I signed the petition asking for a debate on the suggested pay as you go road tax scheme. As such, I'm now expecting an email from Tony Blair explaining why he thinks this is a good idea. I think this will be a tough letter to write! As I understand it the main aim is to cut road congestion - the second aim will probably be to cut carbon emissions too. My retailiation to both of these is what are the alternatives? Bus, Rail, Plane, Ship? I think not - in practice people don't really have a choice...
I only have a short journey into work in the mornings, it is already quite expensive to park in the city of Glasgow for more than 3 hours so it is usually cheaper for me to catch the Bus or the Train - the Bus takes 45 minutes, is every 10 minutes, smells and is too busy to get a seat at peak times; the train takes 20 minutes (starts and ends at the same places as the train) and is every 30 minutes, reasonably reliable and again too busy for me to get a seat a peak times; obviously cannot do plane or ship for this journey. Luckily I can start and leave work at off peak times allowing me to get a seat, so I go by train - the bus is £2.50 and train is £2.70, but the train is much quicker. This is a common sense choice for me.
My wife works as a school teacher, she must be in work at 8.30am (rush hour). It is a 15 minute car journey. Impractical to travel by train due to the distance of that line's stations from our home and the school. There are buses that travel close by our house and the school, but that would require a change of bus and travelling on the same bus as other school kids (not usually a good idea in this country). Therefore Car is the only practical solution here. Again a common sense choice.
In response to emissions; we own property in Spain and we drive there. It takes about 2 to 3 days of driving through wonderful scenery (once through the Eurotunnel that is) and is a joyous and relaxing drive. We do travel on the mostly on the French autoroutes and the Spanish toll roads. It costs us about 90 euros (£60) to travel through France and Spain - a total of 1200 miles and get full use of the ample rest stops on the French motorways. In terms of carbon emmisions; a plane jouney would emit 0.5 tonnes per passenger each way (total of 2 tonnes for 2 people return); driving emits 0.5 tonnes each way (total of 1 tonne return) and the train emits 0.35 tonnes per person each way (total of 1.4 tonnes for 2 poeple return). As far as I understand this - taking the car is the most environmentally friendly way of getting myself, my wife and my dog to Spain (in a 2.5 litre Diesel Van). Therefore car is the most environmentally friendly way of travelling.
I am hoping that Tony Blair's email to me will explain how he plans to upgrade Britain's public transport systems to cope with the obvious increase of passengers at peak times. How he is going to ensuring that those passengers arrive at their places of business just as relaxed as they would have done by car. His plans to remove the statutory annual road tax and remove the tax on fuel reducing it to European prices (in Spain it costs 0.90 euro cents per litre - about 60p).
Perhaps labour will make the congestion charges variable depending on what time you travel at. This could make it extremely unfair - and expensive - to those who cannot adjust their working hours.
I look forward to read what he'll say...