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Road toll idiocy should be rejected outright

 

RAM - Residents Action Movement
Media release 25 August 2008


'Road toll idiocy should be rejected outright' says RAM


"National and Labour are showing themselves to be political twins when it comes to transport policy. Both parties want more extravagant motorways, and to pay for them they want to inflict road tolls on city drivers," said Roger Fowler, RAM's transport spokesperson.

National MP Maurice Williamson's "exuberant" clammer for $50 a week toll charges, with support from Auckland mayor John Banks, has revealed National's real intentions: to build more roads and tunnels, and shove the cost onto road users.

Labour's transport minister Annette King fully supports road tolls. Her only quibble is that the toll might be set "so high that people won't use the road".

"This is a bit of a dilemma when you're embarking on a grand plan to spend over $7 billion on a maze of new motorways, bridges and tunnels in the Auckland region, as Labour is," said Roger Fowler.

"The push for tolls from both Labour and National flies in the face of public opinion. Aucklanders have overwhelmingly rejected road tolls in all public opinion surveys."

"Working families are already struggling to pay the bills. This toll madness will put them under intolerable pressure."

"And it's double madness because of the seriousness of the climate change threat. All our energies should be going into reducing vehicle emissions, a major contributor to global warming."

"Rather than piling idiocy on idiocy, we need immediate and bold political action on the twin problems of traffic gridlock and climate change," said Roger Fowler.

RAM's common sense solution is for government cash earmarked for motorway expansion to be diverted into funding new networks of free and frequent public transport in main cities. This move, coupled with a carbon-offset charge on airport arrivals and hotel bookings, will be a major step towards rolling back carbon pollution and tackling global warming.

This achievable and innovative action will catch the attention of other countries and could spark world-wide efforts to slash traffic congestion, oil consumption and vehicle emissions.

At the start of this month the Thai government introduced free buses and trains in Bangkok for a six month trial to help low-income earners. (More info in backgrounder below.)

"If a third world country like Thailand can afford free public transport, why can't New Zealand?" asked Roger Fowler.

Free and frequent public transport in our main cities is one of RAM's "Ten Commandments" that will be the focus of RAM's election campaign.

Backed by the enrolment of 3,000 new RAM members over the last few months, RAM is standing a substantial party list in the upcoming election as well a number of electoral candidates across the country.


For more info, contact Roger Fowler:
021 2999491
mangere.east.access@paradise.net.nz


Backgrounder

Thailand: Free transit services by bus, rail launched to help low-income earners

from MCOT, Malaysia, 1 August 2008

A new Thai government-sponsored package containing six measures designed to assist the low-income public, including both free bus and train fares for six months, was launched on Friday.

Acting State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Thawil Samnakhon said on Modernine TV Friday morning that he expected the free rides which are now being offered on third-class and non-air-conditioned trains would increase the daily passenger volume between 15-20 per cent as compared to previous ridership.

Assessment of traffic routes which are most heavily used by travelers will be conducted so that the SRT could increase its services to cope with passenger demand, he said.

The SRT is expected to lose about Bt250 million in revenue, Mr. Thawil said, but the government will help pay for the losses.

Meanwhile, Pinet Puapattanakul, director of the state-run Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), said his agency had already prepared 800 buses for to serve the increased volume of Bangkok passengers.

Mr. Pinet said bus services would remain unchanged although the bus agency does not collect fees. Service assessment will be made this week which could be used for improving bus services in future.

All six measures are being implemented from Friday, except for the reduction of excise tax on fuel which began July 25. The measures are aimed at boosting the Thai economy, which has become sluggish due to soaring oil prices, and also to assist the poor and low income wage-earners.

The measures concerned are cuts in excise taxes on fuel, postponing an increase in prices for liquefied petroleum gas used by private householders and the free use of tap water by households using less than 50 cubic metres per month. The government will absorb the cost.

The other measures are the free use of electricity of less than 80 units per month by households, with the government shouldering the expense, while for households using less than 150 units per month the government can pay half the bill, free travel on 800 ordinary buses operated by BMTA on 73 routes within Bangkok and its outlying areas, and free travel on third class railway carriages.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has said the measures will cost the government about Bt46 billion (US$1.4 billion).

END

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