Verdict: Could do better

Some good news for motorists. New Transport Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday vowed that the coalition Government would "end the war on motorists”.

Motorists can breathe a sigh of relief that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition have not stuck with the Lib Dem manifesto policy of national road pricing. Hammond promised there would be no road user charging for existing roads but tolls on new roads might be introduced – a Tory manifesto policy.

There is also going to be a consultation on a "fair fuel stabiliser" which could ensure that fuel duty is reduced when world oil prices drop. The Government would also abide by a Tory manifesto promise not to fund any more fixed-position speed cameras. However local authorities could fund them if they had the money. Hopefully local authorities will follow the example set by the coalition government and Swindon Council and move away from funding more fixed position speed cameras as they are not a panacea for road safety.

But it’s not all good news for motorists: the coalition government are committed to a new high-speed rail line, which is very expensive. Projects like Crossrail and the infrastructure for the Olympics are already ongoing. The transport budget is almost certain to face cuts in the fiscal crisis, so it’s promising a lot to commit to another immensely expensive venture. As Matthew Sinclair pointed out, the new high speed rail line will mean huge pressure on the roads and commuter railways that are most overcrowded and perform the vital task of getting people into work in the morning. 

So it looks like the coalition government has recognised motorists should not be treated as cash cows, intending to cushion the blow of high petrol prices and reducing stealth charges like speeding fines. But the government haven’t prioritised road spending, which can carry the most amount of passengers per pound spent. A mixed bag, then, but more needs to be done for motorists if the war is to truly end.

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