Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Road to hell

When Alistair Darling's proposals to introduce road pricing in the UK were previewed earlier in the week, there was cautious support from the Tory shadow transport secretary Alan Duncan said to the Today Programme on Radio 4:
'I think it is a vision for the future ...We have more cars in the same amount of space so we do have a problem with congestion.'
Tom Brake for the Liberal Democrats (an appropriately named spokesman, if ever there was one) added his support:
'We see it as far fairer. It taxes car usage, not car ownership'
So we have an innovative policy - not without civil liberties problems, to be fair - but it seems to have a degree of cross-party support. Not only would it have an impact on traffic jams, it would also help to relieve the environmental cost of driving and make people think more about their journeys. These sort of decisions aren't easy, but as we know, natural resources are not limitless and tough decisions have to be taken for the greater good. Better public transport will help - although with a council currently committed to ripping up bus lanes and twiddling their thumbs over extending the Midlands Metro light rail system, there's no sign of that in Birmingham. Public transport alone only stands to cut journeys by about 10%, but this road pricing option could offer 40% cuts.

So, to Birmingham and a city blighted by congestion and at risk of grinding to a halt within a generation. After much consideration, there came the response of the Tory councillor in charge of being nice to car drivers from Sutton Coldfield transportation. With all the wisdom conferred by his office, Len Gregory spoke:
'I think it would be unpopular and almost certainly seen as unfair and the figures don't seem to add up.'
Nice one, Len and about as forward looking as we have come to expect from this less-than-competent bunch currently running our city. He's learnt something from all that time spent with the LibDems, though - never agree with national policy if it could cost you votes locally, no matter what the cost.

So we know the Tory/Liberal Democrat policy - no improvements to public transport and more congestion. That's a great offer. As Sir Albert Bore (Labour group leader on the council) put it the other day
'Birmingham is not seen as a city which is pushing ahead... there is a sense that Birmingham has lost its way'

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