Manchester vote in the balance

Ministers are clearly worried that people in Greater Manchester are going to reject the proposal to have congestion charging in exchange for a massive investment programme. Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, set out clearly in The Times today that a no vote will cut off all the proposed funding. That is clearly a sign of panic but it is not, as opponents have claimed, an attempt to blackmail the electorate into accepting congestion charging.

Indeed, The Times headline suggesting that Hoon is bullying people into supporting the scheme is pure hogwash. The electorate is being offered something quite clear, a rather low congestion charge involving at worst a few quid a day  – far less than say the price of petrol might vary over the next couple of years- in exchange for major public transport improvements. To me it seems as no-brainer but car addiction seems to induce a lack of rational logic among vast swathes of the population, including some MPs like Graham Stringer, a former leader of Manchester council, who has set his face dead against the scheme.

Why shouldn’t people be prepared to pay a bit for a scarce resource, road space at peak times, in exchange for improvements that will get encourage many people out of their cars – thus freeing up more road space for them. Of course, as opponents argue, not everyone will benefit from the scheme and the public transport improvements will be some time coming, but surely a continuation of the status quo is not a happy outcome. I bet there’s a few people in Edinburgh who today regret the No vote there.

For the government, the stakes are high. If Manchester votes No, then that will put paid to any hopes of introducing road charging across the country or even in a few key areas. The recession will give a bit of breathing space on transport growth, but once it restarts its relentless rise, ministers will be left with little in their armoury. But it may well be the other lot in power by then, who, from what we have seen of Boris’s transport policy in London so far, have even less idea of what to do.

  • Nigel

    The idea that the proposed congestion charge, up to £5 a day in 2007 prices, is a trivial sum will be met with surprise or possibly anger in Manchester where the average wage before tax is about £19,000 a year and where bus fares have risen by 10% this year.

    These “major public transport improvements” amount to very little when you study the detail. Claims of a promised revolution start to fade when you add up just 2950 extra seats on peak time rail services (compared to the 4000 Manchester is already getting) and 120 extra school buses to be spread out across more than 1000 schools and two new stretches of tram, one of which, to the Airport is simply replacing an existing rail service.

    Mr Hoon’s comments may also be considered quite “bold” by Manchester MPs including his three front bench colleagues whose constituencies would be directly affected.

    Reading his comments, their sense of panic may just have become all the more acute.

  • Tony C

    Quote : “Why shouldn’t people be prepared to pay a bit for a scarce resource, road space at peak times, in exchange for improvements that will get encourage many people out of their cars – thus freeing up more road space for them. ”

    We already do .. it’s called vehicle excise duty / road find licence / fuel tax.

    I note that cyclists and bus commuters don’t pay any additional taxes to use the road infrastructure. Maybe they should also contribute to the TIF bid … let’s add £5 to every bus journey, or £5 to use a cycle lane for the next 30 years until the £1.2 billion loan is paid off … after all it’s in their interest to do so isn’t it if your argument above is to hold any sway?

  • Dan

    Tony – your comments are, and I’m sorry to put it harshly, BS. The problem with current road tax regimes is that they are not demand specific – in fact they adopt a ‘communist’ solution to service provision – ie the state provides the product (in this case the road) and the user simply queues up at whatever time they like to use it – the queue is called a ‘traffic jam’.

    I can think of no other commodity (not even other public services) that operate like this – the NHS does not, for example – you have a whole host of gate keepers like Doctors before you get any NHS resources – but for the roads you pay a series of one off charges – and they all (apart from fuel – which is a small element of the total cost) – give you the incentive to then use your vehicle as much as possible.

    Whilst this may not apply to people posting here – I always find it very strange that people who are all very often advocating the ‘freedom of the motorist’ to largely go where they want when they want, facilitated by state intervention of course – seem to loose sight of the basic premise that in other contexts the same people would expect to pay for a product on demand – at the free market price, depending on the nature of the commodity (ie the ‘freedom’ of the provider of the product to charge the market rate). If the roads were privatised – we’d quickly see all sorts of ‘congestion charges’, and peek hour useage fees and tolling! In fact that would make sense to me. The current situation is non-sense!

    As for public transport users – you DO payer higher congestion charges at peak tiems to use the bus and train, and plane even – have you never heard of peak and off peak tickets? They are congestion charges – designed to price non essential users off the system at peak times – exactly what the road network needs!

  • Tony C

    You seem to have missed my point – my objection to the congestion charge is based on the principle of equitable funding. Everyone who desires an improved public transport system needs to pay for it – not just the motorist. I will pay like everyone else (on top of what I already subsidise), I do not want to be singled out because I drive a car at a certain time of day. I am quite capable of adjusting my own travel patterns if I find that I spend a little bit more time queuing at 8am as opposed to 7am without having to be coerced to do this by some financial penalty.

