "The Day" in Connecticut. Most of the funds seem to be going into railways, and it is suggested that to get the money they need to "improve the state's transportation system" they should bring tolls onto as many roads as they can:- "Put Back Highway Tolls?". The report says "Taxing gas to pay for roads when public policy needs to be attempting to get cars off the roads and cut down on the use of motor fuels is not a reliable plan for the future." Like a lot of statements from the tolls lobby, this does not of course need to make any sense!

  • One of the fine things about America is that though the rich can shout louder, everyone gets heard. In Oregon, the authorities are telling the people that if they want more lanes on Highway 217 then they will either have to pay tolls or wait till 2089! This is trick number 2 from the "Trolls Book of Trix". But it doesn't fool all the people. According to The Oregonian - "Toll, or wait 80 years " there was a public survey last month. It says "Typical of the anti-toll response was an e-mail the committee received from Debra Youngs: "How dare you even think of a toll road. I'm sure all the rich people will love it. The rich get to work faster, and the poor have to stay in the slow lane even if there is hardly any traffic in the toll lane." People suggested other sources of revenue, making developers pay a larger share of road construction costs, improving alternative roads, improving interchanges, better bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and increasing public transit service.

    usa Drove my Chevy to the levee with a fistful of coins
  • The Shreveport Times reports that lawmakers are pushing legislation to create a highway running along the Louisiana coast from Texas to Mississippi. The road would be paid for by tolls. Nothing unusual in USA about tolls. But the road is unusual - it will be built on top of a dam or levee, and its real purpose will be to stop flooding from hurricane storm surges.

  • Further north, CBS report on Cape May in New Jersey. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has the Cape area as the sixth most difficult place to evacuate in a fast-moving storm. Officials say it would take 36 hours to move 500-thousand people. New Jersey Turnpike say they would waive toll collection in an emergency, but County officials are not sure the turnpike would be willing to give up 36 hours worth of tolls, and want toll plazas removed on the exit from the Cape.

    usa britain Come out with your hands up!
  • A California car thief stole a car with a Fastrak toll device. For the next 4,000 miles the journeys of the car were tracked. The police were able to take photos of the driver and eventually arrest them. The police said "It was very helpful she had FasTrak in the car. It's definitely one of the tools in our toolbox, and it's becoming more and more valuable for tracking purposes because it fills in some blanks and helps us put the whole picture together." Fox News - Now we know why its called "Trak".
  • Britain may not yet have many electronic tolls to keep track of people. But it has just been revealed that the Department for Transport is considering a national database to trace cars where drivers have not paid the Congestion charge or parking fines etc. Wardens etc all round the country could check whether there was any money owing, and then have the car clamped, with bills of 500 pounds (850 dollars) just to get the clamp taken off.

    australia Government tries to hide its profits
    Victoria's Auditor General has said that the accounts which show a surplus of $A800 million are misleading. No! they didn't make a loss - they made a surplus of $A2.1 billion ($US 1.5 billion or 900 million pounds). The Government has tried to hide the real surplus as the opposition wanted to spend money on relieving some of the tolls burden:- The Australian - "Bracks 'downplayed surplus'"

    16 November 2005

    chimaera Ouch!
    The Birmingham Post reports that some West Midlands firms are worried about the effect if their area brings in a pilot road pricing scheme:- "Firm slates unfair road pricing project" The Transport Innovation Fund pilots are a case of the Emperor's clothes. Outside of the public transport fanatics there is hardly anyone who wants road pricing or believes that it will have any effect except hurting roads users. Some authorities may just be going along with the Emperor in order to take "Darling's Shilling". Countrywide road pricing would cost about £10 billion. As they only spend £7 billion a year on road building and maintenance, that £10 billion could be put to far better use.
    The Yorkshire Post reports that firms in their area are also worried. In a survey carried out by Yorkshire Forward and CBI, 72 per cent of firms expected that it would hit their costs, and 20 per cent expect that sales would fall.
    PS A Coventry paper reports that 800,000 households across the West Midlands will be asked "what they think about paying to drive on the region's roads". This survey is apparently sponsored by the local Transport Authority. Have these people's representatives not got better things to spend our money on?

