Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 20th, 2007

Draft bill starts Britain down the road to pay as you drive

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| Guardian Unlimited Business

· Local schemes a precursor to a nationwide network

Quite a contrast to our own situation where we will see some new tolls but only on new infrastructure (that long word means “bridges” as far as the MoTH is concerned) and not to control congestion but to help pay for the building work.

What I think is really telling is the insistence by some local authorities that a commitment to public transport must come first. In fact that is exactly what happened in London, where since the tube was already bursting at the seams and projects take forever to complete, Ken Livingstone invested heavily in more buses. And bus lanes. So that when the traffic declined as the charge bit, and it did, the buses could get through where they didn’t before. People even came up to the surface and started enjoying seeing London as they travelled.

There are some people who think that sticking transit in a tunnel is a solution to congestion. There are others, like me, who think we have better things to do than allow cars to clog our streets – either as traffic jams or parked vehicles. We need to rethink what all that expensive tarmac and concrete is being used for and why we let the richest use it for free.

Update May 26

The Guardian is now reporting

Motorists will be charged for travelling during peak times on the busiest roads under a new scheme in Manchester, which was unveiled yesterday.

Rush hour drivers face charges of between £2 and £5 per day, with those travelling furthest paying most.

An electronic tag will monitor journeys on 15 of the most congested routes into the city centre.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 20, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Transportation

Fare increases

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I have refrained up until now from commenting on Translink’s recent decision to raise fares. But at the bottom a piece on the British Network Rail organization deciding not to give its executives a bonus this year, I came across this

South West Trains, Britain’s biggest train operator, will tomorrow put up off-peak fares by up to 21 per cent, and passengers on Arriva Trains in Wales will see ticket rises of up to 34 per cent.

which puts Translink’s 25c hike into some perspective, I think. Not saying it’s right, just not as much as others pay, that’s all.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 20, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Transportation

The use of waterways for freight

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This program was broadcast recently on BBC Radio 4. The issues they deal with are almost identical to the problems we face here trying to keep the Fraser as a major freight carrier. We don’t have the problem of locks, or vessel beam and length. But the issue of depth and the lack of dredging is just the same, as is the attitude of the developers and the new residents who have now got the water views and don’t want nasty trucks in their neighborhood.

What is missing in the discussion on greenhouse gas emissions is the actual efficiency of a diesel engine in a boat versus that of a heavy truck. There is actually no more energy efficient method of moving freight, since a boat floats and just needs steering weigh to navigate. So there is none of the energy lost in braking, or tire resistance, or even basic inertia. And many things do not need to be moved quickly, since they are of low value and do not represent a lot of capital tied up in inventory. So sand and gravel, domestic refuse – and in this region – lumber, woodchips and paper – are all very economically moved by barge. The costs start to rise when you add in intermediate handling – which is why the reservation of waterside sites for freight is so important. But who is going to carry that cost? In Britain, BW was starved of resources to meet its basic remit, so it had to develop what land it had just to keep going. Land banking is not something you can expect a commercial operator to do, although many developers in this region simply hold land in the hopes that one day the planning rules will change and they can cash in. Land is a safe store of value, and can have very low holding costs. Governments at all levels have a role, but they need to get their priorities straight. Sadly, most politicians are small business people who seem to lack the right sort of knowledge.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 20, 2007 at 1:04 pm