The government wants to introduce road charging on the roads (as opposed to, er, the trees). On the face of it they cite noble goals: to reduce congestion which will reduce pollution and stress and make Mother Nature and your own mother happy at the same time!
Labour hopes that by implementing a charging rather than taxation system (eventually, maybe; initially it’ll be a taxation and charging system) towards the roads then we, the people, will decide to share transport, use public transport, and cut out unnecessary journeys.
Let’s take a look at those three decisions of ours in some more detail:
I don’t know about you but I don’t live near anybody I work with. In order to share transport with them I would need to add to my travel time and distance significantly. For two people alternating the transportation duties this might work out marginally more fuel-efficient (but not convenient) overall than two separate journeys but it’s incredibly unfair on whoever lives nearest the workplace since that person will pay more to travel to work. Sharing a car would punish those who currently do not commute large distances. Thanks Labour!
Use Public Transport
I live 8 miles from my home. Getting to work involves a 15 minute drive in my car. To use public transport I have two options: bus or train.
To travel by bus I would need to walk to the bus stop on the route towards my work; that’s 15 minutes right away. The bus travel time is approximately half an hour and stops about 15 minutes walking distance from my work. At best, an hour. Assuming the bus is on time.
Using the train is worse. The train station is half an hour’s walk from my home. Twenty minutes travel with twenty minutes to walk at the other end. That’s an hour and ten minutes. Unless a twig falls on the line and causes a cancellation.
Setting aside the time and pain-in-the-arse experience added to during inclement weather we still have the joy of the exorbitant costs of public transport to add in. Plus – far worse – they allow pretty much anybody on public transport. Smelly people. Violent people. I’m far more picky over who travels in my car.
Cut Out Unnecessary Journeys
Now we get to the crux of the problem: unnecessary journeys.
Of all the people sitting in their cars in congestion, how many do you think woke up and thought "You know what! I fancy a trip at rush hour! Hoorah!"? A few, perhaps, but I’m not one of them.
I travel at peak times in the morning in order to go to work. I then travel at peak times in the evening in order to leave work. These are necessary trips for the following reasons: they prevent me from losing my job and prevent me from losing my girlfriend and the respect of my cat when I become locked in the office overnight.
Commuters don’t add to congestion because they enjoy one another’s company. At least, the ones I know don’t. Charging to use the roads at peak hours will not affect congestion because the overwhelming majority of people will still have to travel at those times. However, what it will do is drive up costs for employees who will insist their wages are increased to compensate which will affect inflation. Result: same congestion, same pollution, increased stress, angry Mother Nature. Volcano threat! Oh, and the government gets to line its pockets, of course. Yes, there is that.
You know, if people didn’t have to all work at the same time then there’d probably be less of them on the roads at the same time. At my work we’re allowed some flexibility with regards to working hours. I work a little earlier and leave a little earlier. I avoid some of the worst traffic as a result. Wow! Now, if only other companies did this.
Of course, not every company can do this but some can. The government, if it was really serious about reducing congestion, could stagger the start and finish times of its various departments around the country. Hey, the entire public sector could move to a nocturnal cycle!
And there’s another easy way to reduce congestion too: massively (massively) charge parents for taking their kids to school but provide free school travel as an alternative. This particular method of cutting congestion has everything Labour stands for: the free travel hints at the socialist roots of the party, while the massive charging system gives them all the power erections they crave.