PM Emails Road Pricing Signatories – (Tony’s Response from Number 10)

Road Pricing Response

Well like millions of other brits who had signed the petition (and who had given a valid email address {now to be added to the MI5/6 list of ‘people to keep an eye on department‘}), I received my reply from Tony Blair.

21 February 2007

Tony Blair has written a reply to more than 1.7 million people who signed a petition on the Downing Street website against road pricing.

The petition, created by Peter Roberts from Shropshire, has been by far the most popular on our e-petitions site since it was launched last November.

In his reply, the PM sets out the government’s views on national road pricing, stressing that no decision has yet been made. Mr Blair says he sees the petition and his email as “the beginning, not the end” of the debate.

Read the full response on the .

Good or Bad Response?

Well to be honest, I think it was quite a good reply. (And don’t even think for one minute I am a Blair fan).

After all, the thing that started was a call for discussion, not a statement from the government that they were actually introducing the scheme.

Do we really need a scheme?

Despite me being a fan of Hammy, Clarkson and the ‘Slow One’ (May), I take their comments as attempts at humour when they go on about damage to the environment from cars etc. Only a fool can ignore the damage being done to the environment, and yes, whilst our cars might not be the single biggest threat, we have to start looking somewhere.

I have 3 young kids and what I do now to the environment is my legacy to them.

So do we need a scheme? Yes I think we do. 
Is the ‘road pricing scheme’ that sparked the nearly 2 million hits the way forward? No, I don’t think so.

Why I think it is a bad idea?

Whilst we do have technology at the moment that will allow us to track vehicles, doing this on a large scale would be expensive.  It will be a few years yet before technology exists at a cheap enough price that will overcome the many problems with the suggested system.

Why not use the ‘KISS’ principle and keep it simple (stupid).

Worried about big brother?

A lot was made about the possible implications of big brother watching over us, being able to track us and ultimately knowing where we are at any time of the day.
That was just ‘hype’ and ‘scare tactics’ being used by those opposed to the scheme for no other reason than simply being opposed to it.
For example, I can bet that nearly all of those people that signed the petition for this reason all have a mobile phone which can be tracked in exactly the same one, but you don’t see them being worried about that.  In fact mobile phones are a damn site worse than cars, because I don’t take my car everywhere I go, I tend to leave my car somewhere and walk the last bit of foot, but my phone is never more than a few feet away from me.
So there isn’t really a big brother aspect to the road charging scheme as suggested in the many emails that were passed around.
In fact the emails that were being sent could even have provided more information about the user than a car tracking system ever could.

We already have tracking systems in use today, although not widespread across the UK.  For the past few years, MOT, Road Tax and Insurance records have all be linked via computer systems.  Add to that the new Tetra Police Radio Network that has a much higher data transfer rate it has led to a number of new systems being made available to them, (sort of like the police moving from dial up to broadband access whilst on their ‘beat’).

One such system which is a mobile based unit basically scans the number plate of a car going past them (much like a speed camera unit).  The registration details are then read, decoded, uploaded to a central server where the MOT, Road Tax and Insurance details are checked.  The results are then downloaded to a unit positioned further along the road. 

At present these mobile units are placed at large gatherings in the UK basically forming a ring fence around the venue. (So for example a match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, or perhaps a Cliff Richard Conference in Bournemouth 😉 ).

The point is, it wouldn’t actually take much effort to mount a few of these cameras on all major roads and already you have a system of tracking people in real time.  Of course this relies on the information being on the system in the first place, and again, it only tracks the car, not the person. It doesn’t tell you who is driving the car.

UK Road Charges – Alternative Solution?

A few months ago when the UK government was talking about the proposed ‘pay-as-you-drive‘ scheme I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about.

The following is an excerpt from today’s BBC News web site:

More road-charging debate pledged

The transport secretary has pledged to listen to opponents of the introduction of UK road charging.

Douglas Alexander said he will hear the concerns of more than a million people who signed a petition opposing pay-as-you-drive road charges.

The government has insisted that doing nothing would lead to a 25% increase in congestion in less than a decade.

But Mr Alexander said it was important to have a proper debate on the subject and consider a range of views.

The petition, which is the most popular on the Downing Street web site, calls for the scrapping of the “planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy”.

It was posted by Peter Roberts, from Telford, Shropshire, who describes charging as an “unfair tax”.

Mr Roberts – whose petition broke through the million-signature barrier on Saturday – believes charging is unfair on poor people and those who live apart from their families.

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6352957.stm

I signed the petition because I don’t agree with the methods they are discussing in tackling the problem with our transport system.
(Road charging petition).

I am not against the policy because of the big brother fears that have been expressed by certain groups, but because I think there must be a much better, more simpler approach that could be taken.

We all know that most people in the UK would be against extra taxes, because no one likes to pay any more tax than they currently do.
So I wouldn’t put it past the government if the current proposals are designed to instill the fear of big brother tactics in the UK people.
But given the governments history on the Air Traffic Control System, the NHS Super Computer Network and the National ID Card scheme, I wouldn’t rule out the idea that they would waste billions more on a such a difficult scheme to implement such as the pay-as-you-drive‘ scheme.

Forgetting about the ‘big brother’ idea, just the technology required to track and charge every single vehicle on the road would require something far beyond what we have at present.
There is technology available now that would come close, but how do you make it reliable enough.
For example if the system required having a device in my car that tracks where I drive, how long before someone places the transmitter/receiver in some sort of Faraday cage that restricts the signal between the vehicle and the satellite system.
What happens during times of bad weather that reduces the signal quality.
These are just small problems that the system would have to overcome.

The trials performed by the BBC ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6160174.stm ) showed charges of up to £2,338 a year for one driver.

Continue reading “UK Road Charges – Alternative Solution?”