Wednesday 8 December 2004

The coming chaos

I believe that roads should be privatised. In the presumable absence of road charities, the user would have to pay, directly or indirectly. I have some sympathy with local councils who are attempting to introduce charging systems although we can't expect government bureaucrats to come up with the kind of elegant solutions that would emerge in a free market for transport. It does seem rather perverse for the Edinburgh City Council to propose a cut in parking fees by 25% to offset road tolls. Surely the whole point of the tolls is to reduce traffic in the city centre. It looks as though we'll get a typical politically inspired mess with tolls and cheaper parking. Incidentally, I'm one of those who doesn't really think that Edinburgh's traffic is all that much to worry about - take a trip to London. Lack of parking is a major problem but one that's inevitable in a historic city like ours. I almost always use the excellent bus service instead of attempting to find a parking space.

The forthcoming referendum will ask us:

"The council’s preferred strategy includes congestion charging and increased transport investment funded by it. Do you support the council's preferred strategy?"
The Tories are campaigning against the tolls without - no surprise here - putting forward any free market alternatives. Suburban Tory car users may well vote against the proposals but so may some of us who don't believe that the Council will operate a sane system or that the resulting revenue (assuming that it doesn't run at a loss) will indeed be used to improve public transport.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Squander Two
> In fact Road Tax won't all go to roads (I know this is what was originally promised but it ain't going to happen).  
Well, if you start with the assumption that it ain't going to happen, and then therefore don't even campaign to try and make it happen, then it won't happen. 
Your proposal of 50% is the sort of thing that might happen if a large group lobbies forcefully for 100%. That's the compromising nature of democracy. What you appear to be doing is aiming for the compromise. If you do that, you'll end up with 25%.

10 December 2004, 14:44:04 GMT
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Neil Craig
Roads are a natural monopoly in that once you start dividing up paying for different bits it gets complicated, slow & expensive. What should be done is setting up a non-profit company run by road engineers rather than high court judges & former politicos to divvy up the road Tax cash in line with published figures of road usage. 
In fact Road Tax won't all go to roads (I know this is what was originally promised but it ain't going to happen). However if it could be legally tied down that say 50% of UK Road Tax went to roads & Holyrood was to put on a 10% surcharge for Scotland, entirely contracted for repairs I think this would be useful. Nobody wants to pay more but if they were sure they were getting their money's worth it would be acceptable.

9 December 2004, 19:10:51 GMT
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Sandy P
We can even buy them in the grocery stores.

9 December 2004, 18:21:59 GMT
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Sandy P
I-Pass, people. 
It's wonderful. 
Special booth, don't stop, velcro'd underneath your mirror. 
Automatically charges your credit card when your account is low, unless your cc has expired.

9 December 2004, 18:21:45 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Fair nuff. 
But how do you get around the problem that it is the UK government that collects Vehicle Excise Duty but the City of Edinburgh Council (and presumably several other local authorities in due course) which would collect local road tolls? 
Edinburgh cannot unilaterally abolish VED for its residents. 
In the absence of privatisation and a complete overhaul of the tax system in the foreseeable future I think that road tolling is an attractive way forward. 
I am not party to all the campaigning information locally, and I have no vote in this referendum, but as a son of the burgh I would tend to support a yes vote.

9 December 2004, 13:07:26 GMT
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Andrew Duffin
Stuart, no, no, you misunderstand. I am not for protecting anyone, and agree - as I already said - that roads should be priced. 
All I want to ensure is that we don't pay TWICE. Vehicle Excise Duty was originally intended as a way of raising money for road-building and maintenance. That's why it was first called Road Fund Tax, but they changed the name because it was too much of a giveaway. 
We already pay - and we pay, moreover, about six times what the state actually spends on the road infrastructure. 
Get rid of that flat tax, and THEN introduce per-mile payments or whatever.

9 December 2004, 12:26:18 GMT
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Excise Duty on vehicles is a flat-rate tax. Excise Duty on petrol is not "flat-rate" because you pay a larger bill the more you use the roads service. 
The problem with excise duty is that you pay the same whether you live in Corstorphine or Fionnaphort. In Corstorphine the demand for available road-space is very high, in Fionnaphort it is negligible, so why pay the same annual fee? 
Coucil tax, income tax and VAT are of course very blunt tools for pricing the roads service; far from the "elegant solutions" which David seeks. 
Of all the relevant taxes, petrol tax is the least blunt and most elegant: the more you use the service the more you pay. Road charging is not very elegant, but it is better than the others. 
-"but they need to cut the flat-rate taxes first" 
This is the classic protectionists argument when confronted by the refreshing wind of free trade: "Oh yes, we will reduce barriers to trade, but only once we have had time to ... x, y, z."  
-" may some of us who don't believe that...the resulting revenue will indeed be used to improve public transport." 
Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you just make a plea for more investment in public transport? David Farrar? Surely some mistake.

9 December 2004, 09:47:14 GMT
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Derek Buxton
Where has this strange idea "that we do not pay for the roads" come from. Some people must live on a different planet. We pay "excise duty" and council tax, not to mention the tax every time a car is bought and the excessive duty on fuel. 
Incidently, many do not live where there is a even a minimal public transport system.

8 December 2004, 13:55:44 GMT
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Andrew Duffin
I think we already have road-pricing, except that it's flat-rate, and described as Excise Duty - on both fuel and vehicles. 
I'd support road-pricing, from a free market viewpoint, but they need to cut the flat-rate taxes first, otherwise it is just an additional impost, rather like top-up fees in England.

8 December 2004, 12:13:55 GMT
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Would it not be better to support some road pricing, as opposed to none at all? 
At least it would begin to familiarise road consumers with the concept of paying for the service. Harden them up for the realities of the market.

8 December 2004, 10:33:19 GMT