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NOVEMBER 2006 NEWS


Thursday 30 November

britain" chimaera Labour and Tories to launch joint assault on drivers
It has been reported that the flying knight's Transport report will be released tomorrow, and that the Government will make a statement about road pricing. It is also reported in the Telegraph that the Tories have come off the fence and will join in the attack on Britain's drivers - "Labour and Tories back pay-as-you-drive".

usa "No yellow-brick road"
The independent truckers are opposed to any sale of toll roads. Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says - "Selling the turnpike is akin to pawn-shop mentality, hock your assets for cash now, but pay big time down the road. You can sure bet the investors lining up to buy the turnpike arenít a benevolent bunch. They wonít be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. These companies get large profits from high tolls and clauses restricting improvements to adjacent roadways." - Trucker News.

usa Candid camera
  • Kxan reports that the Texas Toll Road Authority is photographing all cars on the new toll road, though the toll isn't in operation yet. The Trolls say that they are only testing the system. The photos will be used to identify toll defaulters. All the other pictures will be thrown away - so they say.
  • Virginia is also testing a similar system. The idea is to stop the $1.4 million annual loss from people who don't donate at the toll booths. The cameras alone will cost $7.6 million, just as well they already have lots of toll income - Washington Post - "Cameras Should Catch Toll Road Cheaters".

    usa Residents lobby
    Residents are to lobby for the removal of western Massachusetts tolls - Wellesley Townsman - "MetroWest lawmakers, residents refuse to give up on Pike tollbooth removal".


    Wednesday 29 November

    chimaera More of the same fairy tales
    A pity there isn't some form of tax on all the garbage that is being put out by the Trolls establishment. Today we had a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Labour think tank. On the basis of "research" that they have carried out they say that most people support road pricing - IPPR - "Government must lead public opinion on road pricing". This is the usual distortion. Even though they are not told the facts, such as the cost of having a toll system, most people are instinctively opposed to road pricing and believe that fuel taxes are the best and fairest way of charging for roads use.

    usa Police look at Trolls PR
    Florida Police are investigating irregularities in payments made to a public relations firm by the Toll authorities - Sun-Sentinel.

    canada Tolls not for us
    The Langley Times think that tolls may be a good idea, but not for Greater Vancouver - "Overall, tolling not the answer".

    usa "Tolls suck"
    Texas officials have come up with a figure of how much they would neeed to add to gas tax, if they built new roads without tolls - they say it would be up to $1.09 extra a gallon - My SA - "Toll-road rejection may spark big gas-tax jump".
    How did they work this out? The $1.09 a gallon tax assumes that driving increases by only 1 per cent a year, fuel efficiency increases to 50 mpg, borrowing rates go up to 7.5 per cent, that the tax is only collected in some counties and that 20 per cent of drivers would travel to another county to buy gas, and that 40 per cent of gas tax is diverted to other uses. We wonder if they were trying to come up with a high figure? Even with all these amazing assumptions, it would still only be 2 to 3 cents a mile.
    An adviser for the San Antonio Toll Party who are opposing tolls suggests that they should be looking at ways to avoid the need for any new roads - "such as creating neighborhoods friendlier to mass transit and walking, and considering cheaper ways to get more traffic moving on existing streets, such as adding turn lanes, timing traffic lights better or replacing signal lights with roundabouts." One commuter says "They suck, we don't need toll roads."

    usa Tolls free - for out of staters
    Out of state users of the new Texas 121 toll road will not have to pay the electronic tolls - Star-Telegram.

    china Paper army?
    The Chinese military don't have to pay tolls. According to the China Daily, based on a recent spot check on the Chengdu to Chongqing Expressway up to 96% of the "military vehicles" were either civilian vehicles with false military plates or were stolen military vehicles. So far 1,500 fake military vehicles have been seized.

    chimaera Big Blue sells tolls
    IBM have joined the Trolls in touting the benefits of tolls, and in particular "congestion charging". They have just published a report that they paid for from the Economist Intelligence Unit - "Driving change - How policymakers are using road charging to tackle congestion". It refers to increase in car ownership between 1990 and 2004 in various countries. (It does not give figures for Britain, which are a 34% incraese from 359 to 463 cars per thousand pop).
    A large part of the report compares systems in London, Oslo, Singapore and Stockholm. From the figures they give it appears that the London charge costs £5 (nearly $10) per vehicle per day to administer. That figure is as far as we know correct. But the figures claimed for the other three schemes are amazingly low - Stockholm is 22 pence (42 US cents), Singapore is 14 pence (27 US cents), and Oslo is 10 pence (20 US cents).

    newzealand And another Council joins tolls opposition
    North Shore City Council has voted against tolls - Scoop.

    south Tolls not popular
    Residents of Gauteng do not want more tolls as they believe that it will only increase congestion - Business Day.

    london Praise for Con charge
    The left wing Guardian today has an article written by the ex editor of Marxism Today. He says that the Labour Government are "timorous and craven" and goes on - "It has been left to Ken Livingstone - who personifies what a Labour government might have been, displaying courage in confronting a formidable vested interest, namely the car lobby, and shrewd judgment as to the shape of the future - to introduce the most radical measure seen during all of New Labour's tenure, the central-London congestion charge."

    london Friendly Fire
    Britain may be allied with the Americans in various wars, but when it comes to the Con charge it is not so friendly. Yesterday Margaret Beckett, Britain's Foreign Secretary, went to the trouble of telling everyone what the American embassy now owed in London "congestion" charges - 10,485 fines totalling £1,016,200 or $2 million.
    Ken Livingstone is peeved that the Americans don't pay. He says that British diplomats pay American tolls. But most US tolls are a lot lower than the Con Charge (£8 or nearly $16) and there is often a toll barrier that forces you to pay!

    Tuesday 28 November

    m6toll M6 Toll price rise
    The toll prices on the M6 Toll are increasing from 6AM on Monday 1st January - BBC - "M6 Toll drivers face price rise". The toll for cars is rising from current toll of £3.50 to £4. The toll for most lorries and vans goes from £7 to £8. (The car toll started at £2 was raised to £3 in August 2004, and then to the current £3.50 in June 2005). The toll for motor bikes stays at £2.50.
    A toll increase was inevitable as we believe that the road is making a loss and the demand is probably inelastic. (Those drivers who use it are either relatively rich or claim expenses.) But the tolling of this road is a tragedy, it is almost empty, while the old M6 is frequently clogged with traffic. A toll rise will mean that this situation continues. The Government should buy out and remove the toll. This would remove driver frustration, reduce vehicle emissions and help the West Midlands economy.
    This latest rise will mean that the toll road remains empty. If an NHS hospital was seriously overcrowded and the answer from the Government was to build a private hospital, then there would quite rightly be an uproar. Why should we have a two tier system on the roads?

    ulster london Green motoring
    Sean O'Grady, for the Belfast Telegraph points out that people who want to avoid the Con charge are in a quandary following Ken Livingstone's announcement that "low emission" cars will be exempt. If Sean buys such a car now, there is no guarantee that Ken will do what is proposed. Sean could of course get toll free by buying a big Lexus hybrid saloon, but he realises that they are "quite polluting" compared with some other cars. Sean's piece ends - "Many of our great cities have made it all but impossible to drive around in and you can see the baleful effects of this all around you. On a recent visit back to my home town of Leicester, for example, I was struck by how absurd the city's traffic regulations had become, and how their cumulative effects had rendered the city centre a veritable ghost town. There's no pollution in a graveyard." - "What is the price of going green?".

    ulster london Bus driver opposes Con charge
    The Belfast Telegraph also has a letter from a Metro (bus) driver who believes that a Con charge is not the answer to Belfast's congestion problems, and makes some other suggestions - "Congestion charge not the solution in city".

    china Stir fry
    China Daily reports on negative reaction to possibility that Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, will introduce some form of road pricing - "Possible congestion fees cause a stir".

