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Congestion Charging

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Thursday 14 November 2002 1.39pm
jrhartley wrote:

And another thing - how is it that the biggest lie that the government ever span seems to go unchallenged.... "if we build more roads - people buy more cars".

I don't think that is what the government or anyone else has said. What is, I'm glad to say, increasingly widely realised is that if you build more roads it will generate more traffic. It's not car ownership that expands to fill the space available, it's car use.

Thursday 14 November 2002 1.57pm

You're right - "Ken's an idiot - that's generally accepted" - my mistake and I stand corrected. In some circles this is accepted, and the proportion of people by whom it is accepted increases dramatically amongst those who have ever done business with the man or met him. I suppose I might have been jumping the gun a bit. Also, without sounding arrogant, the London electorate might have had their eyes open, but are you willing to vouch for the intelligence of those people? ;-)

Anyway - you're point is correct - it isn't all Ken's doing, but he has I think been politically mistaken by personalising so much to his hand, and as I set out before, the GLA has not done all it could in consultation. Anyway - you know my opinions. I think Ken is low quality (but that is just my view), I think congestion charging is a good idea, but I think the system they are working to is flawed, will fail due to the technologies used and does not meet the objective of trying to reduce car usage in the Zone.

Paul wrote:
"No, you don't. Where in the law does it say that you have that "right"? Legally, as I understand it, the authorities would be quite within their rights to ban yours and all other private cars altogether from whatever areas they choose."

Yep - but they haven't yet have they Paul, so until the law is passed that driving a car is illegal, then Tony does have the right. I think the UK legal system works on the basis of libertarianism - i.e. you assume something is legal unless a law or rule stipulates that it isn't.
Thursday 14 November 2002 1.59pm
Wow! I'm sorry I stirred up such a hornets nest with my insignificant comments yesterday. It has been quite interesting to read all the views and watching all the fights and arguments unfold - I'm glad this is a virtual forum, otherwise we'd have a punch up on our hands by now.

I moved back from living on the continent 2 months ago and so have missed all the run-up to this scheme. I think that the main thing is that finally somebody is at least doing something about urban car usage. Whether it is the best way to go about it I'm not sure. It certainly wont stop fat cats commuting from the home counties in the comfort of their own Jags and Mercs. What will 5/day mean to them? Nothing. On the other hand - at least it will put some cash into public transport and quite honestly, I cant imagine many people in central London wanting or needing to own a car anyway - I find even the tube in its current state on a bad day (like yesterday) preferable to driving. Maybe they could offer a sliding scale charging scheme where the fee is based on how far out you live - the further you are, the more you'll pay. A commuter from Surrey pays 20 to drive in the centre whereas, at the other end of the scale, a local resident pays 50p etc etc.

As for all this stuff about having the right to drive your car when and where you want - that's fine - you do have the right until somebody removes that right for a justifiable reason. Road tax is only a contribution to the upkeep of the national road network - arguably, motorists already get a good subsidised deal. Also, large areas of the centre have been pedestrianised or access-reduced over the years - are motorists going to start questioning that decision too by exercising their "rights" to drive anywhere now?

Anyway, I really hope the scheme works and that it reduces unnecessary car journeys in the city. As a cyclist/pedestrian, what needs tackling next is emissions from taxis, buses and lorries that clog up the air in the city with diesel fumes. Arguably they do more harm than the relatively lean and clean private vehicles - but that will take even longer to tackle. Enough for today.
Thursday 14 November 2002 3.12pm
jrhartley wrote:

Yep - but they haven't yet have they Paul, so until the law is passed that driving a car is illegal, then Tony does have the right.

Of course. But we weren't talking about rights at the trivial level of what is or is not illegal. James' original point, which Tony challenged, was that motorists must learn they have no "God-given right" to drive where and when they like - which I took to mean some kind of inalienable overarching right enshrined in natural law, like the right to life.

And indeed, as James was implying, some motorists do seem to talk and behave as if that is what they think they have.

Thursday 14 November 2002 3.22pm
True enough. But I think that many cyclists also hold the same self-centred mentality that has been levelled at motorists - OK they aren't causing the pollution or the congestion, but they often represent a risk to pedestrians through their selfish behaviour - riding through red lights, up on pavements when it suits them, chaining their bikes across pathways - which gets on pedestrians' wicks - (I know for one that as a cyclist I occassionally mount the curb as a short-cut).

Meanwhile, as a cyclist, I get annoyed by other motorists and pedestrians. Inevitably our perception of rights and fairness is always tinted by our personal circumstances - so it is hard to talk about "God-given" or higher natural law rights in a truly even-handed way. That's why I chose to work within the legal framework. I take your point though.
Thursday 14 November 2002 3.41pm
jrhartley wrote:

Inevitably our perception of rights and fairness is always tinted by our personal circumstances - so it is hard to talk about "God-given" or higher natural law rights in a truly even-handed way.

Indeed, but at the moment it is not a level playing field: motor traffic has for far too long unthinkingly been given the lion's share of the public resource expenditure and most of the priority. I want to work towards a city where it is taken as read that the pedestrian (and, by extension, public transport) always has priority, and the private car is there, if at all, only on sufferance.

As a general rule, cities just aren't an appropriate place for private cars to be. In some cities in the world (London by no means the worst) the motorcar in the 20th century has come close to destroying urban civilisation.

I do agree with you about the aggressive minority of lawless and selfish cyclists who seem increasingly to be getting all cyclists (of which I am a very occasional member, but only in nice weather) a bad name. But perhaps this is a subject for a separate thread.