    china Big 'uns go free
    "Red" China already has 70 per cent of the world's toll roads, but they are just about to add another 32.5 km (20 miles). The Donghai or East Sea bridge with its 8 lanes is now complete. It links Shanghai to a new offshore deepwater "free" port. The tolls have just been announced - container trucks will be toll free but other vehicles will pay 20 to 45 Yuan ($2.50 to $5.50 or one pound 50 to three pounds 20). With Chinese wages, drivers won't be able to make the journey too often - unless they upsize to a container truck.

    15 November 2005

    europe Euro Trolls of Spain report on a meeting yesterday of Europe's Transport Committee. The Eurocrats are already committed to a Europe wide tolling system, initially just for lorries. But they have now agreed a few more of the principles:- "EU: Green light for revision of Eurovignette directive"
    Some people may have thought that Europe was about free movermnet of goods. They may also wonder why Europe can't agree on harmonising fuel taxes (see 1 November) but can agree how they are going to get more money out of roads users.

    usa Big Toll Sell
    Steve Eldridge in the Washington Examiner reports on the campaign that he supports for lots more toll roads, toll lanes and higher tolls. The promotion campaign is fronted by the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association, Environmental Defense and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The aim of the campaign seems to be to toll everying that you can, build more roads and lanes, don't raise gas tax, and use gas tax to fund rail and just about anything else, except roads:- "Teaming for tolls"
    The South Bend Tribune reports that an Indiana state rep thinks that the selling off of roads to private firms may be illegal, particularly if the road has been partly paid for by federal funds or if the buyer is foreign. Federal officials have said that they don't know if it is legal, but it is unlikely that anyone will stop it.:- "Bauer vowing to fight plan to lease out the Toll Road "

    nigeria Killed in Toll clash
    From time to time we report on the problems of unofficial tolls. "This Day" in Nigeria reports that Wale Ojumu, a 20 year old member of the Alliance for Democracy, was killed in clashes with the Federal Road Maintenance Authority. Mr Ojumu had been protesting that the tolls were illegal:- "FERMA/LASTMA Clash: AD Member's Corpse Dumped at Lion Building"

    usa Lucky 13
    On 26th October, we reported problems in New Hampshire because they have 11 series of licence plates. Today similar problems are reported in Nebraska. Drivers are getting fines from toll authorities such as the New Jersey Turnpike but they have not used the road. The problem is caused because Nebraska has 13 series of licence plates.

    14 November 2005

    usa Applause for Governor Brag
    In Illinois, the Governor's office have issued a press release heaping praise on - the Governor. What has he done? - Well its part of his "Congestion Relief Plan". But what has he done? - Scrapped some of the toll booths. - Great! - Not really as at great cost they are bringing in electronic tolls. The Governor says it will "help commuters spend less time in traffic (150 hours a year) and more time doing what they want, like spending time with their families," and "also improves safety at toll plazas" and "also reduces emissions at toll plazas since vehicles no longer have to slow down, stop and accelerate again". - Wonderful! - But hang on, couldn't the Governor have done all this without the inconvenience of reconstructing toll plazas, continuing to waste money on toll collection, and benefitted all drivers not just those using electronic tolls? - If you know the answer, then send it to the Governor on a postcard, but you better not use joined up writing.

    usa london New York, Old Con
    The States is tops in marketing. The New York papers are still talking about a Congestion charge. One paper says:- "With local elections safely in the rear-view mirror, policy wonks are roaming the land once more, trying to sell public officials on the concept of congestion pricing for access to the island of Manhattan. It's not a bad idea.". If they do fall for the mother of all Cons, then we hope that they bring it in soon. Why? Because they are also top in exposing the truth, and the world will know what a sham it all is.

    usa Florida back to Tolls
    With the hurricane season nearly over, the Turnpike authorities say that they lost $20million during this year's toll suspensions, $15 Million of it due to Wilma. Florida Highway Patrol said that suspensions"Helps cut back on the pile-up of vehicles that would be slowing down or stopping to pay tolls, as evacuees leave the area and later return to their homes once the storm passes."
    PS The next day's Florida papers reported that 140,000 drivers who use electronic tolls were charged on the days that tolls were supposed to be suspended - Oh well!