    usa Easy Money
    7News reports that many users of the Massachusetts Turnpike who pay electronically will be overcharged. This is because if the transponder fails to work for any reason, then a default maximum possible charge is debited. Last year the Turnpike made $3 million this way - "Toll trouble".

    usa More on possible removal of Pike toll
    The campaign to rid western Massachusetts of tolls continues - MetroWest.

    usa Drift to Tolls
    Tennessee is reported to be considering tolling roads. The situation is similar to other states. There is a big demand for "transportation" projects, money meant to be spent on roads has been used to finance other services, and the gas tax is low and has not been raised for many years - in the case of Tennessee the last rise was in 1989.
    PS Governor Mitchell of Indiana was given space in one of the papers today to sell tolls. This is part of it - "Toll roads are the wave of the present and future, being built all over America and the world by governments as alternatives to higher taxes on people who may not ever use those roads. Many toll roads are being built at zero cost to taxpayers, by private partners who hope to recover their investments over the years through the tolls they collect. This is tax-free and debt-free." Wow!

    newzealand Another Council joins tolls opposition
    Waitakere, New Zealand's fifth largest city is opposing tolls. The Mayor says that "He cannot remember a time when there was such unanimity between councillors and community board members, as there was in opposition to the toll proposal." - Scoop.


    Monday 27 November

    britain" Please Sir
    An online system for petitions to the Prime Minister started on 14th November. There are already nearly 700 petitions, including about 50 on one aspect or other of roads and road taxes. As of today there are four petitions against tolls or road pricing. They are not our petitions, but we support them -
    Scrap Road Tax and Tolls in favour of Tax on Fuel
    Scrap the idea of "road pricing"
    Prevent Birmingham & the West Midlands being used as a testing ground for road pricing
    Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy

    britain" chimaera More Tolls propaganda
    Another Monday and another pro tolls press release hyped up by the BBC. The latest part of the establishment tolls campaign is publicity for a "report" from the Independent Transport Commission - "Charging 'could fund new roads'". The headline to this story overseas was most apt - "UK report touts "pay as you drive"".
    They suggest that more roads should be built and that they are funded from tolls. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. The body suggesting this is an anti roads group that Transport 2000, another anti roads group, helped to form. There is not the slighest intention of spending more road charges on more roads. Even if this was the intention, the Government is already getting nearly one billion pounds a week from drivers, and only one pound out of every seven goes back into roads. Existing congestion problems would be substantially less if Governments had spent more of the roads taxes on the roads. We do need better roads, we do not need more taxes.
    PS Today's reports from the Trolls Commission - "ROAD CHARGING AND ROAD INVESTMENT". "Investing in Roads: Pricing, Costs and New Capacity". It is interesting to see that this has been funded by three charities - We wonder what the founders of those charities would think about their money being spent on the promotion of tolls?

    earth "New frontline of class warfare"
    With Britain subject to tolls propaganda, we have to go half way round the world to get an alternative view from Christopher Lingle, an American economics professor based abroad - Korea Times - "Freedom of Speech as Victim of Global Warming". His article ends - "Many journalists and politicians have joined environmentalists as self-styled warriors on a new frontline of class warfare. Their preferred response is to force up carbon costs though taxes, tolls, or charges. But such moves can have unintended regressive effects by imposing a heavy burden on the poor. Lowering emissions of man-made greenhouse gases requires dramatic cuts in manufacturing with fewer jobs in rich countries and lower economic growth in poor ones."


    Sunday 26 November

    britain" chimaera Flying knight's answer to transport problems - "No Roads"
    Some of the Sunday papers had more "leaks" on what will be in the flying knight's report on Britain's transport needs. All leaks say the he will back more tolls / congestion charges / road pricing. Today's reports also say that he will reject a road building programme, as any new roads would " become quickly clogged with cars". No doubt Sir Rod will on the same grounds argue against building any new airports, schools, hospitals, houses ......

    usa Don't give up, Charlie Brown
    Julia Spitz says she doesn't mind waiting a bit for an end to the tolls on the western Massachusetts Turnpike, but she wonders if the politicians will ever honor their promise - Country Gazette - "Pike jokes don't leave us laughing".

    usa Same Old Story
    Now that the Buffalo, New York tolls have gone, there is a campaign to remove the Grand Island tolls. Campaigners suggest that the Governor can a) Build another bridge to Grand Island, b) Expand or widen the bridges or c) Remove the tolls to allow the free flow of traffic - Niagara Gazette - "How to help take down Grand Island tolls"   Petition.

    australia Trolls victory
    Labour lost some seats but have still beaten the Liberals in the Victoria general election. The Liberals had used posters such as "Tell Bracks NO TOLLS on the West Gate. Vote Liberal.". But it was a toss up as to whether voters were swayed by the recent Labour tolls deceptions or the previous Liberal ones.

    Friday 24 November

    usa Tolls make drivers drive less (or do they just vanish?)
    American drivers in a tolls trial are driving less - Seattle Times - "Tolls could cut congestion, test shows". These results are somewhat unexpected. If you look at our News for 27th December 2005 you will see that with the study nearly at an end, the same reporter was saying drivers were driving more. Why has it taken 9 months after the study finished to work out that they were driving less after all? And where have all the drivers gone - when the study started there were said to be 500 drivers, at the end of December there were 400, and now it seems that when the study ended in February there were only 275. Were the other 225 drivers kidnapped by aliens?

    britain" chimaera Doctor's Orders
    This morning's Yorkshire Post informed its readers that "Congestion charging was essential". Or to be more correct Doctor Ladyman, the Roads boss, says that it is, and they won't get any money for roads or transport if they don't do it.
    Coincidentally Sheffield Today said that "NEARLY a third of Sheffielders back the introduction of a London-style congestion charge". Let's do it then - after all Britain is a democracy.

    britain" chimaera Road pricing research
    A Road Pricing Feasibility Study was published in July 2004, and in March this year a study was published on how drivers would behave if there was road pricing and whether they wanted it (there has been no publicity, as the research showed that the only effect of road pricing would be to annoy drivers). In theory it appears other studies are not yet specified, let alone started - "Invitation to Contribute Suggestions for Road Pricing Demonstrations and Supporting Research" was published in July 2006 and seems to indicate that we should now be in a consultation phase befoe any research contracts are awarded. But it seems that the Government may have already started research but masked it as something else. Two press releases last month:-
    "£12 million for radical new research into future intelligent transport systems". "Intelligent transport systems" means road pricing. And - "£4 million for major new cutting edge environmental research". The interesting bit is "address issues surrounding the handling of very large amounts of very varied real time data from many sources" i.e. like 30 million vehicles sending messages every minute or so of where they are for purposes of road pricing.


    Thursday 23 November

    scotland england Border charge
    A Labour MP (Andrew MacKinlay, the MP for Thurrock in Essex) says he will introduce a private members' bill at Westminster. He says that he wants Scottish drivers charged £1.50 (three dollars) for every journey taking them south of the border. It would not apply in the other direction. His point is that drivers are being charged elsewhere including driving from his constituency in Essex into Kent. The SNP are most upset, though they have not made their own position clear on either road pricing or Scotland's two remaining bridge tolls.

    britain" Regional Transport Stats
    The Department for Transport last week published the Regional Transport Statistics for 2006.

    britain" Yorkshire firms will move if con charge introduced
    The Yorkshire Post has a long running "Road to Ruin" campaign about the lack of Government investment in roads and public transport. Today they published a survey which showed that "91 per cent of respondents identify congestion as a major problem". Despite this it also showed that "41.3 per cent of firms would consider moving to avoid road-charging".
    A recent example of Government road spending was the Department for Transport announcement on the 15th about the A65 where it skirts the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales. There have been various postponements of bypasses for three villages on the road - at Gargrave, Hellifield & Long Preston. The postponements are over - the schemes have now been officially abandoned.

    czech Czech tolls delay
    There are more problems with the Czech toll system. The contract to run the tolls had been challenged by losing bidders. Now the Czech Government itself is in dispute with the winning bidder. The Government is to recruit 35 new lawyers - Prague Post - "E-tolls under scrutiny again".

    britain" Drivers don't want Spy tolls
    Drivers generally support use of spy cameras according to a survey of 2,000 drivers carried out by YouGov for ntl:Telewest. A major exception is the Congestion Charge, where only "30 per cent supported its use in enforcing the charge" - publictechnology.net. It is difficult to see this other than as a vote against the principle of congestion charging.

    usa Truckstops say no to tolls
    E-trucker reports that the National Association of Truck Stop Owners are opposing use of tolls and instead "supports the continued use of federal fuel taxes as the primary means of highway funding". This is the statementon NATSO site - "Official Position on Tolling and Highway Financing".

    australia Flying Troll
    Troll giant Macquarie is about to take wing - news.com - "The bank that ate Sydney bites the flying kangaroo".