    I don’t need to hear your theories on queuing and demand quelling because congestion is not the major transport problem that Manchester faces. The problem is not one of congestion but of trying to extort funds from a small percentage (10% if you believe the TIF bid) to guarantee a £1.2 billion loan.

    Your argument is also BS because it only seem to look at one point solution to congestion. If I apply your theory of peak demand charging to public transport at similar rates as those being proposed for the congestion charge, then I would be paying £6 to travel to work on the bus in the morning instead of the £3 I might pay today.

    An alternative point of view is that you can increase capacity (needs big investment) or improve flow rate (much smaller investment).

    I have heard of peak tariffs – BUT – peak tariffs on “public” transport are only there to maximise the revenue generating capability of the operator running the service. That’s how free market capitalism works – when there is demand put your prices up. A side effect of peak time charging is that non-essential travel e.g. pensioners on free travel cards may be shifted to other times of the day, but this is only a small proportion of the people that need to use the service, and that’s why queues still exist at peak times on public transport. Try getting on a Manchester tram in rush hour.

  • Derek L

    A point that appears to be overlooked in much of the discussion on the Manchester congestion charge is that it is not to be introduced until the TIF proposals have been implemented, which suggests that it is not for a few years, at least. There is plenty of time to re-arrange travel to suit, and on the assumption that public transport is improved (and I can understand some scepticism on that issue) there may well be viable alternatives.

    The point made by Tony C on the Manchester tram in peak hour is one with which I sympathise, since I use it. But, the whole point of the proposals is to improve the tram so that it can carry more at peak hours, although the current objective, which is to introduce new trams to supplement existing services on the Bury – Altrincham line is not part of TIF, and is, I think, due for implementation with the arrival of the new Siemens trams in 2009.

    As an aside, one might be a little more encouraged if current Metrolink performance seemed more competent – there are frequent gaps in service in peak hours (even now, while the Piccadilly branch is closed, which should make it easier to produce a consistent service), resulting in heavily loaded trams after a gap in service, followed by a number running block on block, half empty. Inaudible explanations over the public address system don’t exactly help. It is still a better way to get from and A to a B on its route, generally being faster than car, and certainly faster and more convenient than bus.

    The remark on the Metrolink line to the airport being a duplicate/replacement of the existing services is wrong – the line serves a number of points on its route, including Wythenshawe Hospital, which will no doubt be of use. You would still use the real railway from Piccadilly to get from central Manchester to the airport (unless you prefer to use a car).

    The problem is that the scheme is presented somewhat either/or. You vote for TIF (which includes the congestion charge as an element, and in reality, does not affect that many people), so that you can have a better an heavily expanded public transport system, or you don’t, and public transport stays in much the morass that it is at present. I don’t see that there are wider philosophical issues.

    Perhaps it would have been better to spend the money, sort out the public transport, and then slap on the congestion charge Ken Livingstone style, without any fiddling around with popular votes, but I suppose that may seem undemocratic. On the other hand, democracy is you vote for people to make these decisions, not to back off and “consult” when they are not sure what to do.

  • Dan

    Yes, Derek – your ultimate pioint is crucial – govt by referendum is not the UK style – so one can only assume it is suggested here since politicians are actually frightened of making the decision – so in reality one has to question how committed they are to it.

    Tony – I understand your point – but surely since the proposed congestion charge will not pay for all the upgrades suggested, and the general taxpayer will pay a large chunk – then everyone is paying for it – including me and I don’t live in the greater Manchester area and only visit a couple of times per year.

    I disagree that peak tarriffs are there to maximise revenue – after all nationalised bus and train operators (council owned buses and state owned BR) used them as standard procedure well before they became part of the free market system they arguably are today. They help manage demand and have the handy by product of maximising revenue. But we live in a capitalist system so why can’t the rules of capitalism apply to roads?

    If we were to take this to its logical conclusion – I don’t care what it costs to use Manchester’s road network, as I don’t use it. Does anyone here care too much what it costs to use France’s or Stuttgart’s?

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the other big place where an alternative is being proposed – Nottingham and the workplace parking levy (WPL) – which local employers have bitterly resisted but where the politicians have (to date) had the good sense to not consider the referendum approach – but got elected on at least 3 manifestos saying they would introduce it (3 manifestos shows how darn long it takes to get anything at all done!). Business community there have argued their should be a congestion charge – not a WPL !! – this is the business strategy their to frustrate it presumably.

