Mike Waters' blog: 9 May 2011 - Crying out for options
09 May 2011
Mike Waters is head of market analysis at Arval
While no one likes paying tax, we understand why it must happen and the need to generate funds that will hopefully benefit us all. However, there seem to be some pockets in society that provide an easier target than most others, namely drivers.
I would never disagree that congestion and pollution are two things that need to be addressed, and understand why Government is trying to achieve these objectives through the development of a more balanced low carbon transport infrastructure. However, with so many people relying on their cars, not just to get from A to B, but also for their livelihood, over taxation has broad implications.
One such move to discourage the use of the car is the introduction of workplace parking levies. There was a great deal of publicity around the Nottingham scheme which led the way in the UK, expected to raise around £14 million a year for public transport improvements. Now Bristol is getting in on the act and has announced that a City Centre scheme will go live within a "couple of years". Expected to charge £1 a space per day for city-centre workplace parking, it should generate £3 to 4 million a year.
And don't expect Bristol to be the last as a host of other cities, including Liverpool, keep a close eye on developments. Councils are looking to raise funds in a difficult climate of budget cuts while also targetting improvements in their carbon footprint and workplace parking seems to provide a clear way of aligning the two.
So I understand the rationale and I understand that the money can be put to good use on sustainable transport solutions, but in the meantime what I don't agree with are the lack of viable alternatives. If you live within a couple of miles of the office then yes, it's easy to walk, cycle or get the bus. However, for those of us with a longer commute, or who need to use a car during the working day, the options aren't as practical.
Commuting by train is extremely expensive, at commuter time it's difficult to get a seat, and many of us have to drive to and from the station anyway. Buses aren't a lot of use on long journeys because they are irregular, and time consuming. Cycling is impossible for anyone living more than a few miles away from the office or those who have to travel to meetings during the day.
So all I ask is if tax on drivers is to continue to increase at the current pace, that the funds raised are pumped back into the transport system, and quickly (and yes this includes roads). Train travel should be policed to ensure that the service meets the cost and drivers should be given realistic options to make alternative modes slightly more realistic.
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