    Wednesday 22 November

    australia Promises
    Will Liberals gain when voters are reminded of Labour's broken "no tolls" promise? Or will they remember the Liberal's broken "no tolls" promise? Herald Sun - "Gantries signal trouble".

    srilanka Highway "taxes"
    Every now and then we report on third world tolls - Relief Web - "In Sri Lanka, peace talks ride on a highway".

    britain" Drivers to be fingerprinted
    A pilot scheme for fingerprinting drivers is to be extended to 10 areas - BBC - "Police to fingerprint on streets". When a vehicle is stopped for any reason, the driver may be forced to give their fingerprints. If they refuse they will be arrested. The Police National Computer has already built up a database of over 6.4 million prints. Fingerprints of drivers will be added to the database even if they are not charged with any offence.

    britain" chimaera "News"
  • Reuters say that Rod Eddington, the flying knight, will back road pricing and "congestion" charging in his long awaited report. This has been "leaked" to Reuters by an anonymous Government spokesman, but would only be news if he was not backing it. Reuters say the report will be released about 6th December.

  • Mike Rutherford in his Auto Express column says that the Government tried to sneak road pricing etc into the Queens's Speech - Some of us noticed!

    usa "And no one will shed a tear"
    The last of Kentucky's tolls are gone - Evansville Courier & Press - "Onlookers cheer booth destruction at ceremony".

    usa Congestion gone - one way
    The Lincoln Tunnel is to be converted to one way tolls - the Turnpike boss says - "Our expectation is that this will reduce congestion for motorists coming from the tunnel" - Star Ledger - "One-way Turnpike toll set for Lincoln Tunnel". Why don't they remove congestion both ways?


    Tuesday 21 November

    wales chimaera Welsh Chambers support road pricing
    The Western Mail reports that members of the Chambers of Commerce support road pricing and congestion charges. They say there is a condition - that there are compensating cuts in fuel duty and road tax. Do they also believe in Santa Claus? The Government's own estimate for the cost of implementing road pricing is up to £62 billion. Where do these businesses think this will come from? Then there are the annual running costs. The London Congestion Charge is £8 a day, of which £5 goes on its collection and enforcement. Some businessmen may be happy to see all this money wasted, but ordinary roads users will not be so easily misled.

    usa Teamsters Sue
    As threatened, the Teamsters and another union have now taken the Turnpike Board to court - the unions want the tolls kept - Boston Herald- "Unions sue Pike board".

    britain" chimaera Trains run on air
    The public transport lobby have great success in getting their case accepted as if their beliefs were carved in tablets from Mount Sinai. Here is a recent example that was published in Britain's main magazine dealing with public finance issues - "Costing the earth".
    Christian suggests that the solution to the climate change issue is "road pricing". He also suggests that trains are more than twice as fuel efficient as road vehicles, and that more electrification of railways would improve their "carbon footprint" as it would be generated from "renewable sources". This is similar to what was in the "Rail contribution to the Energy Review" paper that was published by the Department for Transport in April.
    There are other views on the relative efficiencies of road and rail. Research at Lancaster University that was published in 2004, came to the view that there was little difference. Those local authorities who pay more for their electricity so that they can say it is "green" might accept the claim about renewables. But in the real world, renewables (and nuclear) go into the base load as their variable operating cost is low. Electricity at the margin is generated from burning oil and gas. Why do public transport advocates, greens and politicians seem not to be aware of this?

    london Detours to add to congestion
    Wandsworth Council is complaining about the effect on Battersea residents of the western extension of the charge zone. The residents will be outside the zone, but for many journies they will either have to go through the zone or face a long detour. The Council wants the discount for residents of the zone extended - Wimbledon Guardian - "Residents' face C-charge misery".

    usa Florida Law
    Mike Thomas comments on the proposed Florida toll increases - "This is like Enron making plans for another stock offering...I couldn't drink enough Jack Daniel's to do something this arrogant and stupid." - Orlando Sentinel - "Raise our tolls? They must be kidding".

    usa Good timing
    Various papers report that the Pennsylvania Governor wants to sell off the Turnpike, partly to fund mass transit systems - Centre Daily Times. Governor Rendell has timed this well, he was re-elected on the 8th, and the first suggestion of this was on the 13th.


    Monday 20 November

    britain" chimaera RHA say nothing about Road Pricing
    The Road Haulage Association have just issued a press release reacting to last Wednesday's Queens Speech. It says little more than - "Nationwide road-pricing trials..."You cannot be serious?!"". Are they opposed to road pricing? That's anybody's guess, they may not even know themselves. The only thing that is clear is that they are against the pilot areas having different systems.

    britain" chimaera Chambers of Commerce want to pay more tolls
    The Troll Times reports on a British Chamber Of Commerce Survey showing that 87% of their members support road pricing - "Congested roads lead businesses to turn towards idea of tolls". This shows how misled members of the British Chambers of Commerce are, particularly as last Wednesday, their central body issued a press release saying - "We recognise that it is unrealistic to expect any new road pricing scheme to be revenue neutral ".
    PS As you might suspect the question that businesses were asked was biased to get this response - "The Government's road pricing initiatives include toll roads, congestion charging, pay per mile, etc. Which of the following, if any, do you consider to be the main circumstances under which you would support the principle of road pricing?" (They were given eight choices and asked to select no more than three.)
    PS Reaction in Yorkshire Post - "How to bypass the road to ruin?".

    usa More on Massachusetts toll
    The Worcester Telegram says that "The authority board has earned the gratitude of motorists who have been unfairly targeted far too long" - "Toll politics".

    usa More on New Jersey tolls
    The Home News Tribune gives its view on proposal for more New Jersey tolls - "Cons outweigh pros in adding toll roads".

    britain" Traffic up
    The Road Traffic Statistics for the third quarter (ending September 2006) are out - Bulletin     Data tables.
    The figures show that traffic for the quarter is 0.65% up on a year ago, of which car traffic is up 1% and van and goods traffic is down. The mix of traffic is markedly different from previous quarters, raising questions as to what has changed - the traffic or how they are counting it.

    usa london New York to ape London?
    The New York Sun reports that Troll pressure groups are still pushing for a London style "congestion" charge - "Groups Study Congestion Pricing for City".


