Monday, 22 December 2008

Congestion charge in Manchester

The Congestion charge in Manchester has been dropped after losing a vote last week. The Independent newspaper's economics editor says bravo, that its was a 'scam' invented by Ken Livingstone to raise money by targeting drivers. Does he not realise that traffic has been steadily rising for years, so to do nothing is to see increased gridlock? And the cost of motoring has actually not been increasing by as much as the cost of using public transport.

The people of Manchester voted against something that would have seen a big improvement to their transport, with new tram lines and faster buses. In London it proved popular after it was implemented. Most voters are car drivers, but many users of public transport are not, children's voices were not heard here. Car drivers are a powerful lobby group, if they get their way there would be no parking charges or road tax, the rest of us would have to subsidise their carbon heavy lifestyle.

The car lobby is lead by motoring organisations like the AA and RAC who take drivers money to rescue them from breakdowns and use it to promote road building. I would recommend looking at an alternative such as the ethical transport association, who also provide breakdown cover while promoting more sustainable transport, eta. If you do join and drive through Spain though, beware stickers that say ETA, it has a very different meaning there.

In Reading an independent transport commission lead by Sir Brian Briscoe decided to 'urgently consider' road pricing. Most local politicians would be against it so we wait and see. Anything is an improvement on the previous Labour party position which was all for a one way system that would have cost a fortune, done little for congestion and nothing to reduce emissions. The report can be seen

'The report’s recommendations include greater attention to pedestrian and cycling facilities, new park and ride sites in neighbouring council areas to serve Reading centre, and a programme to improve bus services’ frequency and reliability, and improved ticketing options to encourage bus use.'

But the Commission concludes that both the economy and environment in Reading will suffer if there is not greater capacity for north-south movements, and more effective management of road space in peak hours. So much for the chance of sustainable transport, its the pro car lot that are in charge as usual.

The Commission did however propose that Reading, and neighbouring Councils, examines the case for road pricing -charging for the use of certain parts of the road system at particularly congested times. Unfortunately the London congestion charge is not the model for Reading and the report envisages the use of resident, shopper and other discounts or exemptions to ensure that charging focuses on those using Reading roads as part of the national network, and only at peak times. So it wants to encourage more traffic. But there is still some hope, but don't hold your breath, especially near a polluted road.

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