Recent correspondents fail to appreciate that the main problem of our congested roads will not be resolved by pricing some drivers off certain stretches of road or by imposing pricing at certain times of day (NCE 8 November).
This would produce widespread public anger, which is why politicians have yet to sanction any such action. It may also eventually prove ineffective as more drivers bite the bullet and return to the road and demand better service for their money.
It behoves the decision makers to realise that in the wake of the fat cat scandals, the public will not tolerate the use of money as the passport to uncongested roads for the rich, as the roads are probably the only place where everyone is equal and subject to the same rules.
What is needed is a system of road rationing at appropriate times and locations. This, combined with incentives to carry one or more passengers, would be a fair, acceptable and effective solution to the majority of our current capacity problems without the necessity to embark on a massive road building programme. The technology needed for this is similar to anyrequired for general widespread road tolling.
- David S Fletcher (M ret), email@example.com
Heathrow upgrade is most pragmatic
In response to Peter Hinson letter, it is not that democracy has not occurred to me it is simply a matter of being pragmatic (Letters last week). We are a nation of protesters. We would protest against a protest to protest. No matter where you locate an aviation hub it has to have the necessary infrastructure to service it.
When we had a major road/rail programme in the1970s/80s/90s It used to take approximately 13 years to get a major highway/rail project from concept to reality. I dare say it takes even longer now. Therefore it is quite judicious to consider upgrading existing small airports or daft new schemes, to take the strain of increased air travel, without these fundamental travel links to service them, when we have a perfectly efficient system feeding the capital by road and rail to and from Heathrow.
In addition, upgrading Gatwick with a second runway and providing a dedicated link between it and Heathrow would see airport passenger expansion catered for well into the future.
Do not cloud the issue by bringing up the old chestnut of sustainability. There is an enormous amount of research and money being spent to develop new fuels to support our increasing fleet of auto-motion and locomotion, and this also applies to air travel.
- Mario Donnetti(F), firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax and spend
There is very little difference between the direct toll charging promoted by Terry Collins and increasing fuel tax as a means to fund additional transport related expenditure and make drivers think about the cost and necessity of their journeys (NCE 8 November). Increasing fuel tax can be implemented almost immediately and would be effective over the whole of the road network. That is certainly not the case for direct tolling. Extra money for maintenance and improvement work is needed now, not in years to come or in another Parliament.
The system of road user charges promoted by Ian Heggie would add unnecessary levels of new administration. Central and local government systems are already in place to collect, prioritise and facilitate expenditure on roads.
In my letter, I was not promoting ringfencing for road transport the difference between the £35bn collected from motorists and £9.5bn road spend (NCE 25 October). The government is in dire straits and needs to find more revenue for health and education etcetera, as well as transport. Some or all additional revenue generated by an increase in fuel duty could be used for the roads budget. That additional revenue could come on stream within six months and would have the least impact on the most needy sectors of society – the young and old – who don’t drive long distances at low miles per gallon.
The alternatives to an increase in fuel duty as a means of increasing revenue for transport that would directly affect drivers are years away. The government should act now by reducing Vehicle Excise Duty to a flat rate registration fee and increase fuel tax to generate additional revenue.
- Mick Oliver (M ret), email@example.com
Videoconference to kill motoring
I refer to the recent Viewpoint article “The Quagmire of Energy” and as an adjunct, to the numerous debates concerning required infrastructure development particularly airports (NCE 8 November).
I believe the primary driver for transport infrastructure expansion is business travel, but could you not argue that with the on-going development of technology such as video conferencing that the future requirement for travel will in fact drop.
Information technology has been reshaping our personal lives and business systems for some while now and I believe it will go on to significantly reduce the amount of business travel required.
- Terry Cowley (M), firstname.lastname@example.org
Government still hasn’t resolved flood funding issues
While I applaud the success of Redcar flood alleviation scheme, a comprehensive rethink is needed in recognising the full benefits that a flood scheme can bring to the community (NCE 8 November).
Since the government changed the funding mechanism last year, any application for funding via Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for Flood Defence in Grant Aid (FDiGA), now depends upon expected “external” contributions from Councils, developers, private utilities, Network Rail and any other interested parties.
The impact has been that in these current grave financial times, while the public sector continues to be squeezed, it has inevitably led to delays for most schemes.
The reality of the situation is that fewer schemes will come forward in the next two to three years while scheme “stakeholders” identify all suitable external funding sources. This is not the roaring success that it was intended to be and will only frustrate the householders and businesses that remain at risk.
To make matters even worse the FDGiA process fails to recognise the local benefits that would accrue from the scheme’s implementation, being predominantly focused on the national benefits of a flood scheme to the overall UK economy.
However, the economic impact of a serious flood event would have upon the local area, is of great concern to the local “stakeholders”, such as the loss of jobs, industry and economy, none of which are evaluated on the current methodology even on a short term basis.
The current FDiGA funding mechanism needs some serious updating. It is too blunt an instrument to fully evaluate the full benefits and needs to change to reflect the fact that the local stakeholders’ interests, which have now become an essential part of any schemes funding sources.
- Peter Stewart (AM), email@example.com
Utility privatisation needs care
There is a need for more investment in our publicly-owned infrastructure and some private companies are lobbying for the privatisation of organisations such as the Highways Agency. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that this is in the long term interest of British road users and taxpayers. I am concerned about the risks particularly in the light of the recent revelations about other privatised monopolies
For example, Thames Water is a privately-owned monopoly providing water, drainage and sewage services to Londoners. According to the Observer, it is now owned by a private equity firm with a Byzantine accounting structure, with multiple companies, subsidiaries and an off shore site.
Simon Hughes MP is quoted as saying “The aggressive capital structure implemented by Thames Water has resulted in the company being so indebted that it does not have the financial strength to invest in large capital projects.” I understand that the company is seeking government support for the massive £4bn sewer project under the Thames.
A privately owned Highways Agency would have to be effectively regulated to ensure that the interests of the shareholders, the road users and the taxpayers are fairly balanced.
- Mike Hodgkinson (F), firstname.lastname@example.org
Road taxes are valuable all purpose revenue
It is understood that it was Winston Churchill who first took road tax and spent it on other things, back in the late 1920s.
People may complain about road taxes not being spent onroads, but while governments prefer to avoid raising income tax, they have to raise the money from somewhere, and keep raising the stealth taxes, though some are perhaps not that stealthy.
- Mike Dommett, 119 Victoria Road, Alton GU34 2D