    Sunday 19 November

    britain" Green Fantasy
    More fantasy on the BBC today, when talking about what they see as a need for greener cars. They and our old friends the RAC Foundation seem to be backing things like - more use of "greener" fuels, free electricity charge ups for battery cars, and for hybrids not only to be exempt from all taxes and parking charges but also to receive an up front subsidy from the rest of us.
    The level of ignorance is amazing - the production and then use of "greener fuels" does not necessarily mean less CO2 and other emissions - additional electricity is met by burning gas - and why should the likes of David Cameron get a tax subsidy for using a Japanese luxury car - a car which not only has higher emissions than some budget cars, but who's "dust to dust" cost is higher than most according to research brought to people's attention by the Association of British Drivers.

    usa "More toll roads is a terrible idea"
    Peter Harrington in the Asbury Park Press comments on the proposal for tolls on more roads in New Jersey -
    "I had to reach for the cotton swabs the other morning after fearing I was suffering auditory hallucinations. Is this money-grubbing state seriously considering placing tolls on Interstates 78, 80 and 95, Route 440, etc.? How efficient! Half or more of the revenue raised will go to bloated, patronage-ridden administration. Fuel will be wasted from needless idling. Productivity will be lost to waiting in line. (I don't believe E-ZPass is all it's cracked up to be.) What a positive statement by the state in the battle to combat global warming. When are these spineless, do anything to get re-elected, public servants going to realize this state does not have a revenue problem. As the saying might go: "It's the spending, stupid".

    usa "Who will stand up for the tollpayers?"
    Rick Holmes in the Milford Daily News asks "Who will stand up for the tollpayers?" that use the western Massachusetts tolls. He details where the money goes.

    usa Texas toll logic
    An editorial in yesterday's San Antonio Express backed toll roads for Texas. It gave three reasons.-
    First is that "the gas tax has not been raised in 15 years" - well, why don't they?
    Second is that "population is expected to double by 2040" - doesn't this mean more tax income?
    Third and best of all is that they need to be "Forward-looking as when voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2001 that created the Texas Mobility Fund to back state bonds for transportation" - if voters wanted new roads financed from borrowing, then why do they need private toll roads with their extortionate finance rates?

    italy "White Day"
    AGI, the official news agency, seems to be promoting a day of protest by Italian consumers. The "White Day" is on Wednsday 22nd. Drivers are asked to switch off their car engines at 12 midday, as a protest against increasing road taxes. It is also suggested that they don't pay road tolls if they have to queue!

    Saturday 18 November

    britain" chimaera More Big Con
    Last night the BBC had an update on its road pricing "trial". (See "Big Con continues" on our news for 30th October.) The BBC seem to be effectively backing the Government. Their news bulletins trot out the usual nonsense about "the government could decide to reduce motoring and fuel taxes to compensate for road charging". The reality is that if road pricing is introduced, then the country as a whole will be losers. The Government's own figures show that a national scheme would cost up to £62 billion to implement, with running costs of a further £5 billion a year. "Mixed response to road charge test"   "Road charging experiment conclusions".

    usa Florida toll increases
    Toll increases have been proposed for Florida and are being opposed by "Ax the Tax" group. No wonder the toll authority is to replace its $1.7 million a year marketing firm - Orlando Sentinel - "Road agency wants toll hike". The current tolls are said to gross $200 million a year. Part of that will be wasted in collection costs - wouldn't it be better to scrap tolls and increase the gas tax?

    usa Iconic tolls
    The Golden Gate Bridge board are looking at sponsorship of the bridge. Perhaps they'll earn enough to scrap the tolls! Sounds farfetched, but in 1999, CarOrder.com offered to pay all the tolls for a day plus $400,000 just for the right to hang a banner for one day. The offer was rejected.

    usa "Turnpike director backs plan for no tolls"
    An unusual headline! The Republican - "Turnpike director backs plan for no tolls". Though it seems that the Trolls are going to win. The outgoing Governor promised to remove the tolls 4 years ago, but it was only a few months ago he managed to get control of the Turnpike board. It now seems that he is too late, and the removal of tolls will be stopped by the new Governor.

    britain" Consultation
    The Express and Star reports that businesses at a congestion charge consultation meeting opposed any charge - "Businesses slam road charges". Be interesting to know why these meetings are only for invited people.

    canada "Too many stubborn and irrational cheapskates will take pains to avoid tolls"
    The Vancouver Sun wants tolls on all bridges, including those currently free, as otherwise "too many stubborn and irrational cheapskates will take pains to avoid tolls, and thus plug the other routes into the city even worse than they are plugged now" - "Just tolling new bridges would block all the old ones". Odd the way that greenies push for tolls and then get annoyed when drivers try and avoid them.

    ulster london Belfast Con
    The Belfast Telegraph gives its views on a Con charge for Belfast. It say that "Traffic congestion problems are more the fault of the road planners than of motorists." - "Road toll options must be put to test".

    london Capitalist economist dead
    Milton Friedman, the economist who inspired both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, has died. His ideas were also part of the philosophy behind Ken Livingstone's idea of charging drivers for entering London's centre.

    taiwan london Congestion charge unfair to less privileged
    The Taipei Times reports on opposition to proposal for a London style con charge for Taiwan. A former Council of Labor chairwoman says it is unfair to commuters and less-privileged groups who have to use the roads to make a living - "Congestion charge panned".

    wales "Only the rich will be able to afford travel"
    Last night's South Wales Echo had this letter - "With the threats of road pricing, a Cardiff congestion zone, £25 charge in the London congestion zone and a hike in car tax, travelling will become something for the rich alone. Car owners will not be able to afford a day out and the British tourist industry will cease to exist. Those with less disposable income will be tied to their local town or village... It is the less fortunate who will end up as the victims of this action."


    Friday 17 November

    australia Fuel tax should replace tolls
    Peter Fitzgerald, a former infrastructure adviser to the Victoria Government, has said that roads should be financed from a fuel rather than tolls - "It's not a radical idea. It's almost a perfect indicator. The tollway operators are being overcompensated by massive amounts. Tollways hand monopoly control to the private sector and allow anti-competitive closures of alternative routes" - The Australian - "Replace tolls with tax, ex-aide tells Premier".


    Thursday 16 November

    usa Tolls statements
    One of the Governor's staff has accused the Inspector General of making "unfounded allegations" and "numerous gross false statements" to try and keep the Western Massachusetts tolls - Boston Herald / AP - "Romney cabinet official slams IG on turnpike toll estimates".

    london Congestion charge poll
    The News Shopper has had an online poll on the proposed congestion charge for the Greenwich area. The result was three to one against the tolls. We didn't understand why one in four would vote for it, but then it is "Greenwich!

    usa Tolls free State
    Texas seems to be the home of non payers of the toll - CBS - "Tollway Violators Rack Up Millions In Unpaid Fines".

    australia Freedom of Information wonder
    The Opposition learnt that the Victoria Government were secretly planning to reinstate the tolls that were removed from the West Gate bridge in 1985. So they applied for details under Freedom of Information. This had a wonderful effect - the Government said that they had now abandoned the idea!

    britain" chimaera Queen's Speech - PS
    Not a lot in today's papers about the Governments' plans for road pricing. According to the FT it is Gordon Brown who is driving this - presumably to punish drivers for opposing fuel tax increases. The plans were also warmly welcomed by the bosses organisation - the CBI - no doubt they will be looking forward to forcing the plebs who work for them off "their" roads.


    Wednesday 15 November

    usa End the Tolls?
    The Trolls have been fighting hard to keep the Western Massachusetts tolls and today they won a stay of execution, when it was decided that the decision to end the tolls would be reviewed - Lowell Sun - "Turnpike toll vote postponed"   Boston Herald - "Turnpike toll vote postponed".
    Today's decision followed the "State Inspector General" "casting serious doubt on the legality and wisdom of eliminating the tolls. The usual Trolls were also joined by the Teamsters and another union who said that they would use "every legal tactic" to keep the tolls system.

    Despite the Trolls, the Worcester Telegram had earlier urged that "The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board should ignore the last-ditch campaign by the politics-as-usual crowd and vote today to eliminate turnpike tolls west of Route 128" - "End the tolls".
    The Boston Herald agreed - "A tollbooth smokescreen"   "C'mon, you can do it: Hack away at hackerama".

    usa More Toll pushing
  • The Reason Foundation, which according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is funded by oil and automobile companies, is promoting toll roads for Atlanta, Georgia - "Study favors building toll road network"

  • The Reason Foundation are also setting up their stall on the Technology Commerce Society website -"Why Bush Is Right to Resist Raising the Gas Tax"

  • There have been various stories about new toll lanes in California. Given the re-election of the Terminator, it seems likely that oil and business interests and the wealthy will get their way on this.

