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Saturday 30 September

england wales More on Severn bridge woe
Rhodri Clark in the Western Mail reports on the Severn bridge (M48) problem, including the issue of why the taxpayer is bearing the cost rather than the tolls concessionaire - "Severn Bridge storm"   "Soaring span that shut down when the wind strengthened".

britain" chimaera Accountants' Tolls sell
Accountancy firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers, has produced a report warning of the perils of global warming. They suggest spending one trillion dollars to limit the peril. They have a list of measures that they recommend including "road pricing where proceeds are not given back to motorists".
Spending one trillion dollars of economic activity on possibly useless measures to reduce carbon emissions is potentially self defeating. If you wanted to reduce fuel use, then you would have a fuel tax - on all fuel use, and you would also try and limit the world population explosion. We assume that the establishment lobby doesn't recommend this as it would mean less profits than they can get from tolls etc. The puzzling thing is how do they get the Greens to back them?

usa Money machine
The Massachusetts Turnpike and the Big Dig are likely to be election issues. And today the Berkshire Eagle says that an audit has found that toll collector theft is costing the turnpike $300 million a year. This is in addition to "the average toll collector making $66,000 a year in total compensation". Tolls are like a machine for making money, it shouldn't be surprising when this happens.

london "Two Jags" admits all
This last week's Labour Party conference ended with John Prescott claiming "credit" for the "Congestion Charge" tax. We wonder if this coming week's Tory conference will reveal where they stand on road tolls?

Friday 29 September

britain" chimaera M62 Tolls sell
More on toll pushing by the Government's own officials - Yorkshire Post - "Drivers could face charges to cut M62 congestion".

singapore chimaera GPS Trial
Today online reports on Singapore trial of road pricing using GPS (spy in the sky) instead of the existing gantry system. Problems with GPS are signals being blocked by tall buildings and trees, tampering with equipment, and privacy worries - "LTA trials tracking ERP from the sky".

ecuador Tolls takeover
A tolls consortium is filing a complaint with the Interamerican Court of Human Rights against an Ecuadorian council who have taken over the General Ruminhui highway at Quito after they say the consortium had broken the contract. The contract allowed the consortium to make a 21% annual return .

england wales Severn bridge woe
Lorry restrictions are likely to be brought in on the old (M48) Severn bridge while the cables are checked - BBC - "HGVs curbed on old Severn Bridge". Vehicles using lane 2 would be restricted to 7.5 tonnes. This restriction would still allow HGVs, up to 44 Tonnes, to use the Crossing in lane 1 in either direction.

britain" Tolls come first
The Oxford Mail criticises the operators of the Swinford toll for not suspending it while there was major congestion following an accident on the A40 Oxford-Witney road - "Shame on the money grabbers"     Petition against the Swinford tolls. To be fair to the operators of this road, they are no different to the operators of other British toll roads, earlier this year the operators of the Mersey Tunnels were still collecting tolls while there was a vehicle fire.

usa Uncommon sense
Peter Hill of Weston had this to say in today's Boston Herald -
"There is only way to get rid of all the pain at the Pike, and that is to remove the Turnpike Authority altogether and meld it into the lower cost state Highway Department. We need to follow the lead of Connecticut, which realized that toll booths were unsafe and inefficient and removed them.
Tolls are a tax no matter what anyone says. While this may sound unpopular, have an accountant or an actuary figure out how much the gas tax needs to be raised and for how long to take care of the above and earmark it for this purpose and do not put the monies in a general fund.
Once the bonds, the roads and repairs are paid for, this special assessment gas tax is gone. The entire commonwealth, the region, benefits from safe and well repaired roads. An earmarked gas tax with a set limit achieves this goal fairly."

Thursday 28 September

usa Tolls respite
Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates have unexpectedly vetoed legislation to create a "Hampton Roads Tolls Authority" that would have put tolls on several bridges and tunnels in the region to finance transportation improvements. They say that road improvements should be financed by bonds. We don't know if this is permanent or just politicians worried about elections.

britain" Turning of the screw
The authority that runs the Tyne Tunnel met today and confirmed that they are increasing tolls. Following an Inquiry in 2003 they were given powers to increase the tolls from the then 80 pence for cars to 1.80. The toll is currently 1 and will go to 1.10, there will probably be further annual increases till they reach the limit.

usa Biter bit
More on the couple who owe $377,000 dollars in toll fines - they are suing the transportation agency for violating their constitutional rights by not allowing them to contest the debt and because the penalties are disproportionate to the amount of the tolls - LA Times - Toll Road Drives Too Hard a Bargain".

usa Tolls Merry go round
We recently reported that the usually passive American Automobile Association was opposing the application by the new owners of the Dulles Greenway to increase tolls. It is now reported that various Democratic and Republican politicians are also opposing the toll increase. Though some of these politicians are also trying to get tax credits for toll payers, and thus ease the toll effect. We suspect that one way or the other the trolls will get what they want.

