Azara Blog: Anti-road-pricing petition hits a million "signatures"

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Date published: 2007/02/10

The BBC says:

More than one million people have signed an online petition against plans to introduce road charging in the UK.

The petition, which is the most popular on the Downing Street website, calls for the scrapping of "planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy".

But No 10 has insisted that doing nothing would lead to a 25% increase in congestion "in less than a decade".

The petition was posted by Peter Roberts, from Telford, Shropshire, who said it was an "unfair tax".

Mr Roberts - whose petition broke through the million signature-barrier by 1045 GMT on Saturday - believes charging is unfair on poor people and those who live apart from their families.

He said the numbers signing his petition were "unprecedented".
The next-most popular transport petition on the Downing Street website has little more than 5,000 signatures.
Plans to introduce a nationwide "pay-as-you-drive" system were unveiled by former Transport Secretary Alistair Darling in 2005.

Mr Darling's successor, Douglas Alexander, has since suggested that road pricing could be brought in within a decade.

He said the scale of the response to the petition showed more debate was needed on congestion charging for motorists.

"The response to this petition makes the case for more debate, not less, on the issue of road pricing," he told the Times.

"It makes me more determined to debate the real issues about how we tackle growing congestion.

"I understand there are strong feelings on this issue but strong feelings alone are no substitute for considering how we tackle the challenge of congestion."

According to Edmund King of the RAC Foundation, the government needed to rethink its strategy.

"They need to be setting up a scheme overseen by an independent body, they need to guarantee that there will be other tax reductions on fuel tax or vehicle excise duty and they need to guarantee that the road network will be improved," he said.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael said the petition "misrepresents the case for road user pricing".

But he said it showed the government needed to be open with people about their plans.

"If the public feels that road user pricing is just another cash cow for the Treasury, then it will meet stiff resistance, and a real opportunity to reduce congestion will be missed," he said.

It is just weird how some things take off. The Downing Street website is full of petitions (anyone can create one) but most of them get (literally) only a few "signatures". Of course drivers are the most exploited tax resource in the country, so it's not that surprising that a lot of them are pissed off that the government is proposing to hammer them even more in future. (And no matter what the propagandists say, this is not going to be a revenue neutral tax because the cost of running a road pricing scheme is massive, and drivers will have to pay for that, to start with.)

Douglas Alexander is rather taking the piss. The government has no interest in a "debate". They have made no attempt to justify their lack of investment in roads (in comparison to how much tax that drivers pay). Indeed, their introduction of a congestion tax could encourage them to make the road system even worse, because the worse they make it, the more money they can raise from a congestion tax. And the government has given no indication that they will listen to any arguments against road pricing. They will introduce it no matter what, so any "debate" is fatuous.

If there is one thing you can guarantee, the congestion tax will indeed be used as "just another cash cow for the Treasury". And if anyone is taking the piss more than Alexander, it is Alistair Carmichael and the rest of the Lib Dems. Their entire transport policy seems to resolve around screwing car drivers and airplane passengers. Any car driver voting for the Lib Dems might as well hit their head with a hammer.

Of course economists love road pricing, since they believe everything should have a price. Unfortunately they don't know how to value things like societal solidarity, where poor people have just as much right to be on the roads as rich people. Road pricing is just an expensive way of removing poor people from the roads so that rich people can get about more easily.

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