    13 November 2005

    usa No Toll Increase
    Some of the politicians are on our side for once. They are opposed to plans to increase Massachusetts Turnpike tolls, to finance other works in the state. We wish then luck, but they will be fighting - politicians. Boston Globe - "Legislators vow to fight toll boost".

    australia Free Trial Offer Ends - No it doesn't
    In a remarkable development the three week free period on Sydney's Cross City Tunnel has been extended for two and a bit weeks - to the end of November. The News South Wales Premier commenting on the increased number of cars during the free period, said it was :- "a good indication that when you provide incentives for motorists you see more motorists using the road." We're not sure whether this relevation is supposed to be good or bad.

    chimaera Smile Please!
    Alistair Darling was planning to use a Spy in the Sky for his road pricing scheme. But today's Sunday Times reports that the police are planning to instal cameras similar to those used in the London Con scheme, all over Britain, but mainly motorways and city centre roads. How convenient for both spooks and trolls.

    australia Free Trial Offer Ends
    The three week free period on Sydney's Cross City Tunnel ends at midnight. Alex Mitchell in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that traffic increased from 20,000 to 50,000 a day. Motorists are being urged to boycott the tunnel, so they may be back to 20,000 tomorrow. Meanwhile the Government is trying to stop a full inquiry which might reveal embarrassing secrets about any arrangements to "funnel" traffic into the tolled tunnel:- "Iemma wants lower tunnel toll"

    12 November 2005

    chimaera "Step back towards bus regulation"
    We already have "Darling's Shilling", the money that the Transport Secretary has offered to those who at least say that they will bring in road pricing. But according to the Leeds Evening Post, he is now also offering that he will give control over bus services to authorities "Darling bus pledge offers more control". The Transport anoraks who love bus spotting, are the same people who hate cars. So this offer is not likely to attract much more support for road pricing.

    usa Missouri Row
    The dispute continues between Missouri and Illinois over whether a new bridge should be tolled. Illinois opposes tolls. So did Missouri, but as most of the people using the bridge are from Illinois, it now thinks that a toll tax is a good idea. Though many of these people cross the river to work and already have to pay state income tax to Missouri and city earnings tax to St. Louis. Perhaps they should move the border! Better still, how about an Amendment 28 to the Constitution. "No one shall be required to pay a toll to cross from one state to another."

    usa london Congestion Charge - USA Style
    We reported on the 9th that Mayor Bloomberg was said to be planning to give New Yorkers the pleasures of more tolls including a "congestion" charge. We have a few more reports:-
  • Sewell Chan in the New York Times reports on "Driving Around Manhattan, You Pay, Under One Traffic Idea". Like most reports in Britain and abroad, the myth of the success of the London Congestion Charge is accepted. Perhaps we should send a few people from Edinburgh to break the witch's spell.

  • Contradicting most other reports, the New York Daily News says "Bloomberg rejects congestion pricing to cut traffic".

  • Whatever New York does, the Federal Highway Administration is spendimg taxpayer dollars to promote the idea:- the - "Federal Officials Spending $59 Million to Push Congestion Tax".

  • A Green organisation has been inspired by the reports that NY's major business assocation, "Partnership for New York City" is campaigning for more tolls, and under the title "Big Business Versus the Car" wonders if there's "an object lesson here about figuring out ways for environmental advocates to leverage the huge power of the business lobby to green ends". The Greens don't seem to be aware of who's using who.

    m6toll M6 Toll
    We issued a press release about the M6 Toll:- Transport News Network - "Traffic Down on M6 Toll"

    czech Czechs chose Toll winner
    The Prague Daily reports that Kapsch will be given a contract for 22 billion Czech Kroners (900 million dollars or 500 million pounds) to implement a tolling system for trucks om 1,000 kilometres of road. It is estimated that about one third of the tolls (4 kroners or 9 pence or 15 cents a kilometre) will come from foreign trucks:-
    "Toll commission selects Kapsch as winner".