  • AP report that New Jersey is hiring consultants to back up secret plans for tolling existing free routes including - Interstates 78, 80 and 95, the Pulaski Skyway, and Route 440 between the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. They will also see how much existing tolls can be increased on the Turnpike, Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

    britain" chimaera Queen's Speech - 2
    The Queen today delivered her annual speech telling us what legislation her Government has planned for the next 12 months. It was forecast that it would include something to make it easier for the Government to introduce road pricing. Though all the Queen actually said was "A draft bill will be published to tackle road congestion and to improve public transport", it has still been interpreted this way - BBC - "Road tolls plan to cut congestion". You will notice that the news media ignores the opposition to tolls and the BBC says "Motoring organisations gave a guarded welcome to the plans for simpler, national standards." By "motoring organisations" the BBC means the AA and the RAC.
    The AA described the proposed tolls as "very welcome" and that "it makes sense to have some sort of universal system." The RAC said 'Motorists accept that road pricing is one way of tackling congestion, but they have told us that they want assurances that some of the revenue will be ring-fenced for transport improvements".
    Both the AA and the RAC must know that the reality is that drivers don't want tolls and that even if the Government doesn't try to increase its net revenue, drivers will still have to pay a great deal more to cover the collection costs. The AA and the RAC do not represent drivers and are just part of the pro tolls transport establishment.
    Our own press release pointed out that people don't want tolls. Road pricing will achieve nothing and based on the Government's own figures the cost of implementation will be up to £62 billion, and the running costs a further £5 billion a year. Even without the implementation costs this is like adding 10 pence to the cost of a litre of fuel just to pay the cost of collecting this tax. The London Congestion Charge which is a crude system compared with what is proposed for road pricing costs £5 per vehicle per day to administer and enforce.
    Wouldn't it be better to spend money on improving roads, rather than on a system that people do not want?

    newzealand RAM welcomes Council decision
    According to Scoop, the Residents Action Movement have welcomed the decision of the Auckland Regional Council to oppose tolls. Elaine West of RAM says that it - "is a watershed victory for the people, and it is fitting that the public battle to keep roads free and open is celebrated as a mark of victory for those fighting against tolled roads around the world. Not only did the Transport Committee reject tolls on Auckland's roads but representatives will promote the public call for central government to load transport funds into an efficient public transport system in the region. We congratulate everyone who worked hard to make this watershed decision a reality. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, or from the battle for the fight to keep the nation's roads in public ownership for the public good, is not over."

    japan "Freeway Club"
    A Japanese councillor has been arrested following a spate of drivers not paying the toll. So far 9 people have been arrested for being members of the "Freeway Club". Members have been handing to the toll collectors a "free pass declaration".

    britain" chimaera Birmingham Conspiracy?
    The Birmingham Post reports that a local businessman is opposing toll plans. He is particularly concerned that public consultation meetings are taking place but no one knows about them - "I could be cynical and think they don't want people to attend who might oppose their plan. Is this a cock up or a conspiracy?"- "Boss leads fight against congestion charge".

    london Con tolls trial
    South London Press reveal that Transport for London are using focus groups to test reaction to various new forms of tolls - "Tolls could be the way forward for C-charge".

    britain" chimaera Queen's Speech - 1
    There was a lot of anticipation about tolls legislation before the Queen gave her speech including this from the FT -
    "The first steps towards a national network of "pay-as-you-go" road tolls will be in the legislative programme. Ministers are preparing to hand local authorities new powers that would allow big urban areas such as Manchester and the West Midlands to collect the revenue from a number of experimental road-pricing schemes that are likely to be launched within five years. A bill paving the way for the pilot schemes, which ministers believe could be the solution to traffic congestion, is expected to be published by the year's end.
    But, with road pricing politically controversial, a decision on whether to roll out tolls nationally will be taken only once the schemes are up and running and deemed successful. Ministers have decided a second bill would be needed for a national scheme, probably after the next election.
    The government believes powers already available to Douglas Alexander, transport secretary, can be used to approve the pilot schemes, which would be confined to busy city centres and trunk roads and not introduced on the motorway network."

    This is what the green Guardian has to say in its Leader - "The roads bill".

    london More on proposed £25 charge
    This morning's papers covered Ken's plans for a £25 ($47) a day "congestion" charge for band G cars. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Tory MP for the area that will be included in the charge zone from February said - "It is an outrageous proposal and one that shows that the Mayor is going well beyond his proper responsibilities. This is nothing to do with congestion at all." Paul Smith of Safe Speed said - "He is clearly using this in order to impose his personal ideology on Londoners." Christopher Macgowan, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said "Families who need larger cars, people carriers and estate cars, already pay a penalty through higher road tax and fuel costs, they will now be hit by the Mayor's triple whammy. In his war against the affluent, he seems content to ignore this collateral damage to families."
    The Mayor was supported by the usual people including the Greens (who want even higher charges) and the Energy Saving Trust which is funded by the Government.
    The proposal is subject to consultation, but previous consultations have been ignored if they don't support the Mayor.

    canada Tolls "nixed"
    Montreal's new Mayor has "nixed" the idea of introducing road tolls - Toronto Sun - "No Tolling for thee".

    Tuesday 14 November

    london Perverse changes
    The Mayor has made another pronouncement to save the planet. No he isn't going to shut up - instead, cars in tax band G will from 2009 pay £25 to enter the charge zone instead of £5, and zone residents who currently qualify for substantial discounts will not get it on band G cars. Ken also says that from 2008 there will be no charges for cars in tax bands A and B - BBC - "Polluting cars face charge rise".
    The Mayor's changes will have virtually no effect on either global CO2 levels or on air pollution in central London. The existing and proposed charges may discourage some drivers from crossing the zone boundary, but overall the volume of traffic in central London has hardly changed.
    Band G cars will pay more from 2009, but that band only relates to cars registered after 23 March 2006, so it could have a perverse effect by encouraging the use of older vehicles.
    The proposed withdrawal of charges for bands A and B from 2008 is welcome, but again may have a perverse effect. These bands are solely based on CO2 emissions - a gas which we all breathe out and is then inhaled by plants. But the cars in these two bands are more likely to be diesels and will therefore add to the amount of particulate matter - one of the "key" pollutants when measuring air quality.
    PS Car tax bands (you can search by tax band or by make and model).

    australia You can't trust X when it come to tolls
    The Liberals say that Labour are secretly planning new tolls - The Age - "Labor in secret toll plan: Libs". The sad truth is that none of the parties can be trusted.

    usa Massachussets Trolls Arm For War
    The Trolls are gathering to try and keep the tolls in western part of the state - Berkshire Eagle - "Toll removal opponents attempt to delay vote"     Boston Herald - "Toll cut foes demand study: Vow to kill last-ditch Mitt move". The Trolls are mainly from the Boston area, but it seems that some of those in the west have been duped into supporting the tolls.

    newzealand Council joins tolls opposition
    Surprisingly the Auckland Regional Council Transport Committee are now opposing the proposed tolls. Their chairman said "It was always a hiding-to-nothing with this proposal" - New Zealand Herald - "Council committee rejects highway toll proposal".
    Not surprisingly the Trolls are mobilising - the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development have issued a statement as to why tolls are good and why paying for roads through petrol taxes is bad - Scoop - "Tolls have advantages over petrol taxesl". By coincidence the inaugural chair and "patron" of NZICD is currently the Executive Chairman of the NZ branch of Australian Trolls - Macquarie.