  • Kevin Steele

    I go with Tony C’s point – I think the crux of all of this is that fundamentally, motorists resent having to pay again for something that they believe they have already paid for. Road tax revenue, fuel duty, VAT on the fuel (and the duty imposed on it – tax on tax effectively), VAT on new cars, VAT on replacement parts, insurance policy tax, MoT fees, not to mention the percentage of council tax revenue that is spent on roads AND the money that is extracted from motorists by the DVLA in the form of vehicle and driver licencing fees. Revenue generated from fines. The list goes on.

    And it boils down to the earlier thread on this issue on the issue of trust. How much of this money will actually be spend on hard steel and concrete to improve the transport infrastructure. At a national level, the general public knows only too well transport gets a raw deal in terms of share of public spending, and we’ve seen already the millions that get wasted on consultants and publishing white papers and feasibility studies only for projects to take years to get off the ground thanks to an arcane and bereaucratic planning system – or in the worst case canned and never to be seen again.

    I think people have a right to be sceptical, both the pro and anti-car lobbies.

  • David Hughes

    The one big problem with this is thos eof us who live within the M60 — 100 yards within it, and we are going to be clobbered if we get in our cars even if its to go to the shop a mile or so up the road. Having driven in the city itself, sure, it needs something to help clear the roads but us in the suburbs should be spared the charges.

    I’ll be voting no and most of those I know will be as well. Its not been well thought out!


  • Tom Fernley

    Tony C: “peak tariffs on “public” transport are only there to maximise the revenue generating capability of the operator running the service”. Certainly that’s a by-product, but as Dan points out, ‘managing demand through pricing’ is primarily a way of keeping demand at ‘sustainable’ levels. For the cynics among us, that means “the Treasury isn’t coughing for double-deck trains, longer platforms or more signalling, so we’ll just have to price ’em off, lads…” I’ve worked on bids for rail franchises, I know this is the case.

    More generally, I was living in London when the C-charge came in and I supported it 110%. We need to eradicate this idea that a right to driving is somewhere to be found in Magna Carta — roads are a resource that need to be chargeable at point of use, perhaps on a commercial basis in some contexts but preferably (for me) as a social service.

  • Dan

    David – isn’t one of the problems – to quote your own example ‘ people who want to drive a mile to the shops’? (whish sadly many people do).

    I’ve been lucky enough to be able to choose to live where I can walk to work, and I would always walk to local shops etc. This massively cuts down on my car mileage (leaving road space for others who may need it more than me?). I’ve sacrificed a larger house in the suburbs that I could afford, for a small house that means I can get to work on foot in 10 mins. That is my choice – and not everyone can do it (but I know from a random poll of even my own friends and colleagues that many more people could do so if they wanted to).

    So, I use my car for long journeys on holidays, or to see friends and relations, esp when I need to carry heavy items on such journeys, or go where public transport is less frequent. So it really hacks me off that on the limited occasions I want to use the roads, they are clogged up by people driving a mile to the shop for a pint of milk, or who can’t be bothered to walk their kids to school etc. A proper road use pricing policy would easily give those people the incentives to get out of their car, and globally this would be more efficient probably for them, certainly for me and ‘UK plc’.

    If you are in charge of a resource (either a public one or a private one) you have some duty to distribute it appropriately – which may be ‘for profit’ in a private resource, or ‘public good’ in a public service – at the moment road space does not seem to be allocated with either of these motives in mind!

    I suppose my logic here points towards road user charging rather than congestion charging – but I suppose it is pragmatism that shows the latter can work from the London example.

  • Nigel Frampton

    The problem here is that the whole philosophy of congestion charging is wrong. Traffic congestion is a physical problem, so it needs a physical solution. One solution is to build more roads – tried that, doesn’t work (more often than not). Another solution is to control the flow of traffic, using traffic management measures. That has also been tried – for example in my home city in the UK they’ve had such schemes for over 30 years now – but I would question whether they have been adequately developed. However, I am sure that such schemes could be more effective, and be beneficial to all users – private or public.

    Congestion charging is a fiscal, and political, solution. It appeals to politicians because it generates revenue. For politicians, the revenue from taxation is like a drug, and the politicians are like junkies – and it’s pretty much impossible to wean them off! And, of course, once such a revenue stream is established, it will be in the politicians’ interest to maintain it and enhance it – and that means that they will want to retain a sufficient level of traffic (congestion) to maintain the income. Think I’m cynical? Why isn’t the tax on cigarettes high enough to discourage everybody from smoking?

