Nick’s Blog

Archive for December, 2009

Getting back in touch

by Nick on Dec.03, 2009, under Blogging

Many, many years ago I worked in the UK for a company in Birmingham. I was only there for around eight months but I still have great memories of the time and especially how friendly my colleagues were. A good example was on the first day when another colleague accidentally walked off with my coat and keys to the car making driving home impossible. Possibly this is the reason that to this day I never leave my coat on a shared coat stand. (continue reading…)

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Big brother is watching us

by Nick on Dec.03, 2009, under On The Road

Every morning I travel along the A4 to work and every evening back again. I try to travel really early (before 7am) to avoid the rush hour. A few days ago we received a letter at home saying they had been monitoring the road and could I fill in a form asking about my journey. My reaction to this is scepticism, on the face of this it is just a survey to find out when and why people are travelling. But frankly my problem with this is as follows.

There are two ways to ease congestion, one is to make sure the roads are wide enough to cope with everyone that wants to use the road. If this is the case then you do not need to know why someone is travelling, all you need to do is look at the road and get an idea of how much traffic is using the road and how much more room will be needed to allow the traffic to flow freely. Of course if you make a road wider then more people will be inclined to use it and often that will mean widening again.

The other way to reduce congestion is to tax people off the road so that only those with deep pockets or a desperate need can use the roads. Schemes in the UK have shown that this works nicely and if the money were ploughed into the infrastructure of public transport then I think I’d be OK with this. The government here in the Netherlands are now introducing something called rekeningrijden. What it means is you pay for every kilometre you travel and then you pay extra round some of the bigger cities to travel in the rush hour.

A way to look at this is that those with the ability to pay will have the roads cleared of troublesome poor people so they can get to work more quickly. Well I have another idea, perhaps you could have a tariff that is directly proportional to the environmental impact of the vehicle.  The more polluting vehicles will pay more while the smaller cleaner vehicles will perhaps even go free. This alone would clear out some of the larger polluters (the ones most people want to see off the road) but I’d go further. Buying your access to the road would be in the form of a smart card that gives you so much credit. You are not allowed to top up the card beyond a certain limit.  For a small clean vehicle this limit might be enough to do a months travel round town but for larger vehicle it might mean topping up two or three times a week. So for those that travel huge distances in large vehicles they might even find themselves having to stop in while filling up with petrol to top up the card. Naturally there might have to be some exceptions such as for buses and goods vehicles but not for lease cars.

So back to my survey. Why do they need to know the purpose of my journey? Well I’m guessing that they are wanting to know if the morning rush hour has started. How would you define that? Well if everyone (or the majority of people) travelling at a particular time are doing so for work then it must be the rush hour yes? This would then allow the government to say “Ha, Mr Askew, you were travelling in the rush hour so come on pay up.”. It will not matter when I travel, the fact that I am travelling for work means as long as enough other people are then it is the rush hour. So frankly what business is it of the government why I am travelling. There job is to provide an infrastructure that allows us to live and not simply impose another scheme that hands to those that have at the expense of the have nots.

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