Govt transport review

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Craig Cockburn

Jul 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/19/98
Ann an sgriobhainn <>, sgriobh Craig
Cockburn <>
>Ann an sgriobhainn <>, sgriobh The
>Ferret <>
>>Thus spake (Richard Buttrey):
>>>On Mon, 29 Jun 1998 22:20:37 +0100, Craig Cockburn <>
>>>>Does anyone know when the delayed government transport review is due to
>>>>be published?
>>>I heard that it's all ready for publication but that they don't want to
>>>release it whilst the world cup is on, (presumably in order that it receives
>>>undivided attention). That would suggest sometime mid July onwards
>> Incorrect. It's still being written (by my colleagues).
>I believe it's due out next week.
It's due out tomorrow. I offer up the suggestions I made to the
government so that people can compare these against what is published

Submitted 10th November

I understand the Government is undertaking a transport review at the
moment. I would have written sooner, but I only found out about the
transport review by accident through a discussion on the Internet.

I am writing to offer you my opinions on transport as a member of the
general public. I have commuted to work by bicycle for 3 years, by car
for 7 years and by bus for 3 years. I have lived in both the overcrowded
South East of England (Reading) as well as rural Scotland (Dunblane) and
I currently live in Edinburgh, where I am amazed to find a great deal of
money being wasted on expensive and ineffective transport policies by
the local council.

The Car

Fuel Tax
Traditional government policy has been to increase the duty on car fuel.
This is simply not a sensible solution. The problem of car congestion is
not caused by every car user for every vehicle mile they drive. The
problem only occurs on particular roads and often at particular times of
day. Increasing the duty on fuel affects all road users, whether they
use congested roads or not. Increasing the duty on fuel is a completely
inappropriate move in most of Scotland, where traffic jams in the
Highlands are virtually unknown. Increasing petrol prices in rural
Scotland through a blanket tax increase simply drives up local prices
and penalises legitimate cars users who do not experience traffic
congestion problems but who depend on the car as a necessary means of
transport. Is it fair to target all car users when only part of them
causing the problem, on some roads and only at certain times of day? Of
course not. If the problem is particular roads at particular times of
day then this should be part of the solution.

Road Tolling
I would favour introducing a road tolling system so that roads which
regularly become congested would have a toll imposed on them. In order
to tackle the problem of peak time congestion, the tolls could only be
in force during particular times of day. This would lead to more
employers looking seriously at introducing flexi-time, which would in
turn lead to less demand on the roads at peak time and give the staff
greater control over their working lives, leading to greater job
satisfaction. Other alternatives such as teleworking could also be
encouraged and the government could provide tax incentives where
necessary. Tolling peak routes at peak times would target the problem
exactly where it occurs in a far more effective way than a blanket tax
increase ever could. This tolling would involve automatic tolling one
particular direction only, so that certain incoming routes would be
tolled in the morning with the outgoing routes being free, and the
situation being reversed in the evening. This means that people who live
in the town but who work in the country and who do not contribute much
to the traffic problem would not have to pay.

School Traffic
I live opposite a primary school and notice how much the traffic
problems in the morning are made worse by parents dropping their
children off. Very often, these parents take their children short
distances which would be easy to walk. These short and often unnecessary
journeys only make the early morning peak traffic worse and also add to
the traffic problems around the school, making the situation worse for
the children who walk. I would favour introducing road tolls around
schools during the morning peak period. This would encourage through
traffic to find another route and would perhaps encourage more parents
to get their children to walk to school. Funding raised through this
route could be invested in more traffic wardens or better school
transport. I attended school in the US for a short time and found a
highly organised system for bussing children to school. If the UK had a
similar system, we would reduce the traffic around schools, reduce early
morning congestion and teach children from an early age that there are
alternatives to the car.

Speed Limits
Travelling around Edinburgh, I see a completely haphazard and
inconsistent policy of speed limits. Open, rural roads with a speed
limit of 50mph instead of 60mph, stretches of road of 30mph for a few
hundred yards in between 60mph stretches (but the 30mph is widely
ignored) and limits of 30mph outside schools, where a limit of 15mph or
20mph would be far more appropriate. The school opposite my house has
cars regularly speeding on it, yet the speed limit there is not
enforced. At the same time, stretches of open road have speed cameras on
them and people obey the limit. Which of the two is it more sensible to
enforce a speed limit on? The government needs a consistent policy
towards speed limits so that they do not fall into the state of
disrepute that they have and so that the safety of children, pedestrians
and cyclists is not jeopardised.

Road Fund Licence
To level the balance between public and private transport, I would also
recommend reducing the fixed costs associated with running a car. I'm in
favour of abolishing the fixed cost of vehicle excise duty in order to
make access to the roads cheaper for those who don't use their cars much
and more expensive for those who do high mileage. Adding 8p a litre onto
fuel prices would raise the same amount (assuming road tax at £150, an
average mileage of 12,000 a year and 30 mpg). However, such an increase
is unlikely, as much of the cost of the road fund licence goes on
collecting the money, chasing up non-payers, printing the forms, and a
large proportion of the money collected doesn't even go on roads either.
Probably a 3p increase in fuel prices would be sufficient to eliminate
the road fund tax completely. The additional function of the road fund
licence, checking a vehicle is insured would be done at MOT time, and a
version of the MOT would be displayed in the car window in place of the
current tax disc. This would ensure that the car's MOT status was
clearly visible. I would favour this as the lack of an MOT presents a
greater danger to other road users than the lack of a tax disc. The
current level car tax permitting unlimited road usage is conceptually
little different to the Poll Tax. I'm sure you can see how inappropriate
such a method is, and contrary to current Government philosophy.