    Monday 13 November

    canada "Add tolls and we'll never visit"
    Candian Trolls are pushing hard for tolls, but are meeting resistance including from Richard of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario - The Star - "Add tolls and we'll never visit Toronto".

    usa Massachussets
    Some of the Massachussets papers are backing the Governor elect who wants to keep the tolls in western part of the state. One reason given is that the Turnpike is so badly run, that it still has big debt and poor roads! The Turnpike Authority Board votes on Wednesday on whether the tolls should stop. The tolls were originally suposed to end in 1983.

    newzealand "Stupid"
    The Trolls in New Zealand are still pressing for a toll road at Auckland though the toll will cost $800 million to collect. Funnily enough that was said to be the funding gap which the tolls were supposed to cover. City councillor Derek Battersby, says - "the whole process is stupid" and the authorities should borrow and repay from a 5c-a-litre regional fuel tax. The authorities are reluctant to do this, as they want to use fuel tax increases to finance more subsidies for public transport - New Zealand Herald - "Administration costs add $800m to toll road bill".

    britain" Campaigners for tolls
    A long standing campaigner for tolls in the Oxford area is at it again - Oxford Mail - "Companies hit by road jams ". Strange that this latest call is due to congestion caused by road works. Even stranger that the authorities don't agree with him!


    Sunday 12 November

    usa Toll market
    Donna Council of San Antonio expresses her concerns on the new toll super highway. In particular she is worried about the restrictions on improving public roads. - "A certain amount of congestion is needed to create a market for toll roads" - MySA - "Toll highway will tie Texans' hands".


    Saturday 11 November

    britain" chimaera Anti roads campaigners oppose tolls?
    Anti road campaigners are complaining about building roads using "shadow tolls" - (that is where the public authorities pay the builder according to the amount of traffic) - Western Mail - "'Shadow tolls' on A55 to cost us £400m". These deals may not be the best value for money, but they at least reduce costs compared with real tolls, and they ensure that the new road is fully utilised and integrated into the network and there are no toll queues.

    usa Parachute pants, poodle skirts and road tolls
    One man, Rus Thompson, is campaigning to remove tolls from the Grand island bridges and "let the river of autos, trucks, tourists and residents run" - Lockport Union Sun - "Man fights for removing fees on Grand Island bridges".

    canada One person not fooled
    Candian newspapers have widely reported that Torontonians would happily pay tolls. Whether that is true or not, at least one person does not agree - Professor Richard Soberman from the University of Toronto says that tolls may make things worse as drivers try to avoid the tolls and flood city streets instead. He says that "the most effective way to raise extra money for Toronto's roads, is to raise the gas tax and earmark that money for traffic projects" - Toronto Radio - "Highway Tolls May Not Unlock Gridlock".

    japan Japanese slap on the wrist
    Japanese firms have been fined 6.4 billion yen (sounds a lot but is only $50 million or £28 million) for rigging bids. The work was done for the publicly owned corporation that operates the toll roads - Japan Times - "Bridge builders fined 6.4 billion yen for rigging bids".


    Friday 10 November

    spain italy "Dividends galore"
    Various papers report that the Spanish takeover of Italian roads is going ahead. Though based on the official Italian news agency there must still be doubts - "PROBLEM NOT THAT ABERTIS IS SPANISH". It seems that the Italians are worrying that they are about to be ripped off - though this was inevitable as soon as they tolled their main roads.

    australia Golden Deal
    The Herald Sun reports on the big profits being made by the operators of Melbourne's City Link. Each toll customer has so far paid an average of $2600 and will be paying for another 25 years - "1.5 billion toll slug".

    sweden Stockholm Toll back?
    It is reported (but not confirmed) that the new Swedish Government will reintroduce the Stockholm "congestion" charge, though most of those affected voted against it.

    usa No Tolls please
    Opponents of tolls on proposed Mountain View Corridor give their views to Utah Transportation Commission - Deseret News - "Don't charge toll on road, panel told"   Anti toll site.
    The Utah Daily Herald says that there may not be enough money to pay for roads if they are not tolled - - "Should it be a toll road?". This is of course a fallacy, as the road can be financed from bonds and paid for out of future years taxes.

    usa The Trucks are coming
    America's independent truckers in the "Convoy" tradition have sent out a message about the Indiana Toll Road -"There would never be a better time than right now for drivers to choose not to use the Indiana Toll Road and get used to running alternative routes. This will send a message that as more and more roads are converted to toll roads the secondary highways get more and more of the traffic. If that's the life they want to live, they ought to be willing to embrace it right now." - Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

    russia Russian progress
    A Russian economist ponders on whether Moscow should introduce a new regressive tax - tolls - Moscow Times - "The Microeconomics of Traffic". Interesting that the economist recognises one of the essential features of tolls - the money will go to line someone's pocket.

    earth Climate pot pourri
    As you may have gathered from our news pages the NAAT is sceptical about anthropogenic climate change. Here are some recent sceptical items -
    A few effects of climate change (click on each item for more details)   ABD - "Hurricane Hype Turns into Damp Squib"   ABD - "School Science As 'Media Slave' Is Roundly Condemned"   ABD - "Parking Permits based on Plant Food Gas in LibDemLand".


    Thursday 9 November

    usa Dulles Greenway hearing
    Leesburg Today reports that the Virginia State Corporation Commission is to have hearings in Loudoun so that residents can comment on the proposal to increase Dulles Greenway tolls - "Loudoun Hearings On Greenway Toll Hike". Tolls are generally bizarre, but it is difficult to understand why they need hearings to decide whether Macquarie can make bigger profits. Why would anyone say "yes"?

    usa The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    The good news is that Indiana's Governor has decided that the 142 mile Interstate 69 extension project will be toll free, despite him getting a law passed to say it would be tolled. The bad news is that there is to be a new 75 mile tollway going round Indianapolis and linking the Interstate 69 to the Interstate 70. The Ugly? The trading in roads and tolls that the Governor does.

    un Water
    Another UN report was out today. This one warns of a water shortage catastrophe. In line with the current theme, it partly blames cars and CO2 emissions, though it says that "the heart of the global water crisis is rooted in power, poverty and inequality". It dismisses the theories of Malthus, and says that population growth has nothing to do with water shortage. As there are an extra 70 million people each year, this is reassuring.

    london Ken's new toy
    Cuddly Ken has just taken delivery of a new car. It is of course a Japanese hybrid so it is exempt from his £8 ($15) a day con charge. The list price of the car is £18,000 ($34,000). Nothing to a man with the Mayor's money - He could have afforded to buy a dozen, but then as he doesn't drive, there wouldn't be much point.

    britain" chimaera Transport Innovation Fund handouts 4
  • Reaction from Cambridgeshire to the handouts - Cambridge Evening News - "Road charge 'will be properly examined'". How much confidence has the Government got that this isn't just a fantasy?

  • Reaction from Reading - IcReading - "End of 'free' motoring as congestion charge gets test drive". The Trolls should have a special qualification in logic - they say "the roads aren't big enough." so they plan to "look at closing various routes".

  • The Manchester authorities spin a yarn about congestion charges. It isn't clear whether they want to fool the people or the Government - perhaps they don't know themselves! Manchester Evening News - "Pay-to-drive deal over trams OK 'in principle'".

    britain" chimaera Car Boss speaks out against road pricing
    Unusually a business boss has criticised Government plans for road pricing. It was the boss of BMW UK - Belfast Telegraph - "BMW chief attacks road pricing plans".


