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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Is Nottingham's tram tax affordable?

Residents who use public transport to travel to and from their jobs may wonder why there’s such a fuss over the proposed workplace parking levy.

This week, city businesses threatened to hit Labour in the ballot box at the local elections in 2010 if they go ahead with the scheme, which is designed to raise money to pay for the extension of Nottingham’s tram system and other public transport improvements.

Some even claimed that the levy could force them to leave the city and hard up local companies lament that they will have little choice but to pass the charge on to their staff. Clearly, for low paid workers that could cause hardship.
But public transport users will find it hard to join in with the hand wringing displayed by the business leaders.

After all, most of us who work in central Nottingham don’t have a parking space. In many firms, where there is car parking, the slots are reserved for senior managers, who could well afford the £185 a year if the levy is introduced in April 2010. Even when it increases to £350 a year in 2013, as proposed, it will be well below what most city workers spend on bus fares now.

I currently shell out up to £600 a year to travel from Beeston to Nottingham and back on the bus each day. This sum entitles me to endure lengthy delays on University Boulevard most nights as we sit in traffic jams full of cars with just one occupant.

Most people would agree that action must be taken to combat congestion, not least because another 60,000 homes are due to be built in the Nottingham area during the next two decades. Public transport improvements are going to be vital and the money must be raised somehow. Charging people who want to retain the privilege of driving into the city for work is one way to do it.

Of course, no one likes to pay more and car drivers already stump up for car tax, fuel, maintenance etc etc. But let’s keep the costs in perspective.

Charles Walker
Political Editor

For more Notts political stories and analysis go to the Evening Post's dedicated politics website


PJ said...

Yes, the Levy is a small price to pay for Nottingham's sustainable future; one I am willing to pat to help bring the tram to West Bridgford. The Council is making a positive step. Many employers are already working with the Council to reduce car use for the common good.

Mr B J Mann said...

Yes, let's put the costs into perspective.

Motorists fork out £50 BILLION in ADDITITONAL taxation. Hardly any of that actually gets spent on the roads. In fact, most of what little is claimed to be "invested" in them actually goes on strangling the roads with things such as bus lanes and pavement widenings, often going so far that they meet in the middle!

And despite there being hundreds of thousands of miles of roads, only a few thousand miles of railway, and most commuting and transport being by car or truck, as much is spent, effectively out of motorists taxes, on often privately owned "public" transport as is supposedly "invested" on the whole road system.

Your bus fare is largely subsidised by motorists. Your tram fare will be massively subsidised by motorists.

Your delays are not caused by motorists, but by lack of investment, and even the deliberate introduction of congestion creating measures.

Have you never wondered why there is always a queue of traffic preventing your bus pulling away from its built out bus stop? It's because it is stuck behind the bus in front stopped at its built out bus stop!

So, when you drive all the motorists onto the buses and trams: who is going to subsidise your fare then (not to mention the rest of the Treasury budget)? They won't rob the NHS budget to do it, will they? They won't even sack transgender discrimination outreach co-ordination facilitators, will they? Because they won't need to.

And guess what happened in the States to uneconomic trams. They turned them into luxury vehicles for ViPs charging premium fares.

You're used to shelling out £600 a year. Drivers are used to shelling out TEN TIMES as much, AND MORE, despite their "free" parking. Let's see how happy you will be when public transport is competing for ex-drivers' custom and you are hit with increased fares to suit.

And do you seriously think that two senior managers, equally qualified, equally experienced, working for two comparable firms, would be paid an identical salary if one had a parking space reserved for him at the office, and the other had to make his own arrangements? The one with the space pays for it with a reduced salary reflecting the value of guaranteed parking on the doorstep. If people can't grasp such a simple economic truth, is it any wonder they fall for the spin about the WPL?!

Mr B J Mann said...

As even the trendy-lefty, woolly-liberal, Guardianista Rowntree Foundation acknowledges, "running a car can account for between a fifth and a quarter of all expenditure in households in the lowest income bracket", "The equivalent figure for the next fifth of the population is 18 per cent" and identified "groups of low-income motorists, especially those working unsocial hours or living in remote rural areas, whose employment and quality of life would be severely damaged without a car. Women in low paid work with limited time to make multi-purpose trips – such as getting themselves and other family members to and from work or school are another group".

This left leaning charity went on to highlight "objections to policies intended to increase the cost of car use that are voiced strongly by low-income car owners and non-owners alike" and that "There was widespread animosity to pricing policies designed to restrict car use, such as workplace parking charges and congestion charging".

A 75p a day extra tax on top of what motorists are already paying may not seem like much to a newspaper editor, but several hundred pounds a year, even before the inevitable increases, and the follow on CONgestion Charge, is a massive amount to those without access to convenient public transport and already struggling to get to work to support themselves when they would probably be better off on benefits in the crazy world the national version of out local ruling party have created.

Mr B J Mann said...

Oh, and what congestion? I suggest the Editor has a chat with the Post archivist and gets some old copies of the paper out. A few years ago the council was boasting about how it was keeping traffic levels constant. Then it crowed at an international "transport" "planning" conference, reported in the Post, about how traffic had been cut by 30% in the inner city. More recently they have been proclaiming phenomenal reductions 85% or more was it, in the centre. So if traffic levels are plummeting, how come congestion is getting so bad we have to have all these taxes to cure it?

Mr B J Mann said...

Charles Walker, the Post's Political Editor, raised "Doubts Over City's Vision For The Future" in his July 26 Column. The vision, as it stands, he says, omits vital ingredients, and asks where is the commitment to public transport.

According to him "Nottingham has successfully limited car use in recent years while other cities have supposedly seen more congestion. The city could build on that success and the enthusiasm of residents and businesses, and it could state its aim to be a national leader in public transport".

He's certainly right when he admits "I am nailing my colours to the mast"! However, I thought he'd already done that in his blog entry "Is Nottingham's tram tax affordable?" where he clearly thinks the answer is not just yes, but more trams too, please, that'll teach those toffs in their limo's.

A few years ago a study put Nottingham at the bottom of the UK's major cities for transportation, despite it coming top for public transport spending. The reason? Its appaling road system!

Since then we have had even more road narrowings and even closures, and a host of other deliberate congestion creating measures.

No wonder then that despite the council's boasts that it had kept traffic levels steady, then cut them by 30% in town, and now even to have reduced them by 85% in most of the centre, they still complain that they need more such measures to cut ever increasing congestion.

Is Mr Walker claiming that traffic reductions of 85% are causing congestion? Then I hope he agrees with me that it is clearly not cars that are causing congestion. And so it is not cars that are blocking his beloved bus.

It's the counter-productive attempts to drive motorists out of their cars. The ones he is using his privileged position at the Post to promote!

peter's blog said...

In reply to BJ Mann The Los Angeles Tram system was bought and closed down by a consortium involving General Motors, Standard Oil California, which is now Chevron, and Goodyear tyres. They took advantage of antitrust regulation that was forcing the electricity companies to sell off companies that used electricity such as the tram companies. Tram systems continued to thrive in many European cities such as Brussels and provide cheap, clean and effective transportation for millions.
The Nottingham parking levy will cost less than £1 per working day . This is one eighth of the London congestion charge and less than the increase in bus fares in the past decade.

It is clear that cities like Nottingham grind to a halt when they fill up with cars in the rush hour. What other method for rationing unnecessary use does BJ Mann propose? said...

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