    The public, of course, are not quite as stupid as politicians sometimes think they are, and they can see through these things. A significant proportion of the public, and possibly a majority of the electorate, are motorists or car users, so politicians need to take notice of their opinions. That’s a fact of life, whether you like it or not – and I count myself as one who favours public transport, and I generally use it when I travel alone.

    A proper traffic management scheme, that improved the flow of traffic, would probably gain more acceptability, even if the car journey times were longer. And, of course, longer car journey times would put public transport at less of a disadvantage; while motorists would not be able to complain that the politicians had setup another ‘tax the motorist’ scheme to relieve them of their cash. Traffic that flows more freely is probably beneficial to the environment, too.

    Don’t misunderstand me – something definitely needs to be done – but it needs to be the right sort of solution to the problem, otherwise it will almost certainly fail over the longer term.

  • ian

    Trust, of course, is the central issue. People are wary of politics and politicians for good reason. In terms of this scheme (scam?) what they are faced with is a gigantic new source of tax revenue cascading into the eager hands of another generation of politicos…..and what a source! The idea that the Greater Manchester plan represents ‘modesty’ is laughable. Once this road pricing/congestion charge door is open there will be no stopping politicians travelling through the usual sorry path of charging extensions, technology creep and ever more strident attempts for revenue grabs and collection regimes.

    It truly represents a massive extension of state power with the Manchester transport planners already earmarking the use of satellite tracking. At the moment millions of ordinary people/motorists go about their lawful business thanks to the taxes they have paid. After this politicians will be having the following conversation with their electorate…….”Of course you live in a free society, you can drive anywhere you want…..Oh but by the way, we now have power to know where you’re going. Of course you can drive down that road, but we may charge you 10,15,20, 50 pounds.” Thanks, but No Thanks.

  • I have been following the development of potential Toll Roads ever since during the 1990s when I deduced that road safety was being used as an excuse to obstruct any alternatives. All three main parties are keen to demonstrate just how green they are and combating Global Warming. However, they all appear to support the continued introduction of traffic calming, ( mini-roundabouts etc. ) which increases carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50%, likewise 20 Mph Zones ( without humps or chicanes ) which add to emissions by 10%. The nastier potentially toxic pollutants are doubled by traffic calming.

    The alleged road safety benefits are less than clear, heavily traffic calmed Burnley reported a 44% reduction in child deaths over the past seven years, yet Ribble Valley with minimal traffic calming also reported a fall of 42% despite being far away from any A&E department. The reduction in road deaths is a good thing, but may be mostly due to better paramedic ambulance services and now the air ambulance service. Better medical provision was introduced alongside traffic calming, it may be wrong to give traffic calming all the credit when its contribution may be minimal.

    I believe that casualties have been cut by 15% in the Borough of Barnet since they ripped out existing traffic calming, casualties for cyclists dropped by twice the London average. The London Ambulance Service claim that up to 500 people die every year because their ambulance is delayed on the way to the incident by traffic calming.

    It would appear that traffic calming has become a TB infested sacred cow for the eco-fascist leaning groups who were originally and still campaign for its introduction. It would appear that the eco-fascists cling to traffic calming in the belief that divers will be ” irritated ” out of their cars and use the train, at least a few anyway.

    Getting back to Toll Roads, take the Ribble Valley for example, there were once two national speed limit routes into Preston, the direct A59 and through Longridge. The Longridge route now has a 40 Mph speed limit when it was safe to do 50 on most of the route. Similarly, the old A59 alternative route to the Whalley-Clitheroe by-pass has had the limit cut to 40 from 60, and many 40 sections have been reduced to an often ridiculous 30. I suspect that the busses struggle to keep time legally even though running on a 1960s timetable.

    The Corporate Nazis in the civil service have been seriously planning toll roads for at least 20 years. In towns they use traffic calming to obstruct any direct route traffic might find as an alternative to toll roads. The safety fascists are making roads in towns almost totally impassable in decent time and now even TFL admits that it has been deliberately creating extra congestion under Labour’s Livingstone.

    It is interesting to note that almost all the scenes of recent fatal Knife Crime featured traffic calming or a 20 Mph speed limit. The installation of traffic calming is probably the key step towards a residential area becoming totally run down and lawless. By deterring regular through traffic from the streets criminals have more opportunities to commit crime without detection. Gangs of youths are more likely to congregate and cause trouble if they don’t need to keep a sharp lookout for traffic. The evidence must show that almost all current semi-derelict slum areas have one thing in common, namely traffic calming installed at some point over the last 20 years. This must say something about the mentality of those alleged community leaders who campaign for the introduction of traffic calming.