    10 November 2005

    ireland Professor Higgins calls for No Tolls
    To be honest it wasn't Zoltan Kaparthy's rival in phonetics but a Teachta Dála - member of Ireland's parliament. His call followed a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General that tollpayers were "paying more that was initially envisaged and are getting a lower level of service" RTE - "C&AG slams toll bridge service".

    usa More Tolls for Texas
    The Dallas Morning Star reports discussions on having larger tolls on tolled roads to pay for upkeep of untolled roads, and / or selling off concessions for new toll roads and using the profits in the same way. reports on more toll roads, and that the Regional Mobility Authority is borrowing to pay its salaries, expenses etc, with the loans being repaid from tolls. The RMA chairman told WOAI that tolls would mean that roads would be built "20 to 30 years earlier". Trolls inhabit a very spooky magical world, where cement and construction workers spring up overnight when you wave your hands and say "Abracadabra - Tolls!". A world where banks will only lend to pay for the cement and construction workers where the loans are to be repaid from tolls rather than gas tax or other taxes. Really weird! Even more so when you reckon that tolled roads have to bear the cost of an army of parasites, the cost of toll collection, and higher interest rates.
    PS In the bizarre world where trolls dwell, there were reports on the 12th, that proposed new toll roads could not be financed through tolls. Instead of helping to pay for non toll roads, they would have to be funded using profits on existing toll roads!

    usa Oregon wants Tolls - Not Gas tax increase
    As a PS to yesterday's report of the Washington referendum vote for a Gas tax increase, there was today a report that Oregon people preferred tolls to a gas tax increase. But on reading the report it appears that those people who gave their opinion were against tolls - except for one, an official from the Portland government who said:- "Despite the aversion to tolls, many people found them preferable to an increase in gasoline taxes, registration fees or property taxes. We also find there is less opposition to tolls among people who had them explained by staff or committee members.". Perhaps Oregon will have a vote on this - after people have been properly educated.

    canada Toronto votes for tolls - but not yet
    On the 28th October we reported on a survey by the National Post of 500 people in Toronto. The Globe and Mail have now had their own survey, the report of which says it "gave tolls a clear thumbs down". But the opinion piece "Growing numbers say tolls are on the money" gives a very different conclusion - it says that as one third of people supported some form of tolls, it will soon be over half, and then they could and should bring in tolls. Half of the 500, reportedly said that tolls were a "very poor idea", while 15 per cent said it was a "somewhat poor idea". Perhaps the paper is right, a little more brain washing and who knows?

    portugal Toll war?
    The Algarve Resident reports on the opposition to possible introduction of tolls on the Via do Infante (A22). There has been a one day boycott of the road, and Vítor Neto, former Secretary of State for Tourism has said:- "We will go to war, should it become necessary".

    usa Novel idea for replacing tolls
    Peter Surmanis from Concord suggests scrapping the tolls and using the toll plazas to expand the rest areas to include food and gas, and use the extra funds generated from those services to replace the toll revenue:- Concord Monitor - "Tolls take a toll".
    PS. Among those elected to the New Jersey Assembly this week was Mayor Mims Hackett Jr. The Orange Transcript reports that he said a big issue was "eliminating tolls on the Garden State Parkway". If true it will be the opposite of what politicians are planning in other states.

    australia Toll winners
    Following the recent revelation about the deals between the Government and the trolls, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Government is being a bit more open. It has released the financial models being used for two new toll roads including the M7. The interesting bit isn't the huge projected profits, it's the fees paid out before one inch of road is built. Financial advisers and lawyers etc have got A$57 million and the Roads and Traffic Authority gets A$193 million as a "business consideration fee". We wonder if Australian drivers are happy about this A$250 million (100 million pounds or 180 million US dollars) worth of crumbs that fall off the table. We also wonder what the advisers, consultants, facilitators, brokers and bankers get when the contract is signed and the road built.