newzealand Free bridge
Work has just started on the Harbour Link (expressway and bridge) in New Zealand. The Government wanted to toll it, but after a long campaign by Winston Peters of the New Zealand First party, it will be toll free.

usa Troll docs to be released?
Texas and the trolls have been trying to keep secret part of the agreement to build a new toll road across Texas. It now looks as if it may be released. As part of the plan, the foreign operators are expected to pay Texas two billion dollars for the right to build the road - Statesman - "Disputed toll road documents may be released soon". We wonder how many Texans are dumb enough not to realise that the $2 billion for the concession can only come from one place - Texans.

ireland Toll logic
"Sustainable Energy Ireland" have published a report about CO2 "problem". Their solution is more tolls and "congestion" charges. These bodies always pick on cars, though they only represent about 20 per cent of energy use. They also always recommend tolls. As they say that they want to reduce use of fuel, we wonder why they don't suggest higher fuel taxes, and a level playing field between cars, planes, heating, industry etc. Is it that they think that drivers are an easy and stupid target?

Wednesday 27 September

london Come back Wolfie - Please!
The Guardian reports that Ken Livingstone has volunteered London for road pricing on all roads. He also wants to introduce compulsory metering of water and says that people flush toilets too much.

wales Capita(l) Con
Cardiff is thinking about introducing a Con charge scheme. They employed Capita (who run the London scheme) to advise - they suggest a charge of 4 ($7.50)to get in to Cardiff and another charge of 4 to get into the centre - South Wales Echo - "Fancy driving into Cardiff? Beware".

britain" Midlands Con
Dudley Zoo is worried over the effect on visitors if a "Congestion" charge is introduced - Express & Star - "Tourism Fears over c- charge".

usa Kentucky Free
Associated Press report that against the trend being pushed by the trolls, Kentucky Governor Fletcher is expected to announce today that he's removing tolls ahead of schedule on two western Kentucky highways - the Audubon and Natcher-Green River parkways. These were the last of what was once 10 turnpikes or tolled parkways.
PS Report on WFIE on the effect of removing tolls.

australia Ozzie Tax cut
Most of the Australian papers report that "truckies" may be being overcharged for using Australia's roads. The Government works out the costs of trucks using the roads, and then sets diesel tax accordingly, though how they allow for road tolls we don't know. Do they in effect get the tolls refunded? British roads users who pay about seven pounds in taxes for every one pound spent on the road would be amazed.

usa California Toll Rack
A California couple must be wondering if they are buying the Riverside (91) Freeway. They owe $377,000 in fines for not paying 700 tolls on the road. The tolls had been charged to their business card, and the business went bust - OC Register - "Toll-road penalties lead to court battle". The road carries over 300,000 vehicles a day, and apparently generates $27 million a year from the tolled lanes. Just one cent on the California gas tax would raise about $750 million a year, and might be better for Arnie's "green" image than persecuting drivers.

PS By coincidence Arnie today signed a bill extending the toll collection period for a road controlled by private operator "California Transportation Ventures" from 35 years to 45 years. Though apparently drivers will not also have to serve another 10 years in a Martian penal colony.

PPS By another coincidence Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, joined Ken Livingstone on stage at the Labour Party conference and praised "New" Labour. We are confused as to what this shows about whether politics are moving to the left or right. But one thing we are sure of - the politicians and those who's interests they serve are determined to reserve the roads for the rich.

usa Pro Family - Anti Tolls
The "Eagle Forum" has joined in the Texas Toll battle - My West Texas.

usa Right view of American liberty
The "Independent Institute" wants to privatize and toll all of America's roads - "Roads Are Too Important to be Left to Governments".

britain" chimaera Labour Tolls sell
Yesterday Tony Blair said the first of his goodbyes at Labour's annual conference. Amongst the things he will be passing on to his successor is "How to fund transport through road-pricing.". Meanwhile there was a fringe meeting of the anti drivers brigade including Dougie Alexander, the Transport Secretary - Yorkshire Post - "Congestion charges move a step nearer".

london Con cons
Last night's Whistleblower programme on BBC tv reported on what some of the con charge bailiffs get up to - "Bent bailiffs 'rip off and lie'".

Monday 25 September

  • The Manchester authorities dominated by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive have issued a press release on congestion charging. They are after money from the Government's Transport Innovation Fund., but say - "We have a long-established stance concerning congestion charging and road pricing, and that stance has not altered." In reality their stance seems to be that they are not telling anyone what they really think. Though, Labour's Manchester city boss - Sir Richard Leese, may have let the cat out of the bag by saying that they are prepared to use con charging.

