February 09, 2007

Road Pricing or Road Building?

What can be done about traffic congestion?

Some take the laid back approach. “Do nothing” is their answer. Traffic won’t increase indefinitely, some people just won’t bother making some journeys simply because they will take too long. The pace of life is too hectic anyway, they say, we need to slow down and focus on the important things in life. Take time to reflect. Relax. zzzzzzzzz

Unfortunately traffic congestion not only delays people and puts up the price of goods and services but also causes more pollution and more crashes. Pollution from standing or stop-start traffic. Crashes due to impatient drivers taking risks when trying to make up time lost in jams. People pay with their lives for such behaviour.

The traditional answer is to build more roads. Of course not too close to where people live, close enough for speedy access to the motorway network but far enough to keep the noise and smell away from homes. As for objectors, they will shut up if you pay them enough. Property prices and the other costs of road building may have sky-rocketed over the past few years, the government always has enough money to build more roads. After all, who would want taxes spent on health, education or pensions if they could be spent on expanding the road network instead?

A slight variant on this idea is to build more railways. Or bus expressways. As if building these were much cheaper or less disruptive than building new roads.

The alternative is to use the existing roads more efficiently. The capacity of the motorway network would increase fivefold if single occupancy cars were replaced by full coaches. In cities thirty cyclists take the same space as five cars. All very well in theory, but not many people are willing to switch. High fares & infrequent services are a block to greater public transport use. For buses there’s also the issue of anti-social behaviour. As for cycling, people tire of the harassment they get from drivers, while the traffic free routes are few in number and inconvenient to use.

The more efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transport are locked in a vicious circle. The fewer travellers on public transport, the more infrequent the services. The fewer cyclists the less account drivers take of them. Hence many a “Sorry mate I didn’t see you” crash. The small number of people cycling means a weak lobby for better cycle routes.

The vicious cycles need to be broken, people need a greater incentive to use the more efficient forms of transport. The London congestion charge shows that the world doesn’t come to an end when road charges are introduced. Buses and bicycles are taking the strain. But in a number of ways it isn’t the example to follow. The monitoring of every vehicle is sinister and must go. Vehicles don’t need to be tracked, there are other ways. Drivers could feed cards containing credits to equipment in their cars which removed the credits as the car travelled along the roads.

The London scheme is too inflexible as well. Motorists pay the same whether they drive for two minutes or two hours. Roads only need to have a charge when they are congested. High demand, high price, low demand free. London’s scheme is not equitable either. Rich drivers don’t use the roads more than poor ones, but a pound means more to someone on the minimum wage than someone on £100,000 pa. So some way of directing the revenues to benefit low income people must be devised. Perhaps car tax could be abolished, pensions increased or taxes cut on low incomes.

Of course there’s a massive resistance to road pricing. People love the the idea of low taxes but they also want a good health service, high pensions and free education. They want more roads which don’t cost much to provide and don’t take up any land. They want to drive as fast as they like and never crash. That’s the stuff of dreams, it’s about time people faced up to reality.

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I think declining bus patronage needs to be addressed with re-regulation of the bus industry. It is clear that in almost all of the country the supposed benefits of deregulation are no longer being seen, with large companies having local monopolies. This has generally lead to high fares, and reduced and withdrawn services, particularly on non-core routes. Admittedly bus companies have had to put up with significantly raised fuel costs, but it’s interesting to note that Travel West Midlands, despite being one of the cheapest bus companies in Britain, is one of the most profitable, due to the high level of patronage their low fares encourage. Also TWM’s network is extremely intense and more balanced than other large companies in other parts of the country. If First, Stagecoach, Arriva etc could take a leaf of of their book, I’m sure bus patronage would improve. However, re-regulation should improve services, as operators should be required to attain higher standards of punctuality, with potential penalties including fines and loss of route contracts, and should balance out service levels on routes more, rather than the present situation where core routes get plenty of services (particularly where there is comptetition, such as Wilmslow Rd out of Manchester), whilst more out of the way routes get very poor services in comparison. To support claims for re-regulation, note that the only area of Britain where bus patronage has increased in the last 20 years is in Greater London, where buses are still regulated (and in the las 5 years there has been heavy investment to the network).

