Tag Archive | "road pricing"

The Spare Pound In Your Pocket

Schimpf! Do you recognise that sound? You have in fact heard it before. Quite often in modern times as a matter of fact. It is the sound of the thin end of the wedge being slipped between you and what‘s left of your money.

In that disingenuous and backdoor way that governments have of dishing out some more bad news on the back of good news, the Treasury, by means of its Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, has announced that a section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon is to be improved and subsequently tolled.

This came as part of the spending review proposed last week which included plans for some £28billion of ‘once in a generation’ projects to modernise our road system. The decision to carry on with the mooted tolling option was slipped in on page 74 in an appendix.

The AA have already said that this will not go down well with motorists. In their opinion and no doubt in our opinion too, motorists have already paid for the roads so why the heck should they pay for them again? To answer this criticism, the government have said that there will be a non-tolled road for local traffic.

So that presumably means that every other driver who might have to travel that way will surely avoid this road because it is for locals only! The government might as well hope that the economic situation will shortly be sorted out by the passing of some pink flying pigs (Their preferred option). There may well be some well-heeled people or folk on an urgent mission who might cough up but I think the government might well find that the local road will suddenly become very busy.

The minister confirmed that this very congested stretch of road will be upgraded from a dual carriageway to three lanes either side. This is a good thing as it is a notorious route. The bad news is that it will cost a quid to use it. This is them being a bit clever. One pound, as everybody knows, does not go a long way. They presumably hope that most will say’ ‘Well, it’s only a quid’ and chuck the coin in the bin.

The other reason that it was quietly announced and is a relatively low fee is that the government is very nervous about their cunning plan. They wonder if motorists might take umbrage that they are again being targeted. The answer is of course a resounding and blindingly obvious yes.

Unquestionably there is a need for the many congested areas of our highway system to be refreshed and renewed to keep the traffic flowing. Tax payers know that this will cost huge sums of money but they also know that the roads have been chronically under-funded for decades as ministers bereft of economic ideas continue to plunder the road pot.

It is no mystery why that which we all once knew as ‘Road Tax’ is now commonly called ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’. See what they did there? Make no mistake – they might be reticent about introducing this now but it really is the thin end of the wedge. If motorists accept this the exercise will be repeated. And repeated.

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Goodbye Supercar

One of the latest crackpot ideas to come out of a government department is for a two tier road tax system. The idea is that, if you use motorways and major trunk roads, you pay more. If your motoring is confined to local minor roads you pay less. The flaw is obvious. Even the most local of local drivers will at some point find it necessary to use the posh roads.

This is so ill-conceived as to beggar belief. Fortunately it is only one of several suggestions that consider the future of the Vehicle Excise Duty. What’s really behind this is the government’s own policy. They’ve taxed motorists to the hilt and made the ownership of more luxurious cars even more expensive. This, and fuel duty, has caused drivers to turn to smaller, frugal cars and to reduce their mileage – a market cannily spotted by manufacturers.

The result is that these swivel-eyed Whitehall mandarins have rather painted themselves into a corner. Tax revenues from auto users has dropped significantly and the bigwigs find themselves looking for devious ways to recoup that missing cash. This attitude is made worse by virtue of the fact that this government – pre-election – declared themselves the party to ‘end the war on motorists’. Ha.

What’s worse is that only 25% – just one quarter – of the revenue raised from motorists is actually spent on the roads and in the meantime our cars plunge into potholes only marginally smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater. One chap from the RAC said that he wouldn’t mind so much if they ring-fenced the money for road use only. That’s unfortunately a very naïve view as history has shown. Clearly many hard-pressed drivers would go for the cheaper option and the B roads of Britain would soon become clogged whilst the motorways remained the domain of the wealthier road user – and governments officials.

All of this must pose an additional dilemma when the time comes to buy a car. Many of us would like, say, a Porsche or a BMW M3 if we’re in that fortunate financial position – a Ferrari even. The rest of us may aspire to something that has more prestige than we’ve had in the past. You might as well forget it.

It is illegal to drive above 70mph anywhere. Additionally, there are many things you are not allowed to do in cars – curiously though, you can still do that. Whilst stationary obviously. You must be a driving automaton. Servicing and repairs today are very expensive, as is fuel, VAT and VED. No matter how much of the folding stuff you have, the car-hating killjoys hold sway. Save your money and have some nice holidays away from grey Britain with its grey government. If you still want to have fun in cars when all the rules are stacked against you, the keen driver will probably get more pleasure out of an old Mazda MX5 that’s cheap to buy and run than the latest supercar. Wave goodbye to all that.

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