  • Last year Washington State agreed a 9 cents increase in the gas tax, partly to pay for a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Governor has now announced that they may toll it anyway.

  • The CEO of our old friends Macquarie Infrastructure Group has revealed some of the troll thoughts in a presentation in Oz that touched on the Indiana Toll Road. He said automatic tolling would enhance traffic flow but the real advantage was that people tended to think tolls were cheaper when they had an electronic tag. -
    "I call it the 'mobile phone effect'. How many people out there know the cost of a call on your mobile phone? Well, it's very expensive, I can assure you of that. It's the same thing with tags. You go through, you hear the beep, you don't think about it. You pay your bill once a month. It's amazing how reaching into that pocket to get that three bucks seems a lot more painful than hearing that beep.". Well at least he didn't mention cups of coffee! The Australian.

    Sunday 24 September

  • The Observer reports that big bosses organisation "London First" is backing David Cameron, the Tory leader. They also back the London Con Charge. Does this mean that the Tories will come off the fence and back more pain for drivers and small businesses?

    Saturday 23 September

  • Sat 23 Sep - The Australian reports on the "Exclusive Brethren" sect. It says that they claimed exemption from tolls as "toll tags and toll gantries are instruments of the devil". We wonder if they have any vacancies?

  • Sat 23 Sep - Pennsylvania and New Jersey are fighting over the loot from the bridge tolls collected by the Delaware River Port Authority. Pennsylvania want to spend $45 million of it on deepening the river channel. In the meantime they have frozen all business, costing $6 million so far - Courier Post - "Budgetless DRPA remains deadlocked on dredging".

    Friday 22 September

  • Stan Smith from North East Against Tolls, part of our alliance, is protesting against a proposed toll increase on the Tyne tunnel. The Greens are usually on the side of the Trolls, but Bryan Atkinson, from South Tyneside Friends of the Earth, is also protesting as he recognises that PFI schemes are "an expensive way of operating any organisation" - South Tyneside Today - "'DAYLIGHT ROBBERY'".

  • Some reactions from the public to West Midlands plans for con charges - Express and Star.

  • A scheme for electronic tolls on the Tamar bridge has been delayed - BBC - "Bridge toll tag scheme is delayed". If anyone wonders what the purpose of these schemes is, then see the report dated 25 Sep under the stars and stripes.

  • Last week's Computing magazine had as its "Star letter", "A down-to-earth road pricing plan" which asked "Why change a model that works", but then suggested that we do change or add to the system of charging for roads use. The writer said that all new vehicles should be fitted with a module that has to be topped up with credit "online or at a kiosk". You would apparently be charged a road price according to which zone you were in and the type of vehicle. The letter didn't mention whether it would also vary with the time of day. Apparently if you ran a small margin over what you had paid for, then the vehicle would be immobilised. The letter also said that "the module need not be tied to a vehicle and there is no need to send information back to Big Brother."
    This week the magazine published a reply from us - "There appear to be a few holes in this idea - if the module is not tied to a vehicle, then it would not be simple to vary the price according to the type of vehicle. Also if no information is sent to "Big Brother", then how is the online payment for that "module" related to the charges for the various zones that the vehicle is passing through? Drivers are vastly overtaxed, but at least fuel duty is very simple, costs almost nothing to administer and there is little evasion. It also encourages fuel economy. What driver would want to change fuel duty for the system described?

  • The American Automobile Association is like a puppy dog, and rolls over for its tummy to be tickled when you mention tolls. But the Mid-Atlantic branch is now leading a campaign against the application by the new owners of the Dulles Greenway who want a phased increase in the car toll from $2.70 to $4.80.

    Thursday 21 September

    britain" Advance toll
    The authorities want users of the Tyne tunnel to start paying for a tunnel that has not yet been built - BBC - "Toll rise proposal to fund tunnel".

    london wales What a nice load of bills
    Yesterday the BBC reported on a Brecon postman who has received 2,500 ($4,800) worth of bills for non payment of the con charge, though he hasn't been to London since 1981 - "Driver's congestion charge riddle".

  • Authorities in the West Midlands want to introduce "Congestion Charging" or so they say. They hope to make 4 billion ($7.5 billion). Half from the Government and half from drivers. The bosses support this rip off of drivers and say that "It would be a great shame if these proposals were killed at birth because of an emotional, knee-jerk reaction.".     Express and Star - "Drivers face 4 daily charge"     Birmingham Post - "Road charging: The final choice"     ic Coventry - "City road price move on cards"     Birmingham Mail - "Road charging the way ahead".

  • There is speculation in Georgia whether tolls will end when debt is paid off in 2011 on the Georgia 400. It seems that the trolls won't part with the revenue flow.

  • Florida has hired consultants to advise on having toll lanes on the Interstate 75. A spokesman for the consultants says - "We're testing the tolerance the public has to paying tolls, and we're educating them on the advantage of having tolls." Should be an easy job then for the $375,000 that the consultants will get.