    Railways primariy could do with extra capacity to allow for growth. In the short term, this could be achieved through longer trains, although in the longer term, high speed lines should be considered, with the aim of taking some long distance trains off the existing network, creating extra capacity for local/regional trains. Better bus/train integration should also be implemented as well.

    Building yet more roads is never a sensible thing to do in my opinion, as within months they’ll be filled and we’ll be wanting even more. I feel that road pricing is the only realistic way of getting people out of their cars, although charges that have been proposed are I feel too steep (eg up to something like £1.50/mile, which is just plain extortion in my opinion), but revenue for these could be used to fund public transport schemes, such as Manchester’s Metrolink extensions, or bus network improvements. But not guided busways, I can’t stand them!

    09 Feb 2007, 23:00

  2. £1 for short journeys and £1.25 (Coventry, £1.40 West Midlands) for longer ones doesn’t seem very cheap to me.

    Although I do agree that more regulation is needed for the buses. Bus operators just don’t seem to understand the long term damage that a bus not turning up does to popular perception of the bus service. As for a fair price for roads, I don’t think there is one. There’s a capacity which society is willing to accept, the price should be set at a level which ensures that the capacity is rarely exceeded.

    10 Feb 2007, 10:31

  3. A Sanderson

    Calculations should be done to estimate just how many more DRIVERS as opposed to vehicles are likely to be using our highways in the next 25 years. Ministers seem to forget that being mear human beings the public can only drive one vehicle at once choose how many are registered!
    I’m no expert but I understand from Swansea that already 40 million drivers are registered out of a population of 60 million. Approx 20% of the population at anyone time are under 17 and of the rest perhaps 10% dont drive due to age, disability, disinclination, domestic situations etc. Equally we live with an ageing population where more and more people do not commute, get about less and even die!
    So just how many people will there be to cause all this so called grid-lock, or is taxation the true reason for pricing?

    22 Feb 2007, 11:55

  4. Stephen Harrison

    We at The Car Party are vehemently opposed to road pricing and congestion
    charging, increasing the population of this country beyond acceptable levels
    and the ever widening poverty gap between rich and poor are essential
    political failures. Road pricing will see a rise in costs for no benefit,
    people will move home, forcing the low paid into ghettos of high congestion
    and road pricing areas whilst the rich will be able to enjoy the benefits of
    increased unemployment and a lowering of customer services due to being
    served by more cheap and mobile migrant workers.

    Road pricing will bring about the social upheaval that The Friends Of The
    Earth seek and the lower paid and working classes will pay the price for
    academic meddling.

    Re nationalizing the railways to escape the profit motive and allowing more
    parking spaces and free public transport from a publicly owned transport
    system is the way forward.

    1.8 Million people have said No to road pricing it is unacceptable and The
    Car Party has been formed to represent the majority motorist view.

    Perhaps those who advocate such a scheme would prefer a means tested system
    where only those earning say £30,000 plus should be allowed to own a car.

    Should you wish to know more please call me on 01746 862293

    22 Feb 2007, 12:58

  5. It’s true that a person can’t drive more than one car at once, but cars are getting bigger. And people are using them more. How can anyone deny that congestion is getting worse?

    Traffic congestion hasn’t got much to do with the number of people, its all about how often people drive.

    I don’t see that free public transport is the answer. Unless there’s a massive building programme, as there’s no more room on the railways for trains and the buses can’t get through as the roads are blocked up with cars.

    There’s a good case for the money from road pricing to be spent on higher pensions and lower taxes for people on low incomes. Not on Road Building, which is what the Car Party wants.

    22 Feb 2007, 13:45

Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

February 2007

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Jan |  Today  | Mar
         1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28            

Search this blog


Most recent comments

  • I find this really incredible! Since your original post though, have you found the number of 'offend… by Driving Lessons on this entry
  • Oh. Perhaps my thinking is getting more dialectical? What exactly did I say which you felt was in co… by on this entry
  • Now this entry sounds more like the George Riches I remember than the one at lunchtime questioning t… by Robert McGonigle on this entry
  • An incident in Swindon 2006 by on this entry
  • An Italian motorcyclist was murdered by barbed wire across a track last April Story in Italian Googl… by on this entry

Blog archive

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder