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View Full Version : Tony Blair: Stepping down and still not making any friends...


Negative Sun
02-21-2007, 09:59 AM
Recently, there was a poll on the official UK government web site against a new taxing scheme, that will tax drivers per mile to tackle congestion.

1.7 million people voted AGAINST this scheme on the above mentioned poll, clearly showing that extra tax is NOT the way to tackle the increase in congestion.

Here is the email Tony Blair sent out to my fiancée after the poll closed yesterday:

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website.

This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network.

It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer. One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.

That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance. This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this email as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing. Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so. We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas.

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government.

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.

Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997, spending £2.5 billion this year on buses and over £4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over £140 billion of investment planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse. So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion. This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion.

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity.

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes. If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as £30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail.

That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been. But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS, so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.

Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. But those are decisions for the future. At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses. If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

I am totally against this ridiculous scheme when the government offers no acceptable alternative, public transport? Don't make me laugh! It is overpriced, unreliable and NOT AT ALL practical, ESPECIALLY in rural areas! (People from the UK will know what I'm talking about)

This stuff really makes my blood boil so I'll stop it here...
Any people from the UK with the same concerns here? Other opinions are welcome as well, I would like to hear some US voices on this matter to compare systems...

Jae Onasi
02-27-2007, 06:39 PM
Our public transportation in the US sucks even more.

Negative Sun
02-27-2007, 07:31 PM
Probably, my point is that they are forcing people out of their cars, without a budget/consumer/anything friendly alternative...

Pavlos
02-28-2007, 12:56 PM
Hmm... I don't know about this.

More likely than not it is another stealth tax and the issue here is that it is indiscriminate. The secretary on minimum wage who has to drive from his residential dormitory town to "the big city" may have to travel over one hundred miles there and back. Is it right that he should be taxed as much as the fellow pulling down £500 000 a year and is driving a Mercedes? I really don't. I saw some figures recently that are obscene... the fifth of the population with the lowest household income end up paying more as a percentage of their income than the "chief executive of the Big and Shiny Corporation" fifth - if that bizarre sentence made sense. 30 - 40% of the household income means a lot more to a family on say... £16 000 per annum than it does to someone earning megabucks.

Then again, at least this government spends the money on social projects unlike other contenders for Downing Street who are just as likely to implement stealth taxes but will use them to give tax breaks for the rich.

The solution to congestion on motorways is very simple: widen existing roads and build more of them. What rot; congestion increases with every effort to do such a thing. What does Mr. Blair and his cabinet propose to do? Just leave the roads because the fight against congestion will continue to get worse? This is exactly the sort of thing that annoys me - just like referring to the NHS as a business and babbling about how it is losing money. I understand it is important for state institutions to have budgets but a lot of people fail to realise that any social program like the health service is a money sink...

Diego Varen
02-28-2007, 01:22 PM
Well I'm from the UK, but I'm not sure about Politics, since it isn't my thing. If Tony Blair is stepping down, who will become the Prime Minister?

Pavlos
02-28-2007, 01:33 PM
Well I'm from the UK, but I'm not sure about Politics, since it isn't my thing. If Tony Blair is stepping down, who will become the Prime Minister?

The Labour party will elect a new leader of the MPs available and the winner will take the place of Mr. Blair as the PM and leader of the party. It's most likely to be Gordon Brown but it could go anywhere, really.

Diego Varen
02-28-2007, 01:48 PM
The Labour party will elect a new leader of the MPs available and the winner will take the place of Mr. Blair as the PM and leader of the party. It's most likely to be Gordon Brown but it could go anywhere, really.

I had a feeling that Gordon Brown could become the Prime Minister. After all he is the Chancellor, I believe.

Darth InSidious
02-28-2007, 01:58 PM
Another fairly typically high-handed Labour move, IMO.

Where they should be encouraging people onto the public transport system and making it worth our whiles, they instead choose to take money away from us.

And people wonder why I have a bleak outlook on future politics.

Negative Sun
02-28-2007, 02:14 PM
Hmm... I don't know about this.

More likely than not it is another stealth tax and the issue here is that it is indiscriminate. The secretary on minimum wage who has to drive from his residential dormitory town to "the big city" may have to travel over one hundred miles there and back. Is it right that he should be taxed as much as the fellow pulling down £500 000 a year and is driving a Mercedes? I really don't. I saw some figures recently that are obscene... the fifth of the population with the lowest household income end up paying more as a percentage of their income than the "chief executive of the Big and Shiny Corporation" fifth - if that bizarre sentence made sense. 30 - 40% of the household income means a lot more to a family on say... £16 000 per annum than it does to someone earning megabucks.