  • The Boston Herald reports on the gravy train for those that collect the tolls - "Highway robbery".

  • Utah Department of Transportation has completed a study of a proposed new toll road - the Mountain View Corridor on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. They reckon that if it is privately built and operated, then tolls will have to be higher and there will have to be a subsidy paid to the private operator. This is mainly because of the high cost of risk capital - 12 percent. It is possible that the politicians will mask the subsidy by buying the land for the road and giving it free to the operator.

    Wednesday 20 September

  • The trolls are falling out over the contract to collect tolls on Czech highways - Prague Post - "Taking a toll".

    italy spain
    We reported in August that the Italian Government had blocked the trolls merger as they did not want Italy's major roads controlled by a foreign company. It appears that they have been overruled by the tollocrats in Brussels:- BBC - "Brussels approves motorway merger".

    Tuesday 19 September

  • New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma is ranting about tolls on Sydney's Cross City Tunnel and M2 motorway. No he doesn't want them removed or reduced. He is complaining because the operators don't bother to take any action against those who refuse to pay!

  • The Trolls union - the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association - is hailing the appointment by George Bush of Mary Peters as transportation secretary for her - "thorough understanding of the nation's transportation funding crisis and for her willingness to seek innovative financing methods."

    Monday 18 September

    sweden london Tolls - Yes or No?
    As expected the majority of Stockholm voters in yesterday's toll poll voted to keep the "congestion charge", though the margin (52% for and 46% against) was narrower than predicted . One reason a yes result was expected is that unlike London, where the charge is for moving around in a relatively small central area, the Stockholm charge was for crossing a cordon, so it mainly affected outsiders. Many of the surrounding areas also had a tolls vote, and they all had a majority against the tolls. The ruling Social democrat coalition had said that they would ignore the polls in the surrounding areas, but they have lost the overall election.
    The centre right coalition that will form the new Government said before the election that they would take into account all the polls, but it remains to be seen whether they will honour their promise to the voters. The Social Democrats had already been forced by the Greens to break their original promise not to have a charge - Swedish Radio - "Uncertain Road Toll Referendum".
    PS Stockholm's Social Democrat Mayor Annika Billstrom who introduced the congestion charge lost her election. Perhaps she should have employed Ken's spin doctors!

  • We reported on the 20th July that the Taiwan authorities were going to introduce a toll on the new Hsuehshan Tunnel to deter the "curious". The tunnel is part of the new Chiang Wei-shui Freeway and the Taipei Times now reports that people living near the road and local officials want the road to be free to reduce the gridlock caused by tolls on the new road.

  • Russel Sadler in Oregon's Daily Astorian argues against toll roads as "a scheme to ration space on the highway for the well-to-do" - "We pay for our roads, one way or another".

  • The Massachusetts turnpike has doubled its charity giving, which is now over $50,000 for the last 6 months alone. The Boston Globe says that some of this goes to groups and events associated with key legislators. Drivers will be glad that their money is going to good causes!

    Sunday 17 September

  • The Observer leader was all about saving the planet. It said - "Road use can no longer be free. While some rural drivers depend on their cars, many journeys are not necessary. Their environmental impact should be recognised in tolls." No doubt this will go down well with the Greens, who like to tell others what they shouldn't do and are the only ones who would actually believe that road use is free.

    Thursday 14 September

  • A group of Republican businessmen in Ohio want to take over the toll roads. A conservative think tank - The Buckeye Institute - earlier this year speculated whether a similar idea was "paving the way to prosperity or creating another slush fund for elected officials".

  • Orange County in California has tolls on the 91 that vary with time. They have now extended the hours that the top rate $8.50 toll applies to. Larceny by degrees?

    Wednesday 13 September

    wales Welsh Tolls inevitable
    On Monday we reported on the "Welsh Tolls Sell". Today there is a report in the Western Mail which suggests that tolls are inevitable - "Congestion charging heading for a city near you".

    usa Texan Tales
    Gas prices around the world have eased over recent weeks. An economist from Cornell University, has now proposed a 2 dollars a gallon increase in the federal gas tax - Newsday. The Federal tax is currently 18.4 cents per US gallon, state tax varies from 8 cents in Alaska and Georgia to 35 cents in Pennsylvania. Total price at the pump averages about 3 dollars.
    In February, the General Motors vice chairman also suggested higher gas taxes to encourage greater fuel efficiency (though he probably wasn't thinking of a two dollars hike!). The Greens with their usual mastery of logic have suggested that more fuel efficient cars should pay gas tax at a lower rate (this would give such drivers a double advantage).
    What none of these people say is that the most sensible and fairest thing to do is not to add to the burden, but to eliminate tolls and raise the net money lost through extra gas tax - thus encouraging use of vehicles that use less gas.

    usa Virginia going tolls?
  • The former Virginia governor and former transportation secretary have come up with a brilliant plan. It will "generate billion dollars a year of new money - year after year." The money will come from 38 new tolls. There may be some people who complain, but think of what they could do with all that money, and it won't cost them anything - will it?.

