I’m not sure what I did at 2.30am before the Internet was invented, but the other day I stumbled across the Local Transport Bill, which the government had just published. Just a couple of clicks and it was downloaded.
"Traffic areas (1) Section 3 of the PPVA 1981 (traffic areas) is amended as follows. (2) After subsection (2) (orders varying traffic areas) insert— “(2A) The power to make an order under subsection…"
So you have to persevere to see what legislative land mines for motorists are buried in the 125 pages of text.
It seems the government wants to create Integrated Transport Authorities (ITAs) all across England (it’s amazing how much of this proposed legislation doesn’t cover Scotland and Wales). They will replace Passenger Transport Authorities. There are six PTAs already, including Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, and they oversee public transport. The government also wants to see the new ITAs spread more widely across the rest of the country.
All of which sounds fairly sensible. But the Government also wants to see lots of new Traffic Commissioners, Deputy Traffic Commissioners and Senior Traffic Commissioners. Today there are just eight traffic commissioners in England, who are limited to licensing HGV and Public Service Vehicle operators; it seems that they're about to get more powers, and we're about to get a lot more of them.
In Quango-dominated Britain, this has a strong anti-democratic whiff about it. We already have local authorities and local councils, but with the imposition of ‘Integrated Transport Authorities’ covering large regions of the country, backed up by a flood of appointed 'Traffic Commissioners', motorists could be on the receiving end of any number of new policies that nobody voted for, and nobody can vote to get rid of.
And you can guess what the policies might be. The Local Transport Bill makes provision for road charging schemes to be implemented by the ITAs. It also makes provision for ITAs to bring in joint charging schemes together. So, despite the hype that the new Prime Minister has dropped plans for national road charging, he hasn’t. It will proceed by stealth, via the new Integrated Transport Authorities and Traffic Commissioners.
And it gets better. Get a load of these items I looked up:
"97. ‘Abolition of requirement for confirmation of English schemes’
98. ‘Abolition of power to require consultation or inquiries for English schemes’."
I’m no lawyer, but this part of the bill does look like the ITAs will be able to impose road tolls without the need for any kind of public inquiry.
Should any motorist think of trying to dodge payment in this brave new world, the bill also has that covered. It will enable prosecution if a driver has ‘interfered’ with the in-car tolling kit. That’s the windscreen-mounted charge card we’ll all soon be familiar with. This English national tolling kit will also be harmonised, so all the regions use the same technology and payment systems.
Wales is also in the firing line. The bill allows for "the making, operation and enforcement of schemes for imposing charges in respect of the use or keeping of motor vehicles on Welsh trunk roads; (b) the application of the proceeds of charges imposed under such schemes towards purposes relating to transport." So the Welsh trunk roads could also be tolled, and the proceeds diverted directly to subsidise public transport.
Still, if all of that is destined to empty your wallet and raise your blood pressure, there’s a provision in the Local Transport Bill to cover that, as well.
"86. Power to promote well-being."
Not of the hard-pressed motorist, clearly. Read the bill for yourself by clicking here.