Thursday, November 16, 2006

Road pricing just another way for the government to snoop on us

First of all, let me just point out that I am not a big car user. My car is modest and my annual mileage even more so. If the governments proposed road pricing were to go ahead - and if they were to keep their promise to keep it revenue neutral (which they won't and which it will not be) then I would probably be one of those who gains financially from road pricing.

Nor am I particularly against the principal of road charging. Toll roads and bridges have been around for a long long time and I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the idea of my car being fitted with a device that allows the government to monitor where I go, how I go there, when I go there and when I come back. No, it's not because I like to indulge in illegal behaviour, it's because it is simply none of their business - end of.

The government tell us that this is supposed to cut down road usage - I believe 7% is their estimate. Why will it? The only reason they can make this prediction is that they believe that the costs will be punitive enough to force people not to use their car. even supposing that this will happen, who will this effect?

Will the company sales rep. stop using his car to get to his clients - or will he just pass those costs on to his company and the company pass the costs on to their clients?

Will it bother the well off? Or will they just pay up and enjoy the supposedly emptier roads?

Will it bother the poor? Of course it will. The poor will be the ones least able to afford the charges and most likely to be forced out of their car and onto the creaking public transport system.

This whole scheme will only effect those who are least able to pay the charges - the poor. This Labour government - who are supposed to be the friends of the working class - will deliberately target their own supporters. Nothing new there - Red Ken did the same in London with the congestion charge. What is remarkable is that the working class still support and vote for these people.

The government also claim that it will be a fairer system. Those who use the roads more will pay more. Well, hang on! Wasn't that the theory behind increasing the fuel tax? I seem to recall some years ago the claim being made that higher fuel tax will mean that those who use the roads the most will pay the most and that, eventually, the annual road tax will be scrapped. Has the annual road tax gone?

Nope. It's still there and it still goes up every year. Even so, you can't argue with the basic principle of taxing petrol - the more you use your car, the more you pay. Seems like a perfectly fair and reasonable idea without any need for spies in our cars. That alone should tell you all you need to know about this proposal - that it has nothing to do with "fairness" or that it will "revenue neutral". It is about monitoring us and raising more money. I doubt whether it will even achieve what the government claim it will achieve either - reduce congestion.

What may reduce congestion would be a complete rethink on pubic transport. When I go into the office I either cycle or drive. It's only about 8 miles and takes me roughly the same length of time which ever method I use - about 30-40 minutes. What isn't available is any form of public transport.

To get to the office by train would require 3 changes (yes 3). Even assuming I make all the connections, the trains aren't delayed and are on time it would take 1 hour and 10 minutes. I'd still be faced with a 20 minute walk from the station to the office (no buses) when I got there! So that's an hour and half at best - three times as long as going by car.

What about bus? We used to have a pretty good bus service around Slough a few years ago, but that has long gone. I have no idea how many changes it would require - though I know it would be several. I have no idea how long it would take, but I know it would be far more than 1 hour.

What this government does not understand - because they are a purely urban government and think we all live in cities with buses and trains and trams or taxis or chauffeur driven limos - is that the only choice many people have to get to work is their car.

I expect that the dead hand of the EU is behind this spy in your car idea, but it's also very much in keeping with this authoritarian and suspicious government. This is snooping too far. Don't put up with it.

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