    Wednesday 8 November

    usa More on Massachussets Tolls
    Outgoing Republican Governor Romney says that he will do his best to get rid of tolls from the west of the state before he leaves office on the 4th January. Incoming Democrat Governor Deval Patrick, who at one time was top lawyer at Texaco, seems determined to try and keep the tolls. He says ""roads don't plow themselves, they don't repair themselves". Instead his prorities are the economy, schools, health and same-sex marriages.

    britain" chimaera Transport Innovation Fund handouts 3
    More complaints from Yorkshire. Leading councillors say that they think their bid failed because they did not give a firm commitment to bring in tolls - This is Bradford. Is it that folk from Yorkshire are more honest than elsewhere or that they were worried that if they said they would bring in tolls, then the electors would believe them!

    usa britain" Bizarre
    Miami Today reports on a new road tunnel to be built between Interstate 395 and the port. Nothing odd about that. What is odd is that in the USA capital of tolls it is to be a toll free road as "people aren't really happy about tolls". The road is to be built as a public-private partnership, with the contractor getting "availability" payments each year. This is more expensive than a publicly financed road, but a lot cheaper than a private toll road - there is no money wasted in toll plazas and collection, and the private operator will accept a lower return as there is less risk. But what is really bizzare is that they say they are doing this to copy the success of such schemes in Britain - "State to test unique funding arrangement for port tunnel".

    usa Election results
    The results of yesterday's US elections were mixed for opponents of tolls. Generally the Republicans are more pro tolls than the Democrats, but in Massachussets the incumbent Republican Governor (not standing for reelection) had said that tolls would go in the western part of the state. The newly elected (Democrat) governor said "If we can do it we should", but his associates are now saying that the tolls will stay. This must be a record turn around - Boston Herald - "Tolls top to-do list for Deval".
    Texas's Republican Troll Governor has been reelected, though on only 40 per cent of the vote. He defeated both the Democrat candidate and an Independent - Carole Strayhorn - who largely fought on an anti tolls ticket. The other main Republican Troll is the Governor of Indiana, but it was one of the states where there was no election for Governor. In the Indiana vote for the House of Representives, the Democrats won 3 seats from the Republicans (now 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, was 2 Democrats and 7 Republicans).

    britain" Party for Drivers
    A new party for motorists was launched on Monday, though it seems that the news media ignored it. We are pleased to see that one of their policies is opposition to tolls - The Car Party.

    wales Severn tolls to go up 2
    More reaction to yesterdays' news that tolls on the Severn bridges will rise in January. Predictably the AA Motoring Trust support the increase - anyone want to buy some AA insurance? - Western Mail - "Bridge toll rise anger".


    Tuesday 7 November

    newzealand Highway Robbery Reward
    Highway Robbery Inc are offering one thousand dollars to any Auckland councillor who comes up with a good argument for tolls - Scoop. The offer comes from their spokesman - Dr Hans Grueber. The doctor is or was also secretary of the Green Society. It seems that at least some greens are opposed to toll roads. In other places such as Britain, the Greens are naive and have been manipulated by the Government and big business interests.

    britain" More opposition to Dartford tolls increase
    Bexley Council is opposing the increases - icLondon - "Fears over rise in Dartford Crossing fees". The Government trot out the usual nonsense about the increase reducing queues, when the truth is that the tolls cause the queues. Do those who mouth this nonsense have no conscience?

    usa Drivers Manifesto
    Tom McCarey with an election manifesto for drivers, including "ending tolls of any kind" . - Valley Independent - "Vote to protect your automobile".
    Tom seems to be part of - National Motorists Organisation (USA).

    wales Severn tolls to go up 1
    The operators of the Severn bridges have announced a toll increase from 1st January - Toll (payable westbound) - for cars goes from £4.90 to £5.20, vans and light goods vehicles from £9.80 to £10.20, and heavy goods (over 3,500kg) from £14.70 to £15.30 - South Wales Echo - "Severn toll rise sparks outrage from drivers".

    london "Congestion" "Consultation"
    Greenwich Council and Transport for London (TfL) have secured funding from the Government to undertake a feasibility study into a "congestion" charge. They are to consult residents and businesses - News Shopper - "Charging ahead with road study". This is a joke. When the recent consultation took place on the western extension of the London charge zone, 70 per cent said that they did not want it. But they were wasting their breath, the Mayor had said it was going ahead whatever was said.
    So called "congestion" charging has one main effect - there is a considerable expenditure on collection and enforcement. In the case of the London zone, that works out at over four pounds per vehicle per day. The overall effect on traffic is slight, earlier this year one of the members of the Greater London Assembly said that Londoners were now having to pay for congestion that they once got for free!

    canada Biter bit
    A car dealer from Markham near Toronto has won $50,000 from the owners of the 407 ETR. He had been harassed for allegedly not paying tolls, though his cars were fitted with transponders. The judge said - "With the monopoly power that it possesses and with its ability to determine who may drive on the highways, the (407) has a clear duty to exercise its enormous power responsibly. The award for punitive damages should be in such an amount as would reinforce the danger of failing to act responsibly." - Toronto Star - "Judge awards $50,000 to 407 driver".

    britain" chimaera Transport Innovation Fund handouts 2
    Little or nothing in the national press about yesterday's Transport Innovation Fund handouts. But today and yesterday various local papers covered effect on their own area. Yorkshire is complaining that they weren't included in the handouts (though Yorkshire drivers might not agree!) - "Anger as Whitehall snubs funding for congestion research".

    usa Invisible Tolls
    Charlotte Callejo wonders why when she pays for her tolls with a "Sun pass", she has no idea what she has been charged. - Sun-Sentinel - "SunPass data should be better". Charlotte misses the point - one of the main reasons for these systems is that the charge should be as invisible as possible - the ideal tax!


    Monday 6 November

    britain" Call to scrap Tyne tolls
    Eddie McAtominey, a Labour councillor responsible for Enterprise and Regeneration on South Tyneside, has called for tolls on the Tyne tunnel to be scrapped - "TYNE TUNNEL TOLL 'TOTALLY WRONG'".

    wales
    The Freight Transport Association in Wales has attacked the cumulative effect on South Wales of the existing and threatened tolls - Transport News Network - "Beware of the Cardiff Blues".

    britain" chimaera Transport Innovation Fund handouts 1
  • As expected Duggie (alias the Transport Secretary) has announced the results of the bids for the second round of "pump priming" of road pricing (originally due to be announced in October). It hardly seems worth the bother as all he is giving out is £7 million to be wasted on more consultants. The handouts are - Greater Manchester £1.95m, East Midlands £1.8m, Cambridgeshire £1.1m, Tyne & Wear £0.75m, Reading £0.7m, West Midlands £0.6m, Shropshire £0.4m, Norfolk £0.25m, and Durham just £50,000. Gordon Brown will not be too worried about this largesse, as it is what he raises in roads taxes in 1 hour 20 minutes.

  • Prior to the announcement this story was in the Norfolk Daily Press - "£500,000 study into Norwich road pricing".

    britain" chimaera Tax redistribution
  • Reuters have this which was in today's Financial Times - "A draft transport study by former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington has concluded that drivers should be forced to pay to use Britain's roads, with extra charges to be applied during rush hour, in an effort to reduce congestion and strengthen the economy. It is thought that ministers will be wary of backing his proposals, and keen to see how road-pricing pilot schemes, due to begin in around 2010, fare before arriving at a decision. Gordon Brown commissioned the report to try to solve the nation's transport problems.". - No surprises here then.
  • Also today there is a climate change article in the Independent by the chief economist at HSBC. He doubts whether what Britain does will make any difference, but seems to agree with the Government that we should set an example. So it's more taxes on drivers and "income tax cuts". No surprises here either.

    london They seek him here ....
    The Sun reports that a marine serving in Afghanistan has received a congestion charge fine. The car in question he sold 18 months ago and notified the DVLA. It appears though that Transport for London have a heart - they say "Given the circumstances, we will hold the Penalty Notice to allow him to prove his point on his return from duty."

    canadaGift that keeps on giving
    A Canadian public service union view of the 407ETR - National Union of Public Employees.


    Sunday 5 November

    britain" "Tax the poor"
    Simon Jenkins says "Save the planet: tax the poor back onto their bicycles". As he says that both the Government and the Conservatives support road pricing and this is in the Troll Times, it seems that he means what he says.

    britain" Fantasy
    The Sunday edition of the Telegraph has - "The road to ruin: how pay as you drive could cost families £3,000 every year". It says that "motoring organisations want a guarantee that any road-pricing charges will replace petrol duty and road tax".
    The so called motoring organisations (AA and RAC) no longer represent drivers. They know full well, that the idea that road pricing would cost drivers no more than now, is a fantasy. The Government hired Deloitte Consulting to work out the costs as part of the Department for Transport's "Feasibility Study of Road Pricing in the UK", which was published in July 2004. The implementation cost was estimated as up to £62 billion, and the annual running costs up to £5 billion. If you average the costs over 10 years then the effect is the same as adding over 20 pence to the price of a litre of fuel - just to cover collection and enforcement costs.


