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Friendly commute could be the way forward
Last week saw the dawn of a new era for Britain's roads as the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, announced the opening of the first car sharing lane on a UK motorway in a bid to ease congestion and pollution.
The one-mile stretch is set to open next year at the junction of the M606 and M62 near Leeds and is designed only for those vehicles carrying two or more people after it was revealed that 84 per cent of vehicles on this stretch were carrying one lone passenger. It is expected to reduce journey times into Leeds or Bradford by approximately eight minutes and reduce emissions from cars stopping and starting on this busy stretch.
Mr Darling adopted the car sharing scheme after other such successful ones had been trialled in the US.
"If it works in America and works in Australia then there's no reason why it can't work in this country. We cannot build our way out of all the problems we face. If we do something imaginative, if we can encourage people to do something different and it reduces congestion, that seems to me to be a pretty good thing to do," he told the BBC.
This announcement comes at the same time as work begins on another car-sharing lane between junctions seven and ten on the M1 in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, which is due to be fully operational by 2008 and will be enforced through mounted cameras on the affected lanes.
In another attempt to ease congestion and pollution on Britain's roads, road pricing is finally set to become a reality, after over 40 years on the drawing board, in which time congestion on UK roads has continued to multiply and there are now over 28 million cars on the roads.
The planned approach is broadly in-line with the conclusions of the Department for Transport's feasibility study on road pricing that was published in July 2004 and it seems that the impact of road pricing should not be ignored as it has the potential to radically alter our lives.
The anticipated scheme will cover the whole of the UK and would use GPS to locate the exact position of all vehicles, with prices calculated at 2p a mile for deserted stretches and up to £1.30 per mile for the busiest roads.
Although a positive idea on the surface, there have been a number of complaints from critics who think that any reduction in congestion produced by the scheme need not necessarily result in an equivalent reduction in traffic levels. All it will mean is that cars that travel on the more expensive roads will more inclined to drive on the cheaper ones, which seems to defeat the point.
In the longer term it is thought that road pricing could led to a broader population shift as more people move out of towns and cities to avoid high road prices. Paul Hamblin of the Campaign for the Protection for Rural England told the BBC that a scheme that charges by individual roads "would simply shift the problem rather than solve it".
The most recent suggestion to try and ease congestion on Britain's roads was presented by the chancellor, Gordon Brown, in his Budget speech last week where he hiked vehicle excise duty on the UK's most polluting vehicles, or "gas-guzzlers", from £165-70 per year to £210. Drivers with cleaner engines will also see their road tax cut to £40 and the 'greenest' vehicles are set to pay nothing at all.
Focussing on the same idea, those travelling into London every day could save around £1,600 a year by driving a car with reduced emissions. Transport for London is now offering a 100 per cent discount on the £8 per day charge for vehicles on the PowerShift register.
28 Mar 2006