  • Coincidentally it is also reported that 22 Virginia "lawmakers" have met to discuss transportation. They are recommending that tolls be introduced on Interstate 64 and other major highways. A new "regional transportation authority" would be set up to spend all that lovely free money.

  • Dallas County Commissioners reckon that tolls are not good for residents or local economy - NBC - "Too Many Toll Roads Bad For DFW, Commissioners Say".

    Tuesday 12 September

    britain" Dunham bridge toll Inquiry
    Report on Gerry Watt's fight against a toll increase on the Dunham bridge. It crosses the River Trent at the boundary of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire - Lincolnshire Echo - "A BRIDGE TOO FAR?".

    sweden london Tolls Forecast
    The latest poll reported on Radio Sweden says that 56 percent of Stockholmers will vote to keep "congestion charges". The official referendums will be held at the same time as the September 17th elections. The majority of people in the suburbs don't want tolls. The ruling Social Democrats (in alliance with Greens) say that they will ignore the suburbs vote, but the opposition alliance says that if it forms the next government it will count all the votes.

    m6toll Toll Funnel widened
    Drivers will be allowed to use the motorway hard shoulder from today. Or at least they will if they are travelling on the M42 between junctions 3A and 7 - BBC - "M42 hard shoulder open to drivers". Is it just a coincidence that this stretch is just south of the M6 Toll? The road system is in a bigger mess than usual because a toll road can't be fully integrated into the system, and we suspect that decisions whether certain measures are taken or not depends on their effect on the M6 Toll.

    usa Texan Tales
    Texan Trolls are trying to drum up support by saying that if they don't use tolls then the gas tax would have to increase by 17 cents a gallon. Officials had previously said that it would need less than 3 cents. The new figure is to compensate for profits over the next 40 years and the assumed proceeds of a $2 billion borrowing in 2048, it also assumes that the gas tax is only over small part of Texas - Statesman - "No tolls would mean 17-cent gas tax". In the real world, tolls are the most expensive way of financing a road, you have to pay for toll collection and an army of advisers with their hands out. Roads should be paid for from state and federal gas taxes - and those gas taxes should go on roads and nothing else.

    japan Expensive toll
    We reported on 23 August that a dangerous criminal was being "grilled" by police investigators for not paying the toll. He must have admitted the error of his ways and has been fined one million yen (8,500 dollars or 4,500 pounds) - Mainichi Daily News - "Toll booth protester slapped with record fine".

    singapore chimaera Double blessing
    Singapore is hosting annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. To cater for the VIPs there are various road closures and diversions. Singapore's gantry based electronic road pricing system means that some drivers have been double charged. An official spokesman has said "tough" as they can't do anything about it. We wonder if the VIPs were charged tolls?

    Monday 11 September

    wales Welsh Tolls sell
    The "South East Wales Transport Alliance" are to have a conference discussion on "congestion charging" to be chaired by the BBC's John Humphries - South Wales Echo - "Does Cardiff need 'London' traffic charge?".
    The alliance consists of the 10 local authorities in the area in "partnership" with Arriva Trains Wales, Confederation of Passenger Transport, Network Rail, Bus Users UK and Rail Passengers Committee Wales. Obviously all fans of roads and drivers. We wonder what they and the BBC will decide?

    britain" chimaera Tolls sell
    The Troll Times has a couple of reports that mention road pricing. The first is about an insurer and its pay as you drive system - "Insurer to start pay-as-you-drive policy". The other is about the long delays before badly needed bypasses are built - "Broken promises leave dozens of towns in queue for a bypass". The group calling for action is the Road Users Alliance. We agree that we need more and better roads, but it is strange that a group that claims to represent road users wants this to be paid for from road tolls. Tolls is a policy that puts them in the same camp as the anti road groups "Transport 2000" and "Road Block".
    PS Saturday's edition of the Troll Times under "Someone's got to do it" had - "the Toll Booth Assistant". This must be the PC name for a toll collector. It seems that though most people are avoiding the tolls, the rich, privileged and those on expense accounts love it. Customers include "Prince William, Cliff Richard, Jeremy Clarkson, David Beckham and lots of panto stars". What a pity that Jeremy is giving his support to the toll company- perhaps it was a look alike?

    usa Tolls to return?
    The Stamford Advocate reports that the new head of the "South Western Regional Planning Agency" wants to bring back tolls on the Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway which were removed over 20 years ago. The new head's views should have been known to those who appointed him, let us hope that the politicians will come clean and let the voters know that they want tolls back.