Then again, at least this government spends the money on social projects unlike other contenders for Downing Street who are just as likely to implement stealth taxes but will use them to give tax breaks for the rich.

The solution to congestion on motorways is very simple: widen existing roads and build more of them. What rot; congestion increases with every effort to do such a thing. What does Mr. Blair and his cabinet propose to do? Just leave the roads because the fight against congestion will continue to get worse? This is exactly the sort of thing that annoys me - just like referring to the NHS as a business and babbling about how it is losing money. I understand it is important for state institutions to have budgets but a lot of people fail to realise that any social program like the health service is a money sink...
Couldn't agree more!

SilentScope001
02-28-2007, 04:52 PM
The solution to congestion on motorways is very simple: widen existing roads and build more of them.

But...wouldn't that accelrate global warming? :p A solution to one problem is a cause for the next problem...

Pavlos
02-28-2007, 06:16 PM
Why would it worsen climate change? The number of cars on the roads would be the same but there would be a lot less of sitting around in traffic jams (I have no idea if you live in the UK but... when there's a jam on one of our motorways... it's generally pretty horrific) or moving along at a snail's pace. Less transit time means less fuel burnt thus less Carbon Dioxide goes up into the atmosphere and the UK's addition to climate change is diminished. Plus: higher gears (faster travel goes with having clearer roads) mean greater fuel efficiency which has the same effect.

I'm all for getting people off the roads and on their bikes, trains, and buses. The issue is that a bicycle isn't a viable alternative as Europeans seem to have no regard for driving laws whatsoever so it is exceptionally dangerous to ride your bike around a city (or even a small village nowadays) without bicycle paths and the longest one I have seen around here stretched all of fifty metres... useful :xp:. I wouldn't want to travel long distances on a bus (from where I live to the local city is fine but long journeys would be painful to say the least) and trains are far too expensive and late a lot of the time - two centimetres of snow brings this country to a halt (pathetic, I know).

Negative Sun
02-28-2007, 06:39 PM
Seeing as we're going to run out of petrol in the near future, it won't really matter that much since a total conversion in car fuel will be necessary...Granted it doesn't solve the problem right now, but it won't be there for too much longer either.

SilentScope001
03-01-2007, 01:24 AM
Why would it worsen climate change? The number of cars on the roads would be the same but there would be a lot less of sitting around in traffic jams (I have no idea if you live in the UK but... when there's a jam on one of our motorways... it's generally pretty horrific) or moving along at a snail's pace. Less transit time means less fuel burnt thus less Carbon Dioxide goes up into the atmosphere and the UK's addition to climate change is diminished. Plus: higher gears (faster travel goes with having clearer roads) mean greater fuel efficiency which has the same effect.

Don't live in the UK, but I can see what you say. Still, I do think the main purpose of the tax is to make people angry enough to not drive the car and get them to use public transporation...or something to that effect.

Prehaps it would maybe be better if other nations adopt American's policy of "Spend, spend, spend, hope that China continue to Loan Money to Us", which states that Great Britian can spend money on both social programs and roads. Too risky, and you're certain to reach a day of recknoing, but you'll enjoy the relaxed spending rules...

Or, alternatively, the new tax is made with the expressed purpose of "building new roads". It will most likely remain permenant (and higher than the price for building new roads...so they can use it for other things), but at the least motorists will be somewhat relived that they are spending money to help themselves. The 'stealth tax' won't be that terrible.

EDIT: Finally gotten around to read Tony Blair's telemarketing ad. Guess he's worried that if you just build more roads, more traffic will be filled to build the roads. So, really, you're throwing money at the problem. At least to Blair.

But isn't that what we want to do? Throw money? :p

I also notice that Tony Blair is using lots of weasel words, to back himself out of the mess. Prehaps he is trying to sastify the supporters of the new Tax, while at the same time, secretly abandoning the issue?

Q
03-01-2007, 08:04 AM
Ah, socialism at work. More taxes is always the solution to every problem.:rolleyes:

SilentScope001
03-01-2007, 12:10 PM
Ah, socialism at work. More taxes is always the solution to every problem.

...Either that, or more bonds (Capitalism at work).

Or just do nothing and let the problem fester. :)

Det. Bart Lasiter
03-01-2007, 04:02 PM
Our public transportation in the US sucks even more.
I don't mind the MBTA system here in Boston. Only a few of the buses are diesel-powered, and the fares aren't too bad if you don't pay cash (there's a surcharge if you don't pay with a pass).