The new road tax coming to your car...

The Eddington Review has been published and proposes, surprise surprise, a tax per mile for the roads you use. A satellite receiver in your car will track your every move and the government will send you a bill for the roads you use. You can find an e-petition on the Downing Street website.

As soon as we hear that this could raise £28 billion for the government, you can imagine how the momentum to install these little spy boxes in our cars is unstoppable. The government already takes more than £36 billion out of the pockets of road users, so what is another £28 billion to help balance the books.

Apart from the personal liberty questions of having your car constantly tracked, the idea might have some merit IF (and that is a big "if"):
• Fuel tax and road tax were to be abolished prior to the introduction of the new mileage tax.
• The new mileage tax was set such that the average take per road user was no greater.
• The money raised was really going to go into providing better transport infrastructure.

But you just know that none of that is going to happen.
• The government will look on this to take more money out of road users pockets. And, as always, it is well known that it is those on lower incomes who will be hardest hit.
• The Chancellor won't be able to resist taking more money than the current average tax burden.
• The track record of investment in transport in Scotland and throughout the UK gives no confidence to believe the money will be invested in real transport improvements.

Look at the appalling state of transport in Britain compared with most other European countries. Arrive at Amsterdam Airport direct from the dark ages of Aberdeen and you find yourself at an airport with a built-in railway station, where reasonably priced trains will whisk you into the Centraal Station in no time.

In Aberdeen, you might find a bus if you look really hard. The taxi queue will probably be a hundred yards or more long and the rail station is inaccessible round the other side of the airport.

If you get a taxi, or hire a car, it will take you half an hour.... not to get into Aberdeen. That's half an hour to get near the front of the queue for the Haudagain roundabout if you are lucky!

This is the reality of transport in Aberdeen and, indeed, in much of the UK.

It is a joke. Joined up thinking seems to be a scarce commodity.

Talk is cheap and we have been told, for years, about:
• Plans to introduce public transport from the airport.
• Plans to introduce crossrail (that's trains that go across Aberdeen).
• Plans for a third bridge over the Don.
• Plans to upgrade the main rail line between Aberdeen and Edinburgh (CREATE... remember that?)
• Plans to replace the notorious Haudagain roundabout.
• Plans to build "a transport interchange for the 21st Century (not a misplaced shopping centre).
• Plans to sort out the Bridge of Dee (Michael Forsyth promised it was a hot issue when he was Secretary of State and that wasn't yesterday).
• Plans to build a by-pass round Aberdeen (I'll believe it when I see the ribbon being cut).
• Plans to sort out the A96 to inverness.

There are so many plans that the consultants must be very happy, but none of these have actually happened and this is now the 21st Century!

Why would we believe that any new mileage tax would actually result in improved transport facilities?

Faced with that the protagonists come up with other justifications:
1. ENVIRONMENT: Tactic is to make road users feel guilty about driving. The reality is that cars are more efficient and less polluting than much of our public transport, 60% less according to some studies. An express train from London to Edinburgh will use more fuel per seat than the same number in reasonably economical cars. By the time the AWPR is built, new car tailpipe emissions will almost certainly be nothing but pure water.
2. CONGESTION: We are told that we would have to build five times as many roads as are currently proposed, if we don't introduce a mileage tax. Where are all these extra cars going to come from? Car ownership figures in the UK are starting to plateau (road traffic showed no significant growth in Scotland from 2004 to 2005). UK population is not increasing that rapidly. We cannot drive more than one car at a time!
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