    The current main argument for imposing traffic calming is totally based on the NIMBY philosophy, ten bob fat cat property speculators desperately attempting to increase the theoretical value of their home. It would appear that they were under the impression that they actually own the road outside their mortgaged house and can dictate who can or can’t use it, only a complete fool would buy a house with traffic calming on the street, especially if it was adjacent to an obstacle.

    It would appear that traffic calming and the imposition of unrealistically low speed limits are being used to discourage drivers from using any route other than a potential future ” Corporate Nazi ” toll road, pay the toll or use more fuel and take twice as long to get there. People are already using far more fuel than they need to avoiding traffic calmed roads or unrealistically low speed limit routes, it also causes congestion on the main routes under pressure.

    Traffic should flow though the town like blood in arteries, if the main route becomes restricted, traffic flows on the most convenient alternative route. Drivers are likely to ” speed ” in inappropriate places to make up time lost through traffic calming or sections of road with ridiculously low speed limits. This leads to more requests for traffic calming or lower speed limits from people who formerly had a relatively quiet section of road.

    The result of alleged ” green ” transport policy is that the Corporate Nazis can engage in a spot of Corporate Ethnic Cleansing. If you can’t afford the tolls or the fuel price you are forced to move home. No wonder city centre property developers support the introduction of the Manchester congestion charge. You can also bet that the politicians all have shares in the companies likely to benefit. There is a fortune to be made in the form of private tax for the in car equipment. The stock market parasites will make an imaginary fortune with a private toll road operating company plugged directly into the treasury. Its all false economic growth which by increasing the cost of living makes the British worker less competitive in the global economy. None of the current UK politicians can comprehend the fact that toll roads will put the relative basic human rights of the population back into the 18th century just for the sake of false profit.

    Perhaps the government have no option but to proceed the eco-fascists favorite tool for corporate ethnic cleansing, Spy in the Sky road charging. Otherwise the Corporate Multinational Cartel could close key parts of UK industry. Of course nobody will notice that its basically a key fascist Big Brother policy because the alleged left wing Green Party support it. Many Corporate Nazi measures like Bin Tax and related fines for putting the wrong type of rubbish in your bin are also supported by the ” greens ” likewise the PFJ left love the smoking ban. Perhaps you will need a biometric ID card to register your Spy in the Sky in car equipment.

    As for Spy in the Sky road charging technology its just another massively expensive and needlessly complicated IT project for the stock market ” tech sector ” to parasite on, its all potential false economic growth which increases the divide between rich and poor. It is perhaps hardly surprising to find that Graham Stringer was one of the Labour rebels calling for a leadership election, one of his main bones of contention is the proposed Manchester congestion charge. New investment in the infrastructure is tied to a road pricing plan, which even without actual satellite Spy in the Sky (overhead gantries with simple electronic tags for vehicles ) will cost billions to introduce and maintain. As with most government projects under PFI its just a virtual welfare state for the stock market parasites.

  • Dan

    Nigel – of course the best system of traffic control to remove congestion would probably be technology that allowed automated computers to control the individual vehicles – that of course would be the leap – but there is no doubt in my mind that this would be widely rejected by both government and individuals – yet technologically this is how you would improve flow. After all – Henry Ford knew this – he didn’t allow the workers on his production line to control the flow of parts for assembly – with all the randomness this would create – the flow was controlled centrally. Traffic is like this too – this is why the variable speed limits on the M25 work pretty well.

    Also – I’m not sure that your ‘tax on cigarettes’ argument actually stands up – since it has to be set at a level that does not end up simply promoting smuggling and illegal trading on a colossal scale. As with all things there ends up being a policy compromise.

    It is the case that congestion charging is regressive taxation (ie the poor use it and pay juts as much as the rich) – but I’m not aware of many states that facilitate car use on progressive taxation basis – ie pensioners can’t walk into car showrooms and buy cars at a discount, funded by the state can they, or get discounted petrol to help their ‘right to drive’?

    Ian – I don’t really buy the ‘extension of state power’ argument. Britain has never been a free state where people can do as they wish – the UK is simply not like the US for example with a bill of rights. In fact we seem to rely on the EU / European Court (not the same thing) for whatever basic rights we do have – it’s simply that it has been government with a level of perception of freedom and fairness that made people think this.

    In fact things are rather worse – I’m fairly confident that it is not the state (with it’s system of accountability through the ballot box) that knows much about us – it is the private sector – credit checking companies, banks, telecoms companies, supermarket loyalty schemes etc – who know more about you, what you do, where you are – than the state ever will! And most people can’t get enough of this stuff and willingly hand over all that data.

