Ryeview – June 2005

Road charging is unfair on the poor

John Clark writes…

First published: June 2005 – Gazette & Herald

 I was struggling for a Ryeview subject when I was rescued by the Transport Secretary, Alastair Darling.He admits ‘Road charging’ hasn’t been tried elsewhere. He admits it will take 10 – 15 years to put in place. He thanks the Tories and the Liberal Democrats for not opposing it. There will be limited opposition because the main losers will be the poor. The second more relevant point is that road charging probably won’t happen.

He assumes:

  • People will continue to drive on the roads they are using at present
  • There is no such thing as climate change
  • Fuel will be available
  • It’s O.K. to drive the poor off the road.

Those drivers who use the A19, A64 or A1 will be tempted to use smaller roads if the charging is less. Thus roads over the moors or through countryside with presently less traffic will become busier.

In climate change terms there appears to be an endless list of faults in the proposal. It is not coming into force for at least 10 years, by which time saving the planet is likely to be too late. Charging drivers by the mile doe not charge them for the pollution caused or the fuel used.

If the system is to charge different rates for different vehicles why not put the charge onto the fuel. This could be done tomorrow. The increased income from this fuel tax when added to the costs of the Road Charging scheme, could mean scrapping the Vehicle Excise Duty. This money could also be used for a big increase in the frequency, efficiency and availability of Public Transport.

We need to dramatically reduce our use of fuel and emission of Greenhouse gases. The proposed road charging scheme will do nothing for either cause for 10 – 15 years.

Oil analysts predict that the world’s oil production will peak between 2006 and 2037. As consumption continues to grow it would appear likely that we will have fuel shortages before the midway point of 2021.With a bit of luck this Road Charging may be up and running just in time for it to become obsolete!

At this point, crisis will have a whole series of meanings.

  • Fuel so dear no-one can or wants to drive anywhere.
  • Fuel costs and climate change will have sent the economy into reverse.
  • Power cuts more frequent than the electricity is on.
  • Food no longer available in sufficient quantities due to climate change and reliance on oil for food production and transport.
  • Climate change so severe that cars/roads have become irrelevant to the future of the planet, let alone the human race.

Meanwhile what of the Ryedale situation? The local politicians continue to press for the dualling of the A64. John Greenway gets excited because Tony Blair flies in a helicopter to Scarborough. Our M.P. thinks that the P.M. should have used the A64. Neither the M.P. nor the P.M. mention the railway. The political class is addicted to private transport of either car or helicopter.

The solution to all this greed and chaos is simple. Don’t put the money into dualling the A64, road pricing or helicopter flights. Put our money into creating a Public Transport System to be proud of. This can then be followed by fuel rationing. Taking this approach the use of our roads would be reduced but the inconvenience would be ‘fair’. Using this route, the impact on climate change may be quick enough. ‘Fairness’ is a concept that must be used. The ‘market’ is only fair to the well off. It does not care for the poorer members of society or the environment.

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