    9 November 2005

    canada usa Bridge for Sale
    The "International Bridge" linking Minnesota in the States with Ontario in Canada is for sale. The local communities fear that the bridge may fall into the hands of trolls from "Dallas or New York, or Toronto or Calgary" and have asked that the bridge be bought by the Governments and ideally made free. More likely that it will become really international - say part Australian, part Italian and part Spanish.

    usa Washington votes to keep Gas tax increase
    As part of the election, the people of the State of Washington have been voting on "Initiative Measure 912 - Fuel Tax Repeal". The proposition was to boot out a recent 9.5 cent a gallon tax increase. If the tax increase was repealed, then it was said that they would need more tolls. The result is that the people voted 581 thousand to 518 thousand to keep the tax.

    usa New York votes for Kengestion charges
    Meanwhile New Yorkers may have voted for tolls in a BIG way, without realising it. Michael Bloomberg has just been reelected as Mayor by a large margin after spending a little bit of his vast fortune. Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times reports that:- "Mr. Bloomberg's close supporters are predicting that he will pursue a still grander agenda. It could include hot-button proposals like the one he dropped early on in his tenure because of political opposition: congestion pricing to reduce traffic congestion, using an electronic toll system for cars and trucks in busy business districts, if not the tolls on East River bridges that he discussed in 2001."

    usa It's a Tough Job, but Somebody's Gotta Do It!
    Melissa Scott Sinclair reports a day in the life of a toll enforcer. They do wear guns, but we assume it's for self defence! People ask him over and over - "Why do we even have a toll?". The answer is - "Mine is not to reason why. I don't know why there's a toll there. I just know that there's a toll there." Style Weekly - "An average morning for a toll cop" As part of the election, the people of the State of Washington have been voting on "Initiative Measure 912 - Fuel Tax Repeal". The proposition was to boot out a recent 9.5 cent a gallon tax increase. If the tax increase was repealed, then it was said that they would need more tolls. The result is that the people voted 581 thousand to 518 thousand to keep the tax.

    m6toll australia italy M6 Toll
    The Australian bank that owns the M6Toll yesterday released its traffic figures for October. Traffic is down 8 per cent on a year before, but there has been little change over last few months:- Traffic Figures and Chart
    While we were checking on this, we noticed some news that had previously escaped. Midland Expressway Limited which owns the M6Toll was 75 per cent owned by the Australians (Macquarie Infrastructure Group) and 25 per cent owned by the Italians (Autostrade). But it is now 100 percent owned by the Australians, as they bought out the Italians in June. Amazingly though the Italians made a profit on the deal, this 25 per cent stake in a major British road, only cost the Australians £49 million! Autostrade Press Release on 20 June MIG Press Release on 21 June

    chimaera Alistair's Private Black Boxes
    Alistair Darling saying (on 26th to a trolls seminar) that the Government would use insurance company or navigation and other private black box systems to collect tolls was in the news again today. Here is the text of what he said on the 26th

    malaysia Malaysia - give us our roads back
    We reported on 22 September the burden on Malaysia of private toll roads. Today there is an article in Aliran Monthly "Mahathir's Malaysia Inc and privatisation have burdened the people and bred corruption" on the way in which thirld world countries are forced to privatise. It cites the case of just one toll road making a net profit each year of 834 million ringitts (130 million pounds or 220 million US dollars).

    8 November 2005

    britain Call to remove Dartford tolls
    There has been a call for tolls to be suspended on the Dartford Crossings (where London's orbital motorway, the M25, crosses the Thames estuary). The call may carry more weight as it come from the Freight Transport Association who don't normally object to tolls:- FTA Press release.
    Toll barriers are always a bottleneck though their effect varies. Apart from stopping to pay the toll, there is an interruption to the smooth flow even where there is some form of electronic tolling. As these tolls are on a orbital road, there is also a perverse incentive to possibly go the longer way round to avoid the toll.