    Goedon – I’m sorry friend, but I started reading your post with the intention of responding to some of the points (any evidence for your statement about the London Ambulance Service 500 deaths claim?), but reading on I came to the conclusion you’ve lost the plot somewhere really.

    However, what I do find offensive is the idea that you can somehow equate a bunch of bureaucrats in the civil service, charged by society with doing ‘something about it’ – with a mid 20th century regime that put at the heart of it’s philosophy the policy of genocide. You need to get a grip mate.

  • Dan

    You fail to grasp the fact that I refer to ” Corporate Nazi ” which is quite different from the Nazi’s in Germany during the last century. Corporate Nazis are those individuals or organisations willing to ride rough shod over our relative basic human rights and what we have come to expect in a modern civilised society. Its all festered in the universities, you may have seen the Ealing film where Professor Marcos tells the sweet old lady that its OK to steal £10,000 in an armed robbery because its only a farthing on all the policies. The average Corporate Nazi probably believes that is OK to tax people £5 a day to get to work because its millions on their combined company share price.

    It would appear that ” doing something about it ” TiF style does not include the provision of park and ride interchanges at all M60 junctions, which could encourage public transport use without the stick if the fares and parking charge were reasonable. Its just another revolution to make everything more expensive, like with the trains, if those in charge had gone for push-pull units utilising redundant Class 25,31,33,37 freight locos and converted Mk1 and Mk2 stock ( brake coaches converted to driving trailers ) it would now have been relatively cheap and easy to increase capacity on rail.

    Likewise the buses, 1980s designs could have still been in service if the bus companies had properly trained their maintenance staff and kept the main workshops. The disabled access argument was a red herring as if you can drive you get a blue badge. The interest on the increased capital cost of disabled access buses etc could have funded a free 24 hr taxi service to anywhere in the country for anybody on DLA. Fares for the majority could have been half what they are today.

    We need a new set of alleged experts, its obvious that those churned out by the universities are like a stick of Blackpool Rock, with the same crap false economic growth ideas written right through them. The people can no longer afford to pay for their extravagance.

  • Nigel Frampton

    Dan – your suggestion regarding ‘automated computers to control the individual vehicles’ might work, but it is probably far more complicated than what is actually required. I was thinking in terms of systems that control traffic signals to regulate flow on main traffic routes, and stricter control of parking, for example. The example you mention of the variable speed limits on the M25 is another, though probably not so relevant to an urban environment. I recall seeing a road in Oxford where two lanes were used for traffic in-bound to the city centre in the mornings, and one for outbound, while in the afternoon the middle lane was used in the opposite direction – simple and effective, and that was almost 40 years ago!

    Yes indeed the tax on cigarettes is set at a level to avoid promoting smuggling, but that is typical of the sort of compromise that simply demonstrates that using taxation as a deterrent doesn’t work.

    I must confess I’m not sure what the ‘freedom/state control’ issue has to do with traffic congestion, but, as an aside, I would point out that the term ‘bill of rights’ is very seductive. The ‘bill of rights’ only gives the citizens rights to those areas that the politicians decide they want to include, and of course, it denies them the rights to those areas that the politicians omit – deliberately or accidentally. Having lived in another European country, I would consider that the UK system may be haphazard, but it certainly gives me more rights. You’re probably right to say that banks and credit companies probably have more information about us than the state – but, again, what that has to do with traffic congestion is really a bit beyond me.

    Gordon – you started talking about traffic calming, which is not really the same issue. I don’t think traffic calming is being suggested as an answer to congestion – indeed congestion may actually be quite an effective means of traffic calming! True, these measures will possibly have side effects, but those problems need other solutions. Taking air quality – that is a different issue to congestion, and while, as I suggested earlier, relieving congestion may improve air quality, it requires a different solution. Equally, if everybody started using electric cars, the air would be cleaner, but congestion would still be a problem. Indeed, you could have congestion with bicycles or horses – or even pedestrians. The solution needs to properly address the problem – and I’m convinced that charging for congestion simply doesn’t do that.

  • I am delighted that my blog has stimulated such a fierce debate. I do not have time to answer many of the points but just want to clear up one urban myth. There is absolutely no truth in the suggestion that the London Ambulance Service claims that 500 lives are lost through traffic calming measures each year. I have checked this out, and its basis is an assertion by an anti-hump campaigner, with no basis in truth. The LAS denies any knowledge of such a statement.
    But don’t let me stop the rest of the discussion.