Bridge and Tunnel tolling / Ferries

In the Western Isles of Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne has recently
increased fares well above those of inflation. This should not be
permitted as the islands depend entirely on the ferry service.
Increasing ferry rates will only increase inflation on the island and
place further strain on a fragile economy. I would urge the government
to act on this so that rises on necessary ferry services do not exceed
those of inflation.

I also question the inconsistency regarding road tolling. What is
special about a bridge or tunnel that it should have a toll, but a
motorway is free? My road fund licence for an average annual mileage
costs me about 1.25p per mile equivalent. Why should this rise to
approximately £10 per mile to cross the Skye Bridge? Why can't bridges
and tunnels be paid for out of the road fund licence? By tolling bridges
and tunnels, the communities served by these facilities are penalised.
It is inconsistent that bridges and tunnels often have tolls, but
motorways are built costing millions of pounds and have no tolls. I
would favour the abolition of all bridge and road tolls and the costs
for them being met in the same way that motorway costs are met, through
taxation. The only form of road tolling I favour is peak time tolling on
busy roads to encourage motorists to use public transport.

If tolls were to remain, I would like to see automatic toll payment
introduced to ease the flow of traffic through tollbooths. I use the
Forth Road Bridge frequently and am surprised there is no automatic
payment lane where I can throw money into a "bin", a machine counts it,
and the barrier is raised automatically. I have used such systems in
France, Canada and the United States and I am surprised that we are
still resorting entirely to slower and more expensive forms of manual
toll collection in this country.

I do not think that schemes such as the ones in Paris and Athens to ban
particular cars on particular days are all that effective, they simply
encourage multiple car ownership.

I notice that Mitsubishi has developed a direct fuel injected petrol
engine, this is used in their Carisma car and uses at least 20% less
fuel than a normal engine. On a more national level, I would like to see
more development in this area, and in particular towards emission free
engines, such as those based on liquid nitrogen. I would like to see the
Government assisting UK based research for more advanced forms of engine
along these lines. Technology which the world needs and which we could
give the world.

Public Transport

I would suggest introducing a family bus pass or train pass. Public
transport often becomes more expensive than the car when there's more
than one person travelling. The family pass could go some way to correct
that. Look how popular charging per room rather than per person basis
has been for Travel Lodge and Travel Inn.

Considerable work should also be done in analysing the bus timetable to
provide a more effective bus service. I commuted into town for two years
using the 4,43 and 44. For much of their route the 43/44 and 4 follow
the same route and at very much the same time. A similar situation
exists for the 28 and 34. There is not much point having two buses
arriving at the same time and following mostly the same route. It would
be better to swap the 4 and 28 timetables with one another so that a
more distributed service is achieved. I suggested a similar approach to
BR in 1991 and they adopted it on their Paddington to Reading route. The
monthly bus passes are also poor value for money as most of Edinburgh is
covered by the 65p fare, yet you have to live outside this fare region
for the bus pass to be economic.

What on earth is wrong with a flexible bus policy which incorporates
such radical ideas as "return" fares, family fares and the ability to
use a ticket to transfer from one route to another (as is presently the
case on night services in Edinburgh but not day services).

The Greenways system recently introduced in Edinburgh has been a gross
waste of money in my opinion. Whilst I am in favour of encouraging
people to use public transport and it is common sense that principal
routes should be freeflowing, I do not see how an expensive painting
scheme achieves this. Traffic flow down Leith walk in Edinburgh has
improved immensely since the introduction of Greenways, but exactly the
same benefit could have been had by simply banning double parking and
enforcing the existing traffic regulations! This would have cost a
fraction of the fortune squandered on Greenways and been just as
effective. When I used a bus to commute to the town centre, the bus lane
was never blocked. Why therefore did it need to be painted green, new
signs erected and double red lines painted? Even by the council's own
admission, journey times have not been significantly affected by their
Greenways scheme.

I feel we urgently need a unified public transport service! For people
in the suburbs and rural areas, there is a train ticket into town (one
company), followed by a bus ticket to their work place (one of a range
of different possible companies), usually requiring exact change. The
major European cities have integrated systems where one pass will allow
you to travel on local trains, trams and buses. We have the travelcard
in London and the introduction of a similar scheme in other UK cities is
long overdue.

Much of my suggestions to the transport network are based on first hand
experience as a user of trains, buses, cars and cycleways. I feel that
applying common sense to the transport problems we have today will
improve the services for all. I hope that you will accept that many of
my proposals are low cost and effective and help to integrate traffic
policy and target problem areas in a specific way to address those areas

I hope you find my comments of use and I look forward to hearing from

Craig Cockburn ("coburn"), Port na Banrighinn, Alba. (Queensferry, Scotland)
Sgri\obh thugam 'sa Gha\idhlig ma 'se do thoil e.

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