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A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 15.40hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
. . . On "vehicle tracking and road pricing policy"

I added my views to the petition to scrap the new road use charges by the Government and this is what Uncle Tone had to say:

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website.

This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network.

It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer. One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.

That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance. This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this email as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing. Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so. We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas.

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government.

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.

Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997, spending 2.5 billion this year on buses and over 4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over 140 billion of investment planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse. So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion. This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion.

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra 22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which 10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity.

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes. If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as 30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail.

That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been. But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS, so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.

Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. But those are decisions for the future. At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses. If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair"

I live in a rural area where public transport is a joke. I have to travel 50 miles a do to get to work and back. My job is decent paid but not excellent. I also have a family so money isn't exactly falling out of my pockets!.
But thats just my views and that fact that I think it is once again taxing rural folk for a towns issues.


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Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 16.18hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
Depends how rural - some areas might pay nothing at all, and if that goes along with the Scottish Executives suggestions of abolishing road tax and cutting fuel duty it could mean cheaper transport for rural areas.

The executive seem to be much more up for this than the UK government - maybe in part because their being more honest, infrastructure to monitor traffic flows by calculating journey times for traffic-scotland will soon have the ability to track cars by number plate recognition. At the moment it isn't stored anywhere so can't be used to charge for driving, but the fundementals are being put in place. The biggest issue IMO is then once this data is stored - what will the govt do with it. It has serious big brother overtones.

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 16.35hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
Yes and there is also that. The fact that they would be able to monitor everything you do in a car (places travelled, time taken and therefore speed) and if they wanted to once again fine joe public going about his day to day life they can.
The easy money basically, they wouldn't have to do any work to get it as the data storage systems have all the info they need - just push a button.
Heaven forbid they would actually have policemen doing real poilce work!

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 18.31hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
BigRed Wrote:
> But thats just my views and that fact that I think
> it is once again taxing rural folk for a towns
> issues.

once again? what other taxes have been levied on the countryside to pay to townies?

Does it not also work in reverse? Are government services not more expensive for those in the countryside, yet subsidised by those that live in towns? Post Office, Health Service etc.

People that live in the countryside have all the benefits and advantages of living there, BUT they also want the benefits and advantages of those that live in towns, in a nice cosy environment. Well, I don't think you can have it both ways.

We have to accept that we do not have an absolute right to drive where we want when we want. The sheer arrogance of people to consider they do have this right is breathtaking.


Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 18.42hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
BigRed Wrote:
> Yes and there is also that. The fact that they
> would be able to monitor everything you do in a
> car (places travelled, time taken and therefore
> speed) and if they wanted to once again fine joe
> public going about his day to day life they can.

They awready do this,, the static cams ya see on bridges and the side of the road etc awready log in yer details as to where you have been etc I think(I know of folk who have been up in court and this was mentioned).. There is all sorts they tramps do that the mojority dont have a clue about, like monitoring the phone exchanges regulary and spying on those innocent ones...

I for one will never have a gps system or witever they will use in ma car for charging folk tae use roads..


Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 19.01hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
If I understand correctly, the problem is congestion. - That's what this road charging is supposed to be about...trying to solve congestion.?

"Townies" are the source of congestion - Just keeping stereotypes going.

"Country Bumpkins" don't generally encounter congestion, unless they go to visit the "Townies"..?

I think BigRed might have a point about taxing the "Bumpkins", even if you consider the fact that "Bumpkins" have to cover greater distances in Bumpkinland, just to get the basics of life...and that means spending lots on fuel, which is mostly TAX. - Also, II has previously complained about the cost of shipping mail-orders to his remote Island Headquarters. ( winking smiley )

As I see it, road charging is not environmentally friendly. - It requires a huge carbon cost, to manufacture millions of GPS units, and power to run them. - BTW they will require to be on "idle" 24hrs-a-day, for this system.

There is already a Pay-as-you-go system in buy fuel, pay TAX, and you drive off. - More miles, more fuel, more TAX.

This is directly related to your mileage, and your fuel efficiency. - And it doesn't require ANY satellite monitoring systems, and no new Govt staff.

"Congestion", does not explain the Govt's enthusiasm for this project.

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 20.29hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
HTH Wrote:
> I think BigRed might have a point about taxing the
> "Bumpkins", even if you consider the fact that
> "Bumpkins" have to cover greater distances in
> Bumpkinland, just to get the basics of life


People (generally) live in the country because they like not living in towns. They then cannot complain that shit is far away and have to spend time and money moving around!

If they want stuff closer: move to a bloody city! Last time I checked nobody was forcing anybody to live 100 miles from the nearest Tesco.

Cities = convenient and noisy
Countryside - inconvenient and peaceful

take your choice!

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 20.48hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
I'll have the countryside!!!!!!

Sitting oot the back in the buff wi a bottle of JD, some smoke and Jhonny Cash belting oot the huge soundsystem and blasting anything I see oot the sky wi a big fat shooter,,----Try that in the city withoot getting lifted af some wee idiot in a uniform, who probaly got bullied at school, so he decided tae join the police and start his campaign of revenge on the general public, the innocent public, who are now guilty cause some wee clown wi a badge who got bullied in school and decided tae plant something on ya!!!!!!!!!

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 22.07hrs on Wed 21 Feb 07
I wasn't starting a debate on "Bumpkins" and "Townies" at all!! I may live rural now but I grew up in a town till I was 18 ao I know what it can be like on both sides.
My point was that its just another easy way for the government/councils to make easy money IF they use the data for traffic offfences. It isn't exactly real police work after all is it?

I do admit that I enjoy living where I live now as I have the benefits of both the countryside around me at if I drive 10 miles I am more or less in a city. I just don't agree that beccause I live where I live I should be penalised to get to work. Yes I suppose I could change jobs but lets face it, the North East of England isn't exactly the jobs capital of the UK and I am content with the job I have at the moment. I bought a diesel car so it would make my fuel bills cheaper and also so I was doing a little bit more for the enviroment.
It just makes me laugh when they say that they will put the cash into improving the roads and the public transport. Unless you live in a major city public transport is more or less a joke. More and more bus companies are removing their fleet of buses and making the routes of the existing ones longer to be more efficient for their business. Also the roads that I use to get to work are predominantly B roads or A roads, they can't even grit themin winter never mind make sure the road surface is without pot holes and troughs.
All I can see it as is a deterent or a money making scheme. I feel sorry for those in London that have to pay 8.00 a day or whatever it is just to get to work. But then again they do actually have a good transport system there so I suppose the charge is to encourage them to use it.

Re: A Reply From Uncle Tony
Date Posted: 20.38hrs on Thu 22 Feb 07
Can't see why they don't do the simple thing of ditching the road tax fee, then applying the cost to the tax on petrol - working on an average mileage of say 15k per year at say 35mpg is about 430 gallons. road tax is what? about 160 so that would be 37p a gallon.

* Nice & simple
* cheap to implement
* no "big brother is watching you"
* you pay for exactly what you use - travel more, pay more , travel less pay less
* get money into the exchquer from Johnny foreigner

sorry, it still penalises folk who are poorly served by public transport, but still strikes me as the most sensible solution.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 20.40hrs Thu 22 Feb 07 by geoffers.
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