That magical tiny number of people who can change government policy (see the post about the government bowing to “pressure” to allow the creation of human-animal hybrids) obviously didn’t sign the road-pricing petition. Millions of people took the time and effort to sign it but they weren’t the right people, obviously.
The government just ignored the whole thing, except for adding insult to injury by sending everyone emails with Blair’s name on it to say in effect “Thanks for participating but f*** off. Now I will tell you why you were wrong…” (Well, that’s what the anti-ID petition got)
On a personal note, I would never have signed the no road-pricing petition. I don’t have a vehicle. I am against cars. Well, against cars as much as anyone can reasonably be who sometimes gladly takes advantage of riding in other people’s and who takes the occasional taxi. I do object to breathing in secondhand vehicle emissions all day. I don’t like fearing death from some metallic monster every time I go out of the house. I don’t like living in a world so dependent on oil that any amount of evil seems OK, if it will secure it. And so on.
BUT, I am not so divorced from reality as to think that car journeys are the luxury jaunts of the privileged. Even ignoring the fact that people who live outside a few city centres have basically no alternative but to use a car to earn a living, get food or get their kids to school, I don’t think road pricing will cut urban car journeys by more than a miniscule amount. Bloody hell, people spend hours every day on the M25. Would anyone choose to do that if they had an alternative?
The UK has a rubbish public transport system. I live in a city. It normally takes me about eight times as long to get to work (2 buses) as it does when I have been lucky enough to get a lift. (It takes me an hour and a half to walk, on the days when I can still face the walk after a day’s work. The bus journey takes an hour a best – two at worst.) I could replace part of one bus journey with a train but this wouldn’t cut the time by more than a minute or two and would cost more.
My recent experiences of travelling by train have involved unbelievable expense with appalling service standards. It is cheaper to buy a used car and throw it away than to pay the train fare for 3 or 4 people to get to London from the North of England. (And you could breathe in less germs, have the certainty of getting a seat, smoke if you choose, stop when you choose and not have to listen to incomprehensible welcoming speeches every few minutes nor use toilets that would be considered below par in a hurricane refugees’ camp.)
With regards to the quality of service, last year, I made at least two train journeys that were a net loss to the train company. I.e. the service was so bad that they had to pay for me to use it. Both arrived hours after any possible connections were running and, on each occasion, I had to be taken by taxi for close to 50 miles. And was given a refund 🙂
Basically, there are currently no feasible alternatives to using a car for most journeys.
So this road pricing idea is just going to be another tax. Unlike direct taxation, the ability to pay will be irrelevant. What will affect how much you pay will be how close you live to workplaces, public services, schools and shops. So, also unlike direct taxation, there will be an impact on a wide range of apparently unrelated things like house prices.
So, the rich will be able to carry on driving at will, just getting irritated by the attendant bureaucracy of it. Other people will just get more and more stressed trying to stretch their wages far enough to cover the cost of the journey to earning them.
We all know the alternatives, if there really were any serious concern to cut the number of cars on the road:
- An efficient and cheap public transport system
- Encourage working from home
- Planning decisions to stop cities and services from sprawling out endlessly
- Stop closing down locally based services like post offices and schools
Too much trouble, hey? Don’t bother then, just get another source of revenue from drivers.