Sunday 1 June 2008

The news

Extreme violence on the roads continues to be marginalized. Last Sunday four people were killed on Scotland's roads. The total was repeated today with Four 18-year-olds killed in a car crash in Buckinghamshire. Also this weekend there was a multiple vehicle crash on the M5 near Tewkesbury in which three people died.

The sufferings of the road haulage industry: Our lorries only do about six to eight miles to the gallon.

In reality

since 2005 the cost of motoring has fallen 4% in real terms. There's a good reason for this: in 2000, with hauliers blockading refineries and threatening worse, the government scrapped the fuel duty escalator which tried to limit demand for petrol by keeping the price rising above inflation. Eight years later, and we're all paying the price, as drivers drive more miles per year and CO2 from transport goes up and up. Even with the inflation-linked (pdf) 2p rise in October (and 1.84p in April 2009) fuel duty will still remain 11% lower in real terms than it was in 1999. The cost of motoring fell 10% in real terms between 1997 and 2006, while the cost of travelling by rail and bus increased by 6% and 13%, respectively. No wonder people feel they have no alternative but to drive.

But if driving is getting cheaper, the costs to society are going through the roof. Pollution from traffic chokes our cities, while 3,300 people are killed every year in road traffic collisions. Fear of other drivers leads parents to lock their kids in the car for the half-mile drive to school. Our waistlines bulge because we've stopped walking anywhere. Our roads are becoming ever more congested as traffic levels increase and one quarter of our CO2 emissions are generated by road transport. Cheaper fuel won't tackle these problems - it will just make things worse.

A driver was killed following a 'road rage' fight on the hard shoulder of the M1.

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson

has admitted driving at an incredible 186mph on public roads! But the motoring motormouth got away with it - and in fact has not been pulled over for speeding for at least 20 years, he told an audience at the Hay on Wye Festival.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's principal speaker

warned that backing down over fuel duty would be "unforgivably short-termist". She said: "If the Government will not take action to reduce oil demand, it will set us up for a Seventies-style oil shock, and more. The only prudent thing to do is to stay the course on fuel duty, while rapidly investing in alternatives to reduce demand.

The great Oyster penalty charge scam. (I’ve been charged the full penalty fare on my Oyster. When I rang up to find out why – the usual labyrinthine process – I was told I must have jumped over a gate at Oxford Circus.Which was crap.)

Transport bosses have pocketed £32million in penalty fares from passengers using Oyster cards who forget to "tap out" at stations. City Hall chiefs last year banked more than £33million in "uncompleted" Oyster card journey fares on the Tube and DLR, but only issued £1 million in refunds. The rest has remained in Transport for London's coffers.

Expensive petrol is GOOD:

Essentially, the Government could promise to keep petrol expensive by raising taxes, even if global oil prices collapsed as they did in the mid-1980s. Only if high and rising petrol prices are recognised as a permanent fact of life will drivers and businesses adjust their behaviour.

Madness on the roads:

A mother has revealed how she watched her two young sons die moments after a devastating road crash caused by 'boy racers'. Pam Tut's car was hit head-on by a Ford Sierra, which flew in the air over the brow of a railway bridge at more than 100 mph while being chased by a motorcyclist.