    Saturday 9 September

    london usa Ken attacks Americans - again
    The London Mayor is having another go at America for not paying his Con charge - Mayor's press release. It is sad that Ken can't resist the urge to repeat the myths that the Con charge has made a significant impact on traffic, and that it has improved air quality. Perhaps he should read between the lines of the TfL reports.

    usa America!
  • Australian troll, MIG, is reported to be looking at buying from the Pennsylvania Turnpike trolls the uncompleted 100-mile Mon-Fayette Expressway which is intended to link Pittsburgh and Morgantown, in West Virginia. As usual most politicians only seem to be able to see the bucks up front, though in Indiana where they have just sold the Turnpike, the House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer has said that while the state will receive $3.85 billion, the private operators will make $133 billion over the life of the deal!
  • Tolls on the Golden Gate bridge were $3 in 2002, are now $5, and it is reported today that it is proposed that next year they will be $6. With a water crossing you have captive customers, and with tolls income there is never a shortage of things they can spend the money on!

    britain" chimaera Congestion Game
    On Thursday the BBC reported on the bid from Northamptonshire for Transport Innovation Fund money. "Bid for congestion charge study".
    The deadline for bids was actually 31st July. This is all a rather silly game. We don't yet know how many authorities have applied, but the amount available for the whole of the country is only a maximum of 9 million. That buys next to nothing when it is usually spent on grey suits. To get this pittance the authorities have to say that they will introduce road pricing (though the Government have said that they "may" give some money to those who say they will bring in "workplace parking levies"). The problem is that they have to say this to the Government and the opposite to local people. So earlier this week, there was a spokesman for Northamptonshire saying on the BBC that they had no intention of bringing in any form of road pricing. Presumably they were hoping that the Department for Transport were not listening.

    Friday 8 September

    usa "No" to tolls in New Hampshire
    Residents of Merrimack had a meeting on Wednesday night to attack the unfair taxation of the town through tolls and are considering filing a class-action lawsuit against the state. They have the backing of local State reps, but reps in other areas don't care as their voters are not affected by tolls - Nashua Telegraph - "Sick and tired of paying the tolls".

    usa Removal of tolls criticised
    For a small part of the recent Labor Day weekend, the tolls were removed on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This was partly to reduce queues at the toll plaza and partly to encourage visitors to Ocean City. The Mayor was later attacked for the lost tolls income. In his defence it has been said that "It made traffic flow easier to Ocean City ... It turned out to be a great thing for Ocean City ... It was a no-brainer ...Things like that bring people to Ocean City and puts them into hotel rooms". What a pity they can't permanently remove the tolls.

    britain" Travel in Britain 2005
    Yesterday the Government issued the latest annual National Travel Survey (2005).
    Anti roads group "Transport 2000" are demanding that the Government "introduce road pricing" to force people on to public transport - Independent - "Planes, trains and automobiles the preferred choices of travel as Britain gives walking the boot".

    The survey was based on about 20,000 people in 8,400 households. As usual it is more informative to look at the data tables, rather than what the Government chooses to highlight. Here are our highlights:-

  • The average distance travelled is up 105 miles or 1% on 2004, though little changed from 2003. The time spent travelling by each person is up very slightly from 382 to 385 hours.

  • Of the 105 miles increase - only 40 is by car or van, 64 is by non road transport (various forms of rail and plane).

  • Calculated from the above the average speed (and this includes people walking!) went up from 18.60 mph to 18.82 mph (The oldest figures in the tables are for 1972/73 when the average speed was 12.68 mph.) If only time and distance of car and van drivers is used then the average speed has fallen from 24.82 mph in 2004 to 24.40 mph in 2005. In 1995/97 the average speed for car and van drivers was 25.70 mph.

  • Perhaps most surprising is if you look at the increase in distance travelled compared with 1995/97. The distance has increased by 227 miles from 6,981 miles to 7,208, most of the increase is in non road transport which has increased by 169 miles.

  • Despite this trend, motorised road transport is still dominant with 88% of the distance travelled in 2005. Walking and cycling are 3.2%, and non road transport despite its growth is still only 8.8%.

  • Walking declined by 3% between 2004 and 2005, and is now only 2.7% of distance travelled.
    Most of the Government effort and spending goes into favouring bike use. So as you might expect this is down 7% from the 2004 figure, and is now only 0.5 per cent of the total distance travelled.

