Cars, Motorists And Transport Strategies

Road closed (small) (1.8.05) 001.jpg The debate about whether there should be a toll on the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester must not be hijacked by the pro-car lobby. There are plenty of reasons to treat the idea of motorway charging cautiously, but fundamental questions around sustainabilty of both the environment and the local economy are the real issues which must be addressed, and soon.
Sometimes car drivers just don’t get it.
There’s a new proposal from the Northern Way people that the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester become a toll road. This is to control traffic flow because already there’s gridlock every morning and evening, and in a few years’ time the situation will become untenable.
Instant response
Within two days the usual voices are being raised in opposition to this idea: It’s a tax on motorists! Another government scam to make us all suffer!
Well, actually, it isn’t. It wasn’t the Government’s idea, and in fact quite a few official responses have been along the lines that this should not happen, rather then welcoming the proposal to impose charges. There’s a big debate going on, for instance, about whether traffic calming measures (c.f. the M25) might work, or whether an extra lane could be added at the critical points along the motorway.
And, of course, there’s legitimate concern, articulated by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce amongst others, about how putting an extra cost onto the only serious road route between Manchester and Liverpool would be damaging for trade and economic development.
The wider picture
All fair enough, and important considerations in their own right. But have we grasped the wider picture?
The suggestions now being put forward are based on the belief that the feared ultimate gridlock will occur in about fifteen years’ time; and the proposals are deliberately intended to reduce road traffic, despite the squeals of one or two car-driving letter writers in the Daily Post etc about how this is simply a tax on motorists which will do nothing to reduce traffic.
The reality is rather different: It seems we have about a decade maximum to get the balance right, and to work diligently on bringing together Liverpool’s and Manchester’s public transport systems, both the direct links and the ‘tributaries’.
Sustainability is the key
The debate should not be based on the usual car-owner cries of ‘unfair tax’, but rather about the significant issues which the Liverpool Chamber and others have raised, and about how these fit into a long-term strategy for sustainability in our economies and our environment.
If the Northern Way manages to get this discussion going, it will have done us all a favour.

Posted on August 31, 2006, in Liverpool And Merseyside, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Note from Hilary: What’s the position / potential of the Liverpool – Manchester Concordant in all this? ……
    Manchester and Liverpool to sign joint concordat
    NWDA Media Release
    26 September 2001
    A unique strategy will be unveiled today at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, which will forge closer links between the cities of Manchester and Liverpool.
    Regional Development experts recognise that Liverpool and Manchester must build on their joint working to boost the North West economy as a whole.
    Today, the City Leaders signed a joint concordat in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. John Prescott, resulting from a study commissioned by the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) and the City Councils of Liverpool and Manchester.
    Over the past year the NWDA and Liverpool and Manchester City Councils have worked successfully with public and private partners from both cities on the joint Liverpool-Manchester Vision Study, led by Professor Alan Harding of the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) at the University of Salford.
    The study is the first ever to investigate the links between the two metropolitan areas, how they contribute to the regional economy, and how partnership and collaboration between the two can be developed in the future.
    The study has identified areas of complementary activity where Manchester’s role as a regional capital can be married with Liverpool’s unique attributes and distinctive economic strengths.
    Cllr. Mike Storey OBE– Leader Liverpool City Council said: “We must retain our particular identities, but the civic rivalry between the North West’s two great cities of Liverpool and Manchester is a thing of the past.
    “In a rapidly shrinking world, it is ridiculous for our two cities – just 30 miles apart – to be competing for Government and European grants, tourist development, inward investment or even a media profile. We have complementary assets and a shared interest in working together to help bring success for our cities – and for the North West as a whole.
    Liverpool and Manchester together can also help our region become a strong counterweight to the power and influence of the South East. The Concordat is a step forward – but we must make sure that our united approach is worth more than just the paper it is written on.”
    Cllr. Richard Leese CBE – Leader Manchester City Council said: “Manchester and Liverpool can use each others’ distinctive strengths and complement each other to improve life for everyone in the North West. Cities are the driving force for economic prosperity and we must built on the unique and complementary attributes of Manchester and Liverpool to make the North West region an attractive place for people to live and for companies to invest.”
    Cllr. Mike Doyle JP – Deputy Chairman of the Northwest Development Agency, added: “In the recent past, the region suffered as Liverpool and Manchester struggled to overcome the legacy of older industrial decline. However the steady revival of the two cities over the past decade, and particularly the boom conditions of the last two or three years, has brought major benefits to the region. We believe if the two cities collaborate in key areas, playing to their respective strengths, there is even greater scope for the development of the cities for the benefit of the region as a whole.”
    Alan Harding, Professor of Urban and Regional Governance at the Centre for Sustainable Urban & Regional Futures, (SURF), University of Salford, commented: “This study confirms the critical role of Liverpool and Manchester in the North West economy as a whole and suggests that greater collaboration between the two cities in certain key areas could create new sources of competitive advantage that would help boost regional and, in turn, national economic performance. In particular, the ‘knowledge-based’ industries will become increasingly important in the 21st century global economy, and our study shows that Liverpool and Manchester are already the regional hubs for this activity and need to build upon this position in the future”.
    PLACE: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester DATE: Wednesday 26th September 2001 TIME: 10. 05AM
    Signing of concordat witnessed by the Rt. Hon. John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, between Cllr Mike Doyle, NWDA Deputy Chairman, Cllr. Richard Leese, Leader Manchester City Council and Cllr. Mike Storey Leader Liverpool City Council