Thursday 14 November 2002 4.13pm
Its a difficult one isn't it Paul? - I mean I pay my car insurance, tax, parking, fuel excise duty, I paid VAT on the car and I rarely use it due to congestion and the fact I like to read as I travel. However, my parents live in a place where the nearest railway station is 25 miles away and there are no bus servces, so I do occassionally use it. [I suppose I could rent when needed but that doesn't really solve the congestion issue]

I live on my own, so have to pay a single-persons tax on sky-high night-time taxis a taxi home as public transport doesn't work beyond 12:30am. I have no kids, so I'm paying income tax and council tax for people who do. I've got my own health insurance, so I'm paying tax for people on the NHS. I even live in a block where I have to pay for rubbish to be collected, so as far as I can work out, I get national defence, street lighting and road-cleaining for my contribution to the public purse (aggregated up inc. VAT - 70% effective tax).

I suppose its all about compromise - we are never going to get to a pay-as-you-go system of tax and benefit, so its inevitable that some groups will fell under-resourced. Personally I feel a bit like Jeremy Clarkson on his recent trip to Spain when he got stopped by an attendant as he attempted to enter a museum without buying a ticket "Oh no, you don't understand - I've paid alright - many times over I've paid". Some of us feel rightly that we have perhaps over-contributed.

The other thing is that in the same way there are car-zealots, there are lots of anti-car zealots - and both sides seem to be as stupid as each other. None of us should aspire to drive everywhere, but in the face of credible alternatives, it is a bit chicken and egg. Furthermore, sometimes the vehicle can do good or required tasks - it has been a huge engine of economic growth - look at the US. Now you might subscribe to Naomi Klein's well worn views about globalisation and think that the Yanks are morons - each to his own - but, I think we need to be careful about restricting cars at the expense of growth. Growth needn't be portrayed as evil if managed correctly and everyone can get better quality education, health, you name it - if there's more in the pot in the first place. So that's my other slight concern - that some of the anti-car / pro-congestion chargers [under any system, workable or not] are in fact thinly-veiled anti-capitalist demonstrators who are really more worked up about the Merc driving in from the pile in Surrey every morning than they are about fumes or congestion.
Thursday 14 November 2002 4.48pm
Well, David Whitaker, what a load of fun you've caused. However, you've touched on a couple of points that the 'car driver' (not selfish, not fascists, and not all those others things we've been called here despite the fact 'we shouldn't personalise it all' the way a recent poster said we shouldn't...), I repeat, the car drivers side of this debate has continually tried to get across. The tax in inevitable, but unequable and probably ineffective. The reason is that The Ring is too small and there is no penalty for driving a long distance to London. There is only a penalty for driving in London.
I take issue with you on one of your points, you obviously don't drive too much in the rush hour. Apart from the ' taxis, buses and lorries that clog up the air in the city with diesel fumes' the majority of people who drive through the centre of London don't drive big mercs etc. they drive ordinary cars.

This debate could do with a few facts and I am surprised again at Paul Temperton who should, and I suspect does know better, but I guess has forgotten where to find the data. First the roads in this country cost about 6.0Billion to build and upkeep, road users contribute over 27.0Billion to the exchequer in taxes and duty. Ah, you say there is a hidden cost of congestion etc. Quite right, variously estimated at between 1Billion and 10Billion of consequential costs. The well known fact about consequential costs is that whilst they can be estimated, actually realising them and turning them into real money is harder. But even if we could, the accounts are still in the black in favour of the road user. Before you all get on the thread please read the data on the DFT website. It even details the taxes down to what type of road user pays what.

Second, comments like 'cheap fares at 65p' are only real if you consider the NHS is cheap because none of us pay when we go to hospital. In fact the transport infrastructure in London gets over a billion from the exchequer in grants and buses in particular are subsidised in three ways, first a block grant from government, second a fuel subsidy and third from the GLA precept. And it goes up next year! The big question here is if all the road users come off the road I am not sure we'll think the fares will be cheap then, the infrastructure will never be self funding, and we'll be paying closer to real costs.

I think the stuff about rights on this subject really doesn't get us anywhere, on either side. No one has any extra or lesser rights than anyone else. Inclusion in this type of debate actually clouds the discussion. (maybe that's the intent...?) Surely the real, real question is all about an improvement in lifestyle for, hopefully, the majority. Those of us who will pay and drive may get about a bit easier, those who rely on public transport will experience better journeys and those who ride bikes will, er, continue to ride bikes I guess. But I'm still not completely convinced...
Thursday 14 November 2002 5.10pm
oh yes...

Mercs and Beemers (just to mention the fat-cat mobiles) may be fuel guzzlers, but they are also much more environment friendly then a Ford Ka or even those cute little beetles.

in fact... I'm quite certain that 20 Mercs or Beemers pump out a whole lot less crap then one bus. - not to mention the nice comfey leather seats.
Thursday 14 November 2002 8.16pm

The comment about, 'First the roads in this country cost about 6.0Billion to build and upkeep, road users contribute over 27.0Billion to the exchequer in taxes and duty. ' only skims the surface their are many hidden costs that the road users don't pay directly eg

the cost to treat victims of car accidents, in 2000 there were 320,283
the support services (fire, ambulance) etc for car accidents,
the health treatment for pollution caused
treating all the waste from using a car, eg oil and the car when it's trashed
providing all the parking places

With the high density of buildings and people (including tourists) central London must rank high in the accident stats, it makes a great deal of sense to persuade people to use public transport, or more efficient methods like motor bikes/cycles.

Why would you even want to drive in central London, it's a horrible experience?
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