    chimaera Lib Dem paper backs David Cameron
    The Guardian today had a feature in praise of David Cameron. It said that he was better than David Davis, the other contender for the Tory leadership. One reason for their support was - "it is Cameron who has taken the brave decisions on tuition fees and road pricing, and flagged up radical ideas such as elected police commissioners".

    canada spain australia Foreign owned toll operators to take away Canadians' licences
    The foreign operators of Canada's 407 ETR have won another battle against the Ontario Government. Drivers who don't pay the company will not be able to renew their vehicle licences:- London Free Press - "Province loses another battle with Highway 407". According to a later report in the National Post, the concession for the toll road "gives them the right to tell Ontario's Registrar of Motor Vehicles to deny plates to motorists with outstanding debts, but that the office has repeatedly refused to comply." One wonders what other conditions there are in the contract, can they take over the Army?
    (Note who owns the 407 varies over time, but currently a Spanish group own 53%, an Australian group owns 30%, and Canadians own the other 17%.)

    usa Go to Jail, go directly to jail, do not pass toll
    Things are even tougher in Harris County, Texas, forty people have been gaoled for not paying tolls. :- ABC - "Major toll road scofflaw arrested".

    serbia Toll road warning from IMF
    Following NATO bombing, Serbia is now planning a toll road - no connection! Oddly enough the IMF are warning them against it - not because it is a toll road, but because they think that the road should be shared out between different firms. Large toll road schemes have failed in Croatia and Hungary, causing the latter Government to fall:- B92 - "Motorway concession proceeds despite IMF warnings".

    7 November 2005

    london "Perverse C-Charge loophole encourages people to drive round London"
    The Lib Dems complain that because of the mininum weekly charge of 4 pounds, there is an incentive for residents of the zone to drive every day. (With their 90 per cent discount, residents pay 80 pence a day rather than 8 pounds):- "Press Release". We welcome the Lib Dems having a go at the Con charge, but this is a relatively trivial point. Though the Con charge does discourage some visitors, shoppers and restaurant goers, it already has little effect on overall traffic as:-
  • once you have paid the charge, you can drive around as much as you like that day,
  • many vehicles are exempt, including buses, taxis, car club cars and "hybrids",
  • with the Western expansion of the scheme, there will be a considerable number of people eligible for the 90 per cent discount.

    thailand Thai Toll Tug-of-war
    Wichit Chantanusornsiri reports that the dispute continues between the Thailand Government and one of the toll road operators. The Government has been trying to get the company to reduce tolls in return for a longer concession period. At the same time the company is suing the Government for 10 billion baht (150 million pounds or 250 million dollars), for allowing construction of alternative roads:- Bangkok Post - "Conflict over Don Muang Tollway intensifies".

    australia Toll of tolls
    You could almost feel sorry for Australian politicians (though some seem to do very well when they retire). Victorian Opposition Leader Robert Doyle's popularity has dropped after he backed away from a promise to moderate tolls:- The Australian - "Broken freeway promise takes toll on Doyle".

    6 November 2005

    chimaera Black boxes break down
    Scotland on Sunday reports a major problem with the plan for tolls on all roads. A pilot scheme for "Pay as you Drive" insurance by the mile is being run by the Norwich Union, but the black boxes keep breaking down, and engineers have to be sent out to check and fix them:- "Satellite tracking plan on the road to ruin". If road tolls were to be collected on the basis of any sort of black box, there is no doubt that there would be a lot more "not working". Alistair Darling seems intelligent, why doesn't he throw off his crazy advisers, and side with roads users?

    london scotland Scot the Brave
    It is reported that Scottish exile in London - Tom Conti - has stepped up his campaign against the Con charge by "urging Londoners to follow his lead and refuse to pay the levy". If this is true, he is a brave man - look what they did to Sir Edward Wallace 700 years ago!

    5 November 2005

    europe and a Partridge
    This report is more bizarre than usual. "Auto Industry" says that Ford and Citroen have complained to the European Federation for Transport and Environment about the preferential treatment given to Japanese hybrids. Such cars are often exempt from tolls and "congestion" charges. Hybrids can cause more pollution than other cars, but they are favoured by Greens who's beliefs are based on dogma rather than reality. The Federation, as you can tell from the name, are deepest Green, so Ford and Citroen have no chance. Perhaps they should instead say that they believe in pixies and fairies, and give certificates that for every car they sell there will be three sunflowers, two purple books and a partridge in a pear tree planted. Now that would really help.

    australia "Digging for the hole truth"
    The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the collapse the other day of the Lane Cove Toll Tunnel. If nothing else the trolls are good at PR, as they made sure that the residents whose apartments sank into the hole had nothing but praise for the company. Though they now have the problem of having to dig through the concrete that they plugged the hole with.

    china Red Toll
    Red China is of course the main source of cheap labour for the capitalist system, so perhaps it is fitting that it has even more tolls than the "decadent" (declining, decaying) capitalist countries. They have 70 per cent of the world's toll roads, but are now facing a legal challenge:- Xinhua - "China tops world in road toll collection" We admire the bravery of toll protestors wherever they are, we hope this protestor has a sucessful Long March.

    usa Turnpike outraged at off peak toll discounts
    Pennsylvania has passed a law to give discounts to people who travel offpeak. According to the Post Gazette this has outraged the Turnpike Commission. They complain that:- "1. Off-peak hours are traditionally when many elderly or conservative drivers travel the turnpike to avoid heavier traffic.2. Timing trips to collect discounts could adversely affect traffic. 3. Every cent off revenue will stop rebuilding and other long-delayed improvements. 4. Discounts also could affect bond ratings for borrowing and complicate legal obligations made for bonds already issued." What a sad, cruel world it is for the trolls. Perhaps it should be mandatory for drivers to pay tolls even if they leave their cars at home.

    japan Japan to spend road taxes on new toll booths
    In fiscal 2005 Japan collected 3.5 trillion yen (17 billion pounds or 30 billion dollars) from motorists. According to the Japan Times, Transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa says motorists will be "disgruntled if tax revenue currently earmarked for road construction is shifted to the general budget." Sounds great, except that he wants to spend any surplus on electronic tolls! In any case the British driver, may feel a bit jealous, as they pay 50 billion pounds in taxes, and only 7 billion pounds is spent on roads.

    3 November 2005

    britain More Ancient Tolls
    The Reading Chronicle reports "Bridge tolls rise to pay for £2.9m rebuilding work" that tolls may be rising again on the Whitchurch bridge. The bridge is part of what is now the B471 but has been privately owned Whitchurch Bridge Company since it opened in the 1790s. The bridge is an anachronism and one of only a few tolls left in Britain from the bad old turnpike days. The Government collects £50 billion a year from roads users, but only £7 billion is spent on building and maintaining roads. Why should motorists have to pay tolls as well? In our view the local councils should press for the road to be taken over by the highways authority and the tolls removed. No doubt this won't happen, and the Department for Transport will agree whatever toll rise the company applies for.

    usa roadrunner Toll Road Runner grabbed
    A squad of Texas police have grabbed MJ Davis, who was on their wanted list as one of the Top 10 worst toll road runners in Harris County, near Houston. He owed $19,000 in unpaid tolls and fines. Though there are thousands not paying tolls, 99 per cent of Texans will happily queue to make their contribution to the trolls. Maybe they think that lining up to hand over their money is better than putting a tax on JR's gas.

    portugal Portugese businesses object to tolls proposal
    All the business associations in the Algarve are protesting that the Government may renege on its promise to have no more toll roads:- Regiao Sul -"Business owners up in arms again regarding possible introduction of tolls"

    2 November 2005

    sweden london chimaera Sweden prepares for Con charge by closing roads and railways
    The Stockholm authorities are to introduce a Con charge from January. They must have been studying the disaster that is London and have decided that they can make Ken Livingstone look as if he had intelligence behind that worried forehead:- The Local Sweden - "Stockholm underground facing part-closure"

    usa Normal?
    After the latest storm, Florida's tolls which were lifted to ease traffic movement, before and after, are gradually being reinstated. The Miami Hearld today says "Another sign that life was returning to normal in some areas: the return of tolls on several major highways." Also in the Herald one regular turnpike user complained 'It seems that everyone and his brother is taking the turnpike now that there are no tolls.''