  2. I find it a little peculiar that the North West Regional Assembly says that it sees the argument for road-user charging but does not want to be the area where this is trialled. “Fair enough, no one wants to be the guinea pig” some may say but this is dodging the issue. The North West was once the great power-house of transport in the world – from transatlantic shipping to the railways. Nowadays, those leaders with vision have long since gone, to be replaced by a concern only for appeasement of the voting public (an ever-diminishing lot at local level).
    I have some sympathy for the view that Stephen Pearse from Liverpool Chamber gives such as the problems experienced by rail at Manchester (Piccadilly is a real pinch point for rail services from Liverpool and some investment should be put toward remedying that). With all the complaints that come from Manchester receiving more investment than Liverpool, how funny that more investment in Manchester would benefit us. Reducing speed limits is another intelligent comment from Stephen – cars use 30% less fuel travelling at 50mph compared to 70mph.
    However, I remain concerned at the Chamber’s overall approach, to which I will return later. I likewise think that we are all running away from the crucial issue – time is fast running out to develop a solution. Waiting for the world to be perfect is not tackling the problem. We have problems now – even aside from climate change.
    Essentially, aside from absurd claims of it being a tax on motorists, the main complaint people have with congestion charging is the idea (often not substantially backed up with fact) that traffic will be displaced onto other roads. This is viewed as a bad thing. In fact, the argument can be made that it is a good thing.
    If cars are trundling past your door 24/7 it may force people to face up to the fact that there are externalities involved in driving. For too long people have complained about traffic on their doorstep whilst believing they personally should be free to drive wherever they like. It is hypocrisy. Forcing cars onto more residential roads may finally make people realise what kind of society we are creating and the problems that are usually hidden away.
    Personally I don’t want that – I would like people to make the rational choice before this point is reached. I fear that may not happen. I realise the dangers of traffic being forced onto such roads, however, it may take such brutal ways to convince people to change. I can see it now though if such a policy were adopted. We would be treated to an ill-informed response that owes more to the NIMBY mentality than an area of Britain that was once visionary in its approach to transport.
    Returning to the claim that this is yet another tax on motorists – do people not actually read what the real proposals are? No one has suggested that road user-charging will be on top of current vehicle and fuel duties. The aim is to essentially replace them with a pay as you go system. Of course, the claim then comes that it is the poor and those least able to afford it who will suffer. Are they not suffering already?
    Those rich enough generally move away from traffic. It is the poor who are often left to face the pollution and road traffic accidents usually created by others and not themselves. Children from the poorest households are five times more likely than those from rich ones to be in a road accident. It may sound emotive, it may seem far fetched but there is a very good case to be put that the poor pay with their lives for society’s unfettered car use.
    Likewise, air travel (a convenient point as it is the airport’s growth that is regarded as one of the main reasons for increases in traffic on the M62). Great play is made of the idea that the poor will lose out if air travel becomes more expensive. The truth is that it is usually the better off in society who are using the budget airlines and taking advantage of cheap air travel. The poor don’t as there is more to travelling than just your air fare. (They still have to find accommodation and spending money etc). It is yet another excuse by those driven by self-interest using “the poor” as an excuse to subsidise their own lifestyles.
    People are right to demand a better public transport system as the Chamber have stated. As a regular user of virtually all modes, I believe that customer service has been steamrollered by the thirst for profits. It is myopic on behalf of the operators. How can companies such as Arriva and StageCoach post such massive profits whilst operating bus fleets that are depressing and standards on board that are third-rate? And that’s even after the notable investment that has gone into the fleets. Well, I think we can see how those profits are made!
    Perhaps Liverpool Chamber, rather than simply saying we need a better public transport system may wish to speak to its members – Arriva North Western, Merseyrail Electrics, Virgin Trains and Glenvale (trading as Stagecoach Merseyside) are those Liverpool Chamber members that strangely spring to mind. Erosion of trust, it seems, is not confined to politicians alone!
    Hilary mentions an additional lane is a proposal that some have put forward on certain motorways. That tends never to solve anything. The M25 was opened in 1986 (that may surprise some as many think it is as old as the hills). It exceeded its long term forecast traffic growth within months of opening. The truth is; building additional roadspace brings extra traffic. The pro-road lobby have never been able to address this issue and prefer to ignore it. Burying your head in the sand does not enlightenment bring.
    Will we see a day when the ‘needs of the motorist’ give way to the ‘needs of the people’? Will we be able to smash the petty mindset of so many in this country that dismisses change simply because it is change?
    And I am not oblivious to the need many people have for cars as their principle mode of transport. The recent report by DPTAC is an indication of this (and the need for disabled people in particular to be consulted on proposals such as these that are being mooted here). However, the truth is that people fall into a downward spiral where they believe they are reliant on their car and so become increasingly reliant on it. We still have a quarter of all car journeys at less than 2 miles! 59% are less than 5 miles.
    People distrust the motives behind road-user charging. Politicians, both national and local, should take some responsibility – it is on them that I lay the blame of a lack of trust to do things for the right reasons. However, I have been impressed a little by the soundings coming from Douglas Alexander as of late. Perhaps we will witness a change from hereon in? However, we the people must also accept our own responsibility for the state we are in. By doing so, we may just realise that it is only ourselves who will drag us out of this.
    There is a need to be bold, to face down the voices who oppose tackling car use as they fail to see the bigger picture. Livingstone has shown one way and there are others out there. It will take strong leadership and a collective will. We can do it. In fact, we must.

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