Reported in the papers today that a leaked document indicates that the government are planning to introduce legislation to impose road pricing schemes to combat congestion. Likely regions include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Tyne and Wear. Unlike the London congestion charge, these schemes would involve the use of "black boxes" in each car, so that drivers can be sent a bill for driving on the roads they paid for and already own.
You'd have thought they'd have realised by now that road pricing is unfair, unpopular and ineffective, and that a realistic alternative already exists - public transport. If public transport was clean, reliable and ran where we wanted to go and when we wanted to go there, we'd use it. On the continent they've known this for years. Many cities have wonderful tram systems that work like a dream and are cheap as chips. The GOS almost got knocked down by a tram in Zurich once. He was saved at the last minute by a kindly Swiss gentleman who pulled him back just in time. The GOS hadn't heard it coming - the damn thing was not only clean and reliable, it was silent!
In Holland, students travel for nothing, which hopefully gets them into the habit of leaving the car at home. Why are we so outrageously thick in this country that we can't recognise that public transport should be a public service for the benefit of the community, not a profit-making business? The railways have hardly made a profit for the last hundred years, not even in the days when they were proper railways with a proper service that covered the whole country - not just a sort of land-bound airline with an incomprehensible fare-structure.
So far as congestion in large cities is concerned, the GOS has his own scheme which would be cheap, fair and should do the trick quite well. It doesn't involve advanced technology, satellites or any of those doomed computer systems the government loves so much.
All you do is decide on the area you wish to protect from heavy traffic, and close off most of the roads leading into it. On the few that remain open, put two lots of traffic lights. One lane is for buses, delivery lorries, taxis and emergency vehicles and operates just like any other set of traffic lights. The other is for cars, and in this lane the lights go to green only long enough to allow two or three cars each time.
Car drivers will still be able to visit the city centre, and won't have to have a special permit or pay any fee. They might even be able to park. But it will take them a long time to get in, and a long time to get out. Fuming queues will build up at first, no doubt, but sooner or later they'll get the message and find some other way of travelling.
It would be really nice if that could be by tram, and dirt cheap, but let's be realistic. This is England, after all, where we can't ever do the sensible thing. And that, of course, is the reason why the GOS's idea won't ever catch on. It's far too intelligent for us, and won't provide hundreds of jobs for nasty little jobsworths. No, not our cup of tea at all ….
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