  • The five hundred deaths due to traffic calming in London came off a web page in an allegedly reputable newspaper, can’t remember which, but that doesn’t matter and I stand corrected. The Eco- fascists can’t deny the pollution problem caused by Traffic Calming etc but perhaps all freight delivery vehicles ( not white vans ) should be allowed to use Bus Lanes, as they now have very similar performance to PSV’s. They would not restrict the flow of buses and there is the safety question of whether its wise to hold HGV’s in an outside lane with all the rear visibility restrictions of mirrors. Even if more long distance freight returns to rail goods will still need to use the roads to reach their final destination. If this is to be done efficiently it means 44 tonne trucks carrying 30 tonne ISO containers, however many individual drops contained therein.

    The fact is we can no longer support charging everybody extra for what they already have and it would appear that much of the road congestion is inflicted by misguided traffic schemes drawn up by consultants with no incentive to reduce the problem. If anyone had deliberately set out to design death traps for cyclists it is doubtful whether they could have done a better job of it than traffic calming. Traffic calming also increases PSV driver fatigue, no wonder that the only people who are willing to do it these days are mostly EU migrants ?

    In a true ” market economy ” any new ” get out of your car ” initiative needs to be cheaper, not more expensive, rail fares increased for next year, some bus fares already at astronomical rates per mile compared to fuel / running costs only for a fuel efficient car.

    Local authorities need to take over all responsibility for bus timetables, and collect all the money with bus operators reduced to virtual road haulage contractors. This would provoke a real market between different operators and get fares generally lower. Obviously if the bus was likely to be stopped more frequently the rate would increase to cover fuel costs. I suggest a system similar to that operated in Adelaide South Australia as long ago as 1988, a one price fare lasted an hour from the commencement of the journey and was valid on any changed bus within that time. It was simple to operate and tickets could be bought at corner shops etc, they were also valid on local trains. Of course the university consultants will come up with the most expensive in first cost idea they can think of, attempting to track peoples journeys rather than simply getting the job done.

  • Tony C

    I live in Manchester, just on the edge of the outer congestion charging zone.

    As an experiment on Wednesday I drove into and out of the city centre between the peak times of 7:15 and 7:50. I used an arterial road into (A56) and out of the centre (A5103). I went right through the centre of the city (Deansgate). Let me tell you the journey was a breeze!! No congestion whatsoever – the streets were quite empty and traffic volumes were low.

    More worrying is I only passed two buses in that whole time – the X41 in the city centre, and a private bus that was empty.

    By way of comparison, the GMPTE journey planner calculated my trip starting at 7:16 and ending at 08:30 with 3 types of transport (tram, train, bus) and two changes. This would be in addition to the 10 minute walk to get to the tram station.

    I have to buy a separate System One County saver card for Tram, train and bus at a cost of £85 to allow me to travel at peak hours. I’ve yet to try it, but I may do one day to see how it compares.

    I could also have done the same journey (which I do almost every day) on the M60 motorway in half an hour.

    Although this data is empirical, I have enough collective experience over 10 years doing this journey that it is actually getting easier i.e less congested – not more difficult. Even on the very busy M60 I can get to my destination in quick time except on those occasions where someone decides to have a big accident on the motorway. I can live with that.

    In the 10 years of travel my vehicle emissions have reduced from over 200g/km to 111g/km. This is due to more efficient vehicle technology being introduced over that time. That’s a saving of over 50% – more than any congestion charge could achieve. My car is is Euro 5 compliant and has a particulate filter. My car does 60MPG and fuel costs are approx £80/month. Of course 50% of my fuel cost goes directly to the government in the form of tax to help fund transport amongst other things.

    So what’s the point of this story …. well I think congestion has been blown out of all proportion, and we do not need such a grandiose scheme to repay a £12 billion loan. A more modest investment which the taxpayers of Manchester could afford coupled with sensible changes to the road network to address pinch points should be able to address our needs. That’s why I’m voting NO.

  • Tony C

    Sorry .. correction … £1.2 billion loan … not £12 billion

  • Paul O

    I can’t believe my eyes, I have never seen a Wolmar blog entry receive so much feedback, absolutely Brilliant !!!!

    I can’t vote on this proposal but personally I’m not worried about it as 1. Whats on offer public transport wise as an incentive is pretty third rate and consequently of no great loss if it doesn’t happen. 2. It aint going to happen.

    The UK Public transport system outside London is a joke and still will be even in the unlikely event that this scheme gets the thumbs up from the local electorate.

    Gentlemen. ( I notice no ladies names here. I guess that says something on a socialogical level ). Its a dead duck! I suggest we all save our breath and move on. Let’s talk about the Class 55 English Electric Napier Deltic locomotive. Roger Ford if your reading this could you start the conversation. You were in the hut at the mouth of Gasworks tunnel etc etc.