    Saturday 4 November

    usa No Tolls - more traffic
    We reported on Tuesday the end of the tolls at Buffalo, New York. It is now reported that there is heavy congestion on the road. This is due to a substantial volume of traffic now using the ex toll road rather than alternative longer routes. It is not clear what will happen when the bottleneck of the toll gate is removed.

    britain" Tories plan to sell off roads
    The spirit of Margaret Thatcher seems to still be strong in the Conservative Party. The Daily Mirror today reveals that John Redwood's policy group will recommend the selling off of Britain's roads. The plans were published yesterday by accident on the Tory website, but have now been removed. The Tories hope to get billions of pounds for the roads sell off - "TORIES SECRET PLOT TO PRIVATISE OUR ROADS". Labour will be laughing their heads off that the Tories will shoot themselves in the foot. But how long before Labour will be wishing to do the same?

    usa Texas Troll dollars
    Tolls is an issue in some of the contests for Governor, not least in Texas. It was today revealed that the incumbent gubernatorial candidate has received over one million dollars from the Trolls - My SA - "Donors with stake in toll roads give Perry $1.2 million". Texas has an independent candidate - Carole Strayhorn - mainly standing on a no toll ticket, it will be interesting to see how she fares against the party machines and their Troll dollars.


    Friday 3 November

    un Science?
    By "coincidence" in the week that we have been warned of Climate Armageddon, the World Meteorological Organisation (part of the UN) have released figures for the global average concentrations of carbon dioxide in 2005 - 2005 Bulletin. The "global" figure is an average of just 40 measurements - so why did it take them 10 months to work this out?
    Not surprisingly we are told that CO2 is up - "by about 0.5 percent" from 377 parts per million to 379 parts per million. We are told that the figure is up 35 per cent since 200 years ago and has caused a one degree increase in world temperatures. This may or may not be correct, but the WMO largely ignores the possible effect of other greenhouse gases, and completely ignores the biggest one - water vapour.

    britain" Politicians oppose Dartford tolls increase
    Amazing ain't it? News Shopper - "MPs oppose plan to increase tolls". Bob Spink MP on the 23rd October put down an "Early Day" Commons motion against the toll increase. It has been signed by 9 other MPS - Mike Penning, Bob Russell, Andrew Mackinlay, Derek Conway, Mr David Hamilton, Mr John Leech, Mrs Iris Robinson and Dr Howard Stoate.

    usa Say No to "No Tolls"
    Plans to eliminate tolls in western Massachusetts are meeting opposition - Boston Herald - "Don't pull the plug on Pike tolls".

    britain" chimaera Road Pricing is priority for Government technology
    It has been revealed at a Department of Trade and Industry conference, that the Government priority for technology spending is - road pricing - Eureka - "Government Technology Board to go independent".

    london Con
    The Troll Times campaigns for tolls and road pricing etc. But when it comes to Red Ken it is a different tune - "Now I know I read Ken all wrong".

    britain" chimaera Tory pushes for tolls
    It is proposed that a toll will be put on to one of the main roads leading to Southampton - A3024 - and the politician who is pushing for it is the Tory chairman of the South East of England Transport Board - This is Hampshire - "City in line for first toll road".


    Thursday 2 November

    london Misconceived use of technology
    Last week's Computing magazine reported that "TfL makes tracks with tagging", i.e. they were to introduce a tag and beacon system. This week the magazine published our reaction - "This is a classic example of misconceived use of technology. Transport for London will still need the existing number plate recognition system and enforcement apparatus to deal with drivers who do not have a working tag. The ultimate aim seems to be to charge drivers according to when they are on the road and which road they are on. Research and trials around the world indicate that this is a waste of time and money. The more complex the system, the quicker it reaches a point where it has no effect on most drivers. This is particularly the case where the charge is automatically debited to an account. Those drivers who's behaviour is modified, generally end up driving more on longer and less suitable routes."

    britain" usa Are you having a laugh? One
    An article in the US magazine "Science" has been reported on the BBC and elsewhere. Apparently research shows that fishery stocks are declining at a rate such that there will be none in 50 years time. This ties in nicely with the Climate Armageddon which is also in 50 years time. Though it isn't yet clear that the cause of overfishing can also be cured by road pricing. What is clear though is that the decline in fish stocks is nothing to do with the increase in the world population.

    britain" china Are you having a laugh? Two
    The BBC also feature today, the effect of China on global warming. They say that coal fired power stations are being built at the rate of one a week. Though according to the BBC expert, this will not be a problem as British firms are developing technology so that coal will be burnt with no carbon emissions at all. The BBC don't say whether the same British firms are also developing fusion power from a bucket of water, anti gravity machines, invisible men and time machines - but perhaps that's next week. They may also tell us next week how China's system of road tolls and no gas taxes is helping to save the planet.

    britain" Latest statistics
    The Department for Transport today published - 2006 edition of "Transport Statistics". The data tables on which the report is based are also available, but are difficult to get at - you will need to follow links down (e.g. "Roads and traffic") here to eventually get at them.
    Interesting titbits include -
  • the proportion of miles travelled by motor vehicle (cars, vans and lorries) in 2005 was 80 percent - this is actually down on what it was 10 years before (82 per cent). Over the 10 years, surface rail travel is up from 4.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent. (page 16)
  • total miles travelled per person have increased over the 10 years by 3 per cent (6,980 miles to 7,210 miles). Of this, the increase for those going by car or van (as driver or passenger) was 41 miles. That is an extra 4 miles a year or a growth of 0.05 per cent a year. Perhaps more amazingly this figure appears to have peaked about 1999. (page 16)
  • The number of private cars entering central London is down 20 per cent in the 3 years since the "congestion" charge was introduced. But in the 2 years before it was introduced there had been a fall of 24 per cent. (page 17)
  • The Government spent £217 million on "shadow" tolls in the year 2004/05. (page 128)
  • The Government and local authorities spent six billion pounds on roads in 2004/05. Though this includes money spent on closing roads and otherwise slowing down traffic and creating congestion. (page 128) There is no figure for how much is actually spent to maintain and improve roads.
  • Page 129 shows "Road Taxation revenue" of just under £28 billion. This is not so - the correct figure is £50 billion. Perhaps this is why the figures are described as "outside the scope of National Statistics".

    britain" Highway Robbery
    The Commons anti roads users lobby aka the Transport Committee published a report this week on "Local Transport and Funding". The report is nearly 300 pages long, but perhaps the most significant item is that local authorities spend 2.5 billion pounds a year on transport etc, of which 1.5 billion pounds is on roads maintenance, and virtually nothing on new roads. Compare that with what roads users are taxed- 50 billion pounds a year.

    britain" "Toll" road accidents down
    Yesterday the BBC reported that "Toll road accidents are reduced ". The BBC said that "between 1996 and 2004 there were four deaths and seven serious injuries on the Kewstoke road. In the last two years there have only been two minor accidents. " What the BBC did not say is that though the Kewstoke road is still nominally a tolled road, the toll collection stopped nearly 2 years ago. This welcome reduction in accidents may be due to other safety measures, but it does perhaps demonstrate that, despite the impression given by the BBC, treating roads as an income generator, is not a positive safety feature.

    britain" Another bridge?
    Essex and Kent are to look at building another Thames bridge. In the meantime it seem they want to get their hands on some of the Dartford tolls - News Shopper - "Looking at plans for river crossing". Both councils are Conservative controlled - what a pity they are more concerned abuut getting tolls rather than getting rid of them.


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