    Thursday 7 September

    britain" Toll Inquiry
    The Dunham bridge crosses the River Trent west of Lincoln. The company that controls the bridge applied to the Government for another toll increase. We have just heard that there is to be an Inquiry held on 17th October. If any one can help with the opposition to the increase, then please contact us via the "England" link on our home page.

    britain" chimaera Consumer survey on Congestion
    Which magazine has today released the results of a survey of 1,000 people carried out in May. They were asked for their views on traffic congestion - Which - "Traffic jams driving people to distraction".
    Which says - "Four out of five drivers plan their journeys to avoid congestion and a similar proportion leave earlier or later than they should to avoid jams. A quarter of drivers regularly avoid journeys completely rather than getting stuck in traffic." This confirms the point that Paul Smith of Safe Speed has been making for some years. Traffic is to a large extent its own regulator, those who suggest any form of "congestion" charging have an interest - they want to stop all drivers or they are rich and want to force poorer drivers off the road or they expect to get some of the billions that would be wasted on toll collection and enforcement.
    It was pleasing to see that few of those surveyed have fallen for the spin of the Trolls - only 7 per cent supported "Charging people to drive into town/city centres at peak times". and only 5 per cent supported "Road tolls where people charged per mile".

    britain" Northern Ireland told to introduce tolls
    The Belfast Telegraph has a report on a leaked document where the Treasury are telling the Northern Ireland Secretary what to do. Amongst other things, the Treasury want more action on "road charging and tolling". Northern Ireland is currently free from road tolls.

    usa More on "More Tolls Please"
    We reported on 26th July that the private owners of the Dulles Greenway want to increase the tolls. They have to ask for permission. The answer will be "No" if Loudon County have any say - Loudon Independent - "Frank Wolf, Board oppose toll hike".

    london More Capital for Capita
    Capita, the con charge company, has been given new contracts. It has been given an extension to its existing contract and will also develop new tolls on "polluting" vehicles in the new "low emission zone".

    britain" Tories "promise" tolls
    The Tories say that if they get back into power they may bring in the lorry road user charging scheme that Labour abandoned - Times - "Tories want road pricing for all lorries driving in Britain"   Tory party - "Level the playing field for British hauliers". This scheme was only of benefit to British hauliers if they had in effect got their tolls refunded, but foreign hauliers on British roads would not. The Government might have been able to structure this to get by the EU Commission, but the scheme would have cost more to administer than the amount it would have collected - that's why it was abandoned. Are the Tories that keen on ploughing resources into tollaucrats?

    Tuesday 5 September

    usa George goes Tolls
    AP report that President Bush is about to appoint Mary Peters, to succeed Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation. Mary is an advocate of paying for roads through tolls, rather than though gas or other taxes - Centre Daily Times - "Bush makes transportation secretary pick".

    australia Ex partners
    The boss of Sydney's Cross City tunnel has attacked the Government for abandoning its Troll partners. (The Government withdrew some of the road closures designed to force drivers onto the toll) - Daily Telegraph - "Tunnel's CEO goes on attack ".

    usa "No way"
    Residents in Oregon are opposing suggestion for more tolls. Australian Troll MIG has a scheme to build a toll road, but wants tolls placed on some of the existing roads, so that drivers can't avoid tolls - The Orgegonian - "No way, Newberg and Dundee residents say".

    Monday 4 September

    canada Tolls for no roads
    The Globe and Mail reports that Toronto faces major traffic problems. The cause? The city is growing with another 500,000 population (mainly from immigration) within the next 15 years, but they plan to build no more roads. The solution? The Transit Commission wants tolls and congestion charges, with the income to be spent on anything but roads.

    australia Tolls equality
    The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the unfairness of the tolls round Sydney. Rates charged by the seven private toll operators vary, and on two of the roads, the drivers are refunded almost the whole of the toll by the Government. The result is that the annual cost of tolls for a commuter varies from $Aus 165 ($US 125 or 65) to $Aus 4,500 ($US 3,500 or 1,800) - "How inequality rules Sydney's road network". It is suggested that the system be changed so that everyone pays the same rate per mile. Has no one heard of funding roads from gas taxes? Though we must admit, that doesn't have the same scope for charging "expenses" and "commissions" and employing an army of administrators and toll collectors.
    PS Premier Iemma has since said that overall it is fair, but the former auditor-general Tony Harris says that "the Premier is deluding himself. " Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald.

    usa Tolls boost tourism
    One AP story syndicated across the States this morning is that the Maine Turnpike is handing out free "Farmers'" almanacs to drivers departing the area - "The idea is to stimulate return trips by visitors this fall. Joining in the Labor Day promotion will be Miles the Maine Turnpike Moose, a promotional figure for state tourism" If they doubled the price of the tolls, perhaps they could afford another moose, and could boost tourism even more!

    australia Tolls equality
    The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the unfairness of the tolls round Sydney. Rates charged by the seven private toll operators vary, and on two of the roads, the drivers are refunded almost the whole of the toll by the Government. The result is that the annual cost of tolls for a commuter varies from $Aus 165 ($US 125 or 65) to $Aus 4,500 ($US 3,500 or 1,800) - "How inequality rules Sydney's road network". It is suggested that the system be changed so that everyone pays the same rate per mile. Has no one heard of funding roads from gas taxes? Though we must admit, that doesn't have the same scope for charging "expenses" and "commissions" and employing an army of administrators and toll collectors.
    PS Premier Iemma has since said that overall it is fair, but the former auditor-general Tony Harris says that "the Premier is deluding himself. " Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald.