    usa Do taxes help pay for private toll roads?
    It seems that US taxpayers may be paying twice for private toll roads - once through tolls and again through tax reliefs to the trolls. But the Internal Revenue Service is not saying:- NewsZap - "Answers sought on privatization".

    usa Greens going soft?
    A "panel" has decided that there will be more tolls roads and toll lanes on existing roads in Maryland and Virginia. People who car pool fear that they will lose their existing advantage and that "the net result would be more cars on the road" Washington Post.
    PS For once the Greens seem to be opposed to tolls. According to Maryland's Business Gazette, one of them said:- "Instead of spending the money on a system that would benefit only those who can afford to pay the tolls while doing little to ease congestion, the two states should look at all of the options. And instead of spending billions to add new toll lanes, the states should invest that money into economic development so people would not have to drive so far to their jobs."

    ireland chimaera Ireland to be tolled
    The Irish may be free from Britain's "tyranny" but they will soon be taken over by the trolls. The Irish Examiner reports today that the Goverment have announced a large new Transport programme including a lot more tolls:- "On the prospect of nationwide tolling, the Transport Minister said drivers would be willing to "pay a small fee" to use a greatly improved road system. He also maintained that "most" of the network would remain un-tolled." . The Irish seem to accept this, we are not sure whether this is due to all that Guinness or because they are the richest European country, apart from Luxembourg.

    usa gonzalez Speedy Gonzalez - Tolls heroine
    Various papers including Dallas Morning News - "Tollbooth runner arrested, owes record $76,039 in fees" report that Evangelina Gonzalez over a period of 20 months owes over $76,000 in unpaid tolls and "administration" fees.

    1 November 2005

    britain europe The great truck mystery
    Yesterday the Road Haulage Association issued this press release:- "£3bn Free Ride for Foreign Trucks on UK Roads". The RHA and the Freight Transport Association are complaining about foreign trucks on British roads. They say that each year they cause £200 million of damage to the roads and avoid £250 million of high UK fuel duty.
    We don't disagree, but RHA and FTA were upset when the Government dropped its ridiculous Lorry Road User Charging scheme. The LRUC would have cost far more to run than it collected (as UK haulage firms would get a refund).
    RHA said that the Government needed to introduce a tolls scheme in order to "decouple fuel duty on lorries from fuel duty on cars". It wouldn't need a genius to construct a scheme that would have given haulage firms a rebate, and that would have not cost much to administer and police to ensure rebates were valid. So why tolls?

    In any case any tolls scheme would be the thin end of the wedge for a universal scheme for all vehicles on all roads. Based on the Deloitte / Government figures, the annualised cost of a universal scheme would be around £10 billion. At best, even if the scheme was (net) revenue neutral, that would mean an extra tax of £10 billion, the same as just over 20 pence on a litre of fuel. What on earth makes the RHA and FTA think that they would not be affected by that?

    In order to get a more equitable position between UK and other European road operators, they could instead be campaigning for:-
  • road licence fees for lorries to be reduced to nominal amounts, and
  • safety restrictions on how much fuel trucks could have in their tanks when they crossed the Channel, and
  • for some form of harmonisation of European diesel prices for commercial vehicles.
    The RHA and the FTA have set up the "Burns" inquiry, so they may be looking at these and other ideas. Or will they still want tolls?

    At the end of September, the EU announced that it was abandoning a raft of proposed regulations, including a proposal for harmonised diesel fuel duties and a possible duty reduction for commercial use. This will have pleased Gordon Brown, the rail lobby and road operators elsewhere in Europe who are benefiting from relatively low duty. We would have excepted an uproar from UK haulage industry, and we are surprised that they have not commented on this major adverse event. We wonder why?

    Back to top   previous month   following month   Other News   Home page