Tag Archive | "tolls"

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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New Government Plan For A Toll Road


Drivers crossing into Wales across the Severn Bridge have to pay a toll and it has always been so. Perhaps they would do better to charge a toll on people desperate to get out of Wales before they are driven mad by all the bi-lingual duplicated signage.

Not content with that, the government have announced a plan to toll a new 14-mile M4 relief road near Newport. This would be the UK’s second such road after the M6 toll around Birmingham. With wearying inevitability, ministers reckon this could “stimulate the faltering economy”. Why not be honest – it’s another tax, isn’t it? They need to raise money to help fill those empty, echoing coffers in the Treasury

Do they not realise that a majority of private drivers – already taxed to the hilt – will simply go another way? The AA and other motoring organisations advise against it yet still they persist. If they do collect the money what will it be for? Certainly, it is a fact that in a recent survey a huge 91% of drivers do not trust them to spend the extra revenue on repairing our roads.

Further, in our Democracy, 60% of motorists do not support new built toll roads and a further 19% can be added to that figure for the number of motorists who would not support the introduction of tolls on existing routes.

To carry on with the percentages theme, 40% would back more expensive tax discs than tolls (although if that’s the thinking, then increasing the tax on fuel would be probably be fairer – the old ‘the more you drive the more you pay’ argument). Even if the powers reduced taxes in other areas forty one percent still wouldn’t approve of toll roads.

Around half of those questioned (47%) stated that they would not go out of their way to avoid a toll but 44% said they would. The biggest no-no seems to be if a toll should appear near respondents local areas which would impact on their daily lives. More than half said they would avoid it and find their way across the rural and local routes.

The worry is that by effectively forcing cash-strapped drivers onto the minor roads of Britain it would seem inevitable that the accident and fatality rates would rise. It is clear that the anti-toll people are in a big majority. Governments and the other side of the House should be listening. This survey makes it clear to politicians of whatever persuasion that road tolling is a vote loser.

(Note: On April 4th, the Chancellor denied that the Government had any plans to toll this proposed road, which is great. Trouble is, do we believe him?)

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Road Toll Update: Parts 1 & 2


Road tolling. Brings a whole new meaning to the expression ‘charging along the road’, doesn’t it? Around the time of the last election the now Prime Minister stated that there would be no toll charges on existing roads. In fact, he meant existing unimproved roads. Aha. Any existing road that receives substantial ‘enhancement’ (an official word with a variety of meanings) is fair game. When you take into account this government’s intention of ‘increasing investment in strategic roads through greater use of private capital’, you can get a clearer idea of what’s in store.

Following a report about alleged tolling of parts of the A14, the A303 and a few others where ‘enhancement to increase capacity’ was suggested, subsequent investigation has highlighted considerably more information. It should be mentioned that the government has said that tolling can only take place ‘where an alternative route would be available for local traffic’. Eagled eyed readers will have noted that nothing is mentioned of through traffic.

It looks very much as if we should all make sure our sat-nav’s are up to date and set to avoid toll roads. That should make for a few interesting diversions; and especially so because, as it now turns out, there are around two hundred new road schemes in the planning system countrywide, so expect some Swampy-like protests to be up and running in the not too distant future. (History fans: Swampy was a mud-encrusted protester and tunnel builder from 1996 in the battle to stop the Newbury By-Pass. Ultimately the protesters failed but have been proved right as the road has not been anything like the success it was supposed to be and accidents rates have risen since it opened).

With a sort of wearying inevitability the Department for Transport said that ‘new roads were vital to prosperity’; but then they would say that, wouldn’t they? In the meantime a millionaire businessman has pledged to support the fighting funds of any viable community groups that are set up to oppose these forthcoming schemes.

Of the many proposals, arguably the most significant are for a new motorway across the Peak District National Park and ‘enhancements’ to the A30 and A303 in the West Country. Stonehenge will never be the same again. To this you can add a Hastings – Bexhill link road which passes within a few metres of an important nature reserve.

No doubt the pro’s and con’s will be debated at length as these things proceed but there is unquestionably the acrid whiff of politics behind it all. Do we need more roads or just better ones? Should they spend money building more roads when they can’t maintain the ones we’ve got? Like the man who drank too much syrup of figs – this one will run and run.

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And, in fact, it has. The latest news report is that any new road building or major ‘enhancement’ may well be franchised out to foreign capital. The Department for Transport is apparently looking at ‘new funding models’. Most commentator’s are sceptical, and rightly so. It has been reported that the M6 toll road – operated by Midland Expressway – has suffered a £41 million loss. How many foreign investors are going to be impressed by that? Yet they shouldn’t worry as the government has come up with a suggested solution that is so bizarre as to merit their immediate sectioning.

Are you sitting down? It seems that the way to encourage investment is to ensure potential investors that if tolls fell below an agreed level then the treasury would pay them the difference, probably out of road tax funds. Effectively this means that drivers could be paying twice to use the same piece of road at any one time. Does this, or does this not, beggar belief? What’s worse is that they get away with a similar arrangement on the railways already; but it’s not quite the same as rail users don’t have a route choice; drivers do.

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