    Sunday 3 September

    usa "End tolls, save money"
    Raymond G. Neveil of Citizens Against Tolls had this letter in today's Asbury Park Press -
    "To deal with our state's financial mess, legislators are seeking new sources of income. Two sources no doubt in their sights are increasing Garden State Parkway tolls and privatizing the Parkway by essentially mortgaging our future.
    Collecting tolls, a 24/7 operation, requires almost 700 people - an estimated 400 "manual" collectors and the Parkway's pro-rata share of about 300 E-ZPass administrative and technical people. In addition, there are executives and managers who have cars, office staffs, etc.
    To support these armies, additional organizations are required for human resources (benefits), labor relations, public relations, payroll, accounting, etc.
    An investigation of toll collecting would show that little income remains after all of these massive expenses are deducted. A dedicated one-cent gasoline tax would more than cover Parkway maintenance costs. With the gyrating cost of gasoline, a one-cent increase would barely be noticed. And think of the savings in gasoline, time, pollution and accidents. The time to eliminate tolls is now.
    Privatizing amounts to selling off a valuable asset for immediate gain without regard for the future. What will be next: state parks, county roads?"
    britain" chimaera How daft?
    The Leader in today's Observer says that Tony Blair should stay on as Prime Minister as long as possible and that "Meanwhile, he should use the fact that he does not face re-election to broach some unpopular but urgent subjects. He could for example make the case for road pricing." Just how daft do the politicians and the news media think that people are?

    australia Amazing!
    Most drivers would think that Australia already has too many tolls, but there is now a proposal for road pricing and congestion charging on all roads offset to some extent by a reduction in fuel taxes. Bizzarely the idea comes from the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland. Even the politicians are amazed at the RACQ's position - "They say they are opposed to tolls on one hand but want to impose a tax on existing roads." - The Australian - "Motorists face CBD traffic fee". Perhaps the RACQ members all drive gas guzzlers.

    Saturday 2 September

    usa Florida Toll agency investigation
    Jeb Bush has ordered an investigation into a contract awarded by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority - St Petersburg Times - "Road agency under fire again".

    usa "Tolls Are Us"
    More on the Texas toll debate from Sherry Jacobson in the Dallas Morning News.

    usa Spend now, pay more later
    Illinois is thinking of selling its toll roads but a report from Credit Suisse warns that tolls could increase by 50 percent - Pantagraph - "Arguments grow against state tollway sale".

    usa Spend now, pay a lot later
    There is a strong Troll lobby in Colorado. They are not too happy that the Northwest Parkway near Denver is losing a lot of money. They blame the losses on "declining employment and slower than expected growth in the area it serves". They don't seem to realise that putting a toll on roads in such an area makes things worse. Their solution is to refinance it in such a way that it avoids the state law that limits borrowing to 40 years.

    usa United against tolls
    Illinois has been opposing the suggestion that a new bridge over the Mississippi to Missouri is tolled. A new poll by the Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV of people on both sides of the river has found that even the majority of Missourians don't want tolls.

    Friday 1 September

    usa Texas tolls
  • David Van Os, the Democratic candidate for attorney general of Texas has said that the toll plan "is one of the worst eruptions of greed and corruption in the history of the state. It can be stopped. The attorney general is supposed to prevent any private corporation from collecting tolls. These tolls are to be managed and collected by a company in Spain." - Daily Times.

  • Carole Strayhorn, Independent candidate for Governor and ex Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has attacked as "election gimmickry" the incumbent Governor's decision to delay tolling on Highway 121 until after the election - Dallas Morning News - "Strayhorn: 121 toll delay is a victory - for now".

    usa Less toll collectors, same tolls
    Florida's Polk Parkway are reducing the number of toll collectors. The aim is to save money, any inconvenience to drivers without the right change seems not to matter - The Ledger - "For Whom The Road Tolls, You Need Coins".

    britain" Establishment Spin
    Tuesday's Times reported on the results of the "Eddington Transport Study". The Times says that his report urges that "The key to preventing gridlock on the roads is to ration use with a nationwide system of road tolls." The Times quoted comments on the findings including from a "Department for Transport spokesman". We have been eagerly waiting to see the details of this study, but it seems that nothing will be published for at least another two months. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised as on Wednesday it was revealed that the Government now employs 3,200 spin doctors - BBC - Labour accused of spin overload".

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