TfL's London wide "pie in the sky" satellite road toll hype

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The Register follows up a report in The Times about Transport for London and, presumably Mayor Ken Livingstone's "pie in the sky" plans for satellite technology road tolls within the whole of the M25 area.

"Cars would be equipped with satellite tracking devices and drivers would be charged at different rates depending on how close they came to the centre.

Under the plan, the rate from the outskirts of London to the north and south circular roads would be 16 pence a mile. From these roads to the boundary of the existing charging zone, the rate would be 48 pence a mile. Inside the zone, drivers would be charged 80 pence a mile.

A return journey from one side of London to the other would cost about £15.

Some drivers who commute short distances into the existing zone would pay less than they do under the current congestion charge. But millions of motorists who never drive into the existing charging zone would pay several hundred pounds a year to use their cars in outer London. The scheme, which would come into force in 2015, would collect a total of £3 billion a year from drivers compared with the £180 million they currently pay.

Michelle Dix, TfL's director of congestion charging, said that the scheme would cost between £500 million and £1 billion a year to run. This would leave a profit of at least £2 billion to be invested in transport schemes such as rail tunnels under London and tram systems."

There is no reason to believe Transport for London's claims for "profits". We are still waiting to see the alleged £65 million a year "profit" from the Congestion Charge that should already have been "invested" in London's transport infrastructure. Most of this has gone into the pocket of Capita plc instead.

"Ms Dix said that the scheme would halve congestion across the whole of Greater London.

The existing scheme has cut congestion by 30 per cent inside the zone but had little impact on traffic jams elsewhere."

As pointed out in The Register, Transport for London's claims of a 30% reduction in congestion is really only an 18% reduction in vehicles in the Central Zone.

"Ms Dix said that the scheme depended on expensive satellite technology and would need to be part of a national programme. "But we believe the technology could be ready to introduce it in 2015," she said.

Labour pledges in its current election manifesto to consider introducing road pricing."

Under a "national programme", why would all the "profit" go to London ? Surely the Treasury will nick most of it ?

This "plan" really does seem to be literally "pie in the sky" - it is simply beyond current technology to do this in a city like London.

Existing vehicle tracking systems for commercial vehicles such as Quiktrak or the system used by Zingo taxis have to use their own customised radio beacons and/or mobile phone networks.

There are too many places in London where there is simply no clear line of sight to a satellite.

However it does fit in with part time Transport Minister Alistair Darling's vague plans for road tolls throughout the country, which are also a serious threat to the privacy of the vast majority of innocent motorists.

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