  • Exile

    Well, despite my comments on the London C Charge I’m not quite so sure about the Manchester one – mainly because it’s not really a congestion charge, as the charge applies to anyone driving into Greater Manchester, which by no means is 100% congested. Better to have had a higher charge on areas which are proven bottlenecks.

    Tony C makes some good points – but if bus users are to pay for road space it should be “pro rata” – a bus uses the same space as 2-3 cars and in peak times carries 10-20 times as many passengers. And why should a car driver object to fellow drivers being enouraged to leave their cars at home and using the bus? Surely this means a faster journey for those
    who are obliged to use their cars?

    A few people here seem to have gone a bit over the top. Traffic calming does NOT increase emissions by 50% unless your entire journey to work is over speed bumps. I don’t have a problem with traffic calming – driving at 20mph instead of 30 for say 5% of my journey maybe adds 5 seconds to the overall time. And as a pedestrian as well as a driver I think we could do with more traffic calming. A minority of motorists are I’m afraid definitely in need of calming.

  • Howard

    I live in the Stockport area, either cycle, walk, or get the bus to work (in Fallowfield), yet have voted ‘No’. Why ? Because the congestion charge plans are half baked. The tram is a solution for radial Manchester commuting, and ignore a lot of commuting which does not travel to/via the city centre.The cycle lane proposals do not address the real issues of segregated cycle lanes (bus drivers are as much of a threat to cyclists as are cars, as are motorists using them with impunity). The buses largely run radially. Perhaps worse is that, to get people out of cars, it is necessary to provide an attractive viable alternative. If I saw massive investment in heavy rail (e.g. electrification to Marple, Whaley Bridge, Bolton, Leeds, Wigan, Liverpool) I might start to get excited. Also the tram is poorly organised … anyone who has travelled on NET (Nottingham) with its conductors selling through tickets to the bus will see that Metrolink is archaic.

  • Kate

    Just to prove that there is a lady following this. But she’s too busy to write the lengthy screed that others write.

  • Derek

    The increased investment in public transport in Greater Manchester is such a good idea that I cannot see why any person would want to vote against it !!

    However I believe that there will be a big majority for “No” because the British Motorist is the most selfish person in the world. All they think about is “my car”. If there was an Olympic Sport called “whinging and whining” the British Motorist would win the gold medal every single time. They will not care a hoot for those people who have no access to a car. All they are being asked to pay is a measly £5.00 towards the congestion and pollution they cause. Lets face it £5.00 is “peanuts“. However they could avoid this small charge by merely driving to a park and ride tram stop and taking the tram for the rest of their journey.

    This is something that happens in the French city of Montpellier all the time. None of the locals would dream of taking their car into the city centre and they don’t even have a congestion charge to pay. The city authorities in Montpellier do impose a high car parking charge in the City Centre (a lot more than £5.00) but offset this with cheap parking at tram stops. This system works very well in Montpellier , so there is no reason why it couldn’t in Greater Manchester. For the high city centre car parking charge read the £5 congestion charge. It is one and the same thing.

    Basically the referendum in Greater Manchester is a cop-out by the local politicians. They should have saved their money, because it’s obvious that the answer will be “no”.

    If Greater Manchester residents don’t want improved public transport, then lets give the investment to a place that does where the local politicians are not frightened of a bunch of mean and selfish motorists !!

  • Dan

    Well the result is in and it is Edinburgh Mk 2 – govt’s attempt to dump this on the local electorate has failed (I suspect mostly for Derek’s reasons rather than the more academic – ‘I support this but it is the wrong scheme’ type of no votes).

  • Julian Roberts

    Whether it’s with the Manchester Congestion Charge poll, the government pouring money into credit crunch busting carbon hungry public spending like more roads, or EU leaders meeting to finalize 20% CO2 reductions, ordinary democratic processes and politicians are unable to meet the challenge of climate change. We’ve all got to radically alter our lifestyles, and accept curbs to our unlimited, unsustainable, and often trivial freedoms to travel and pollute. A new politics is needed. Until there’s at least cross party consensus nothing will change.

  • Bryan

    I think we can conclude from this that the British public is reluctant to vote for more taxes, whatever their merit. The approach being used to have a referendum every time we want to spend some money is surely therefore doomed to failure. Congestion charging is like power stations and housing estates – people agree with them in principle but don’t want them in their backyard. The government has to go back to the drawing board because it is apparent that voters will oppose congestion charging until they literally can’t move in their cars. To break the deadlock the only choices are to improve public transport in the hope that people switch or impose the congestion charge and take the flak.