Tag Archive | "UK Toll"

Taking Their Toll


Will it never end? The relentless war against motorists continues. The present government promised not so long ago – coupled with the fact that it was in their election manifesto – that any tolling of roads would be confined to any newly built stretches of carriageway. How naïve we must have been to believe that.

Under the present Secretary of State for Transport, one Justine Greening MP, we are now told that the administration has plans to raise money for highway improvements (and you thought that was what your road tax was for!) by tolling an ‘enhanced’ twenty mile section of the A14 in Cambridgeshire.

So far so bad, but if you thought that would be it, you are entirely wrong. It has been suggested that the once glorious A303 – which used to be a wonderful road to drive on back in the day – that winds its way west past Stonehenge is, at least in part, to be subject to a toll.

Other roads where they are thinking of applying this additional iniquitous tax include stretches of the A1, A27 and the A30. All this despite – and this is key – that the M6 toll road around Birmingham was pronounced a failure as long ago as 2010!

When it was opened in 2003 it was hailed as the solution to congestion. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Two years ago the Campaign for Better Transport (and they are Greens) pointed out that the toll road was not diverting anywhere near the amount of traffic that it was supposed to do. It is losing money. Research by the Campaign showed that private toll roads didn’t help motorists or investors.

Inevitably, as so often happens, when things don’t work or sell as expected the prices are put up rather than down. Hence the toll on the M6 is now a fiver and motorists are staying away. Many drivers simply can’t afford it. If it was much cheaper, maybe it would work, but nobody seems to see that.

This is short-termism at its worst from a cash-strapped government who don’t apparently have the imagination to think of real ways of helping the economy. As the Campaign said: “Toll roads are not, and will never be, a solution to congestion on Britain’s roads, no matter how attractive they may appear to cash-strapped politicians desperate to deliver otherwise unaffordable road schemes.”

Enough said.

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Taking A Toll On Drivers


The pressure of traffic on our crowded roads is increasing year on year. The present Government is talking up new road charges and drivers face tolls under audacious plans to put Britain’s roads network in the hands of private companies. David Cameron has said that he wants to kick-start the economy by allowing firms to compete to build, operate and maintain motorways and trunk roads. Motorists would not pay tolls to use existing roads – but firms could widen them and introduce pay-as-you-go lanes that drivers could use to beat congestion. Meanwhile, if there’s any room left, any brand new road will be built by private investors and charged along the lines of the French toll-road system.

Road pricing, whether we like it or not, is on its way. Effectively, it could be any system that would, at point of use, charge drivers to use any particular road or system of roads. Usually it means tolls on single routes and crossings like bridges or tunnels. More recently, it has included zone pricing of urban areas as is seen with the London congestion charge the idea of which, no doubt, will soon expand to include other cities. On 3rd May 2012 London voters will go to the polls as Boris Johnson, the present incumbent, fights Ken Livingstone (yes, he’s back) for the title of Mayor. Wouldn’t it be great if they actually fought, in the Mexican Lucha Libre style with masks? The Blonde Bombshell vs. the Newt Fancier. Now I’d pay a toll to see that! In the boring meanwhile neither of them plan any immediate increase in charges on the basis that cash-strapped London drivers won’t be voting for anyone who even thinks about it. But afterwards?

Road pricing isn’t new and the French have been at it for years, as is their way, but it is spreading and is already rife in countries as disparate as Norway and Australia. Even the Yanks, who are righteously against any form of extra taxation, are beginning to take it seriously. In 2008, the New York Mayor tried and failed to get approval for a scheme but was thwarted by the State Assembly. This year a new plan has been mooted that is, typically, a complicated mishmash that aims to try and convince drivers that tolls are good for them.

Back in the UK motoring groups have warned that drivers are getting sick and tired of struggling with high fuel prices and other car expenses and believe, despite the Prime Minister’s words to the contrary, the current plan will lead to road pricing nationally on a pay to drive basis. It is interesting that, when in opposition, the Government were defending drivers on the basis that the then administration was treating motorists as ‘cash cows’. As it turns out drivers are suffering more than ever. Funny that.

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