Wednesday, 1 February 2012

IN MY DREAMS

Derek Bennett, dreaming of an end to road tolls.

Since October 2011, when the office I work in moved from Birmingham to Hampton in Arden, I changed from pounding up, or rather crawling up, the M6 every day to using the train.

The office move meant an extra 30 miles travelling a day, if I had driven my journey from home in Walsall to Hampton would have risen from a twenty mile round trip to fifty miles there and back. Now I get in the car, tootle three miles to the station where there is free parking, and when buying my single train ticket I flash my Senior Rail card, which all old farts over 60 such as myself can purchase, and travel to Hampton for the grand total of £2.45. I travel home for free with my senior bus pass which can be used on all local transport after 9.30 am.

I boast about this so much to those less fortunate who have to pay the full, over-priced, charge, that I have even had a dream about being on a train and telling all about the wonders of my Senior Rail card and bus pass – how sad is that!

What is even sadder is the cost of driving, which of course I still do as man cannot travel by public transport alone. For those who think the cost of petrol is a rip-off, then you should look at the price of diesel which many of us who drive diesel cars have to pay – it is eye wateringly expensive. The one good thing about driving in Britain was the fact we could use our roads for free as long as we had up to date car insurance, MOT and road fund licence – that was until a British Government decided to comply with the EU’s Ten-T project and make our much needed M6 Northern Relief road, which was planned to take a great deal of pressure of the heavily congested M6 around Walsall and Birmingham, especially between junction 9 to the M54, into a toll road.

Naturally, this means that drivers are being asked to pay again, now quite substantially, to use a road their taxes have already paid for. Also naturally, drivers decided they paid more than enough in fuel duty, which has the insult of VAT on top of it making it a tax upon a tax, so they refused to use it and the road operators failed to generate the revenue they need so they put their prices up, which meant that those that did use it decided enough was enough and a number moved over to the congested M6.

Because the M6 toll has been such a flop the Government then had to spend £millions upgrading the M6 around Walsall, and soon to spend £millions more on the congested stretch from the M42 to junction nine. If the M6 toll had been a proper relief road and not tolled, then our taxpayer’s money would not have been needed for these M6 improvements.

Now our West Midlands UK Independence Party MEP, Mike Nattrass, has called for the M6 Toll to be nationalised following an announcement that charges to use the road are to rise again from the 1st March.

Mike, who is a member of the EU’s Transport & Tourism Committee, has called on the Government to buy back the M6 Toll and put it back into public ownership following news that charges to use the under-utilised 27-mile long route are to be hiked despite new figures showing the number of vehicles using the road had fallen by more than 10 per cent.

Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL), the company that runs the Toll, has announced that car drivers will be charged £5.50 (up 20p) and lorry drivers be have to fork out £11 (a rise of 40p) to use the route from March 1.

These rises will be implemented despite new figures revealing that more and more motorists are avoiding the route and the escalating toll charges. Data produced by MEL reported average daily traffic was 34,286 between October and December 2011 compared with 38,405 during the same period in 2010.

Commenting on these traffic figures and the forthcoming toll increases, Mike Nattrass said it was time for the Government to take action and nationalise the road.

He said: “The M6 Toll, which was designed to be a relief road, has been an abject failure. Figures show fewer and fewer vehicles are using this road but despite this trend MEL, which posted £49 million losses last summer, will be hitting motorists with increased toll charges from March.

“More and more money is being put into expensive upgrades to the M6 as a consequence of M6 Toll’s failure.

“Despite this failure, the EU wants to repeat the mistake elsewhere in this country by extending the toll network under its European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) Directive.

“It is time for the Government to step in, buy back the road and put it back into public ownership. This costly white elephant should be put out of its misery for the good of motorists and the West Midlands region as a whole.

“Our roads should be free to use and remain in public ownership. It is time for the Government to act. What is the value of a road that makes a loss?”

Every evening when I step off the train, I look over to the congestion on the motorway nearby where the M5 and M6 join and think, I’m glad I’m not sitting in that lot – I wonder if I will dream about that to? I certainly dream about the M6 toll being free to use and our Walsall congestion reduced.

1 comment:

Oldrightie said...

Derek, a simpler solution would be a £1 a go for cars, £2 for trucks and millions more vehicles using it.