Burning Liquid Gold

At the half-way mark, I took a break last night from report writing to have a pre-Father Day’s dinner at our favourite Chinese buffet in Gloucester. It’s a bit of a drive, but even with petrol prices what they are, we love it. It costs a bit more in the evening, but that’s when they bring out the good stuff.

And speaking of petrol prices, we needed a bit of fuel to get back home, so we pulled into a relatively reasonably priced BP garage. £20 bought 16.82 litres of petrol. To translate that for Stateside readers who are paying nearly $4.00 a gallon, we bought 4.44 gallons for a mere $42.60 (at yesterday’s tourist rate for buying sterling). Yes, your calculator is working correctly: that’s $9.59 a gallon. I’m just glad we were buying unleaded gasoline rather than diesel.  The same amount would have cost $49.04 or $11.05 a gallon.

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Travel Costs

The Government are working hard to get everyone out of their cars and onto public transportation. They have raised the road tax on most family cars, based on carbon emissions. When it was announced in the Budget, it was made to sound like it was prospective – applying to cars manufactured from now on and encouraging new car buyers to choose more enviro-friendly models. Instead it has been made retrospective – it applies to all cars from 2001. That means anyone who bought the “wrong” car in the last seven years will now be penalised by about £245 ($500) a year.

But if you want to save money by getting out of your car, you will have to pay for the train. Of course unless your train starts at your station, you may very well have to stand for the entire journey. After all, a train ticket does not guarantee a seat, but only agrees to carriage – that the train will be going to the destination.

You also have to be careful where you stand on the train. Nichola Myhill found out that even if every breathable standing space is taken in the second class carriages, and next to the toilets between the carriages, do not stand in the luggage area just inside first class. There is no excuse for first class passengers to be soiled by the relative proximity of the cattle class. They shouldn’t have to bear with the commoners standing next to their first class luggage.

Nicola may pay £4,000 per year for a season ticket, but that doesn’t give her the right or priviledge of standing inside first class, next to rows of empty seats. She was duly fined £69 ($140) on the spot for such outrageous behaviour. (The fine is calculated as twice the cost of the first class ticket.) If she can’t squeeze into the toilet area, she just has to miss work.

This story was carried in several national newspapers. In the comments section to one, a reader proposed a logical solution: “Perhaps we should open up the roof like they do in other third-world countries?”

Power Crazy Parking Nazis

Just came across this on one of The Times blogs:

The Ten Craziest Parking Tickets of All Time

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Crushed

The Government is trying to force everyone out of cars and onto public transporation by making it as expensive as possible to drive. But why don’t people want to go on trains? Ask 7-year-old Laura Booth.

Raking in the Revenue

The Government is raking in the cash from motorists. It’s not just the vast revenues from petrol taxes. They are taking more and more in fines.

Last Wednesday, we found out just how much they had scooped up in speeding fines. Since they came to power, Labour have trebled the number of tickets issued. Combined with the increase in fines by 50%, the cost to motorists has gone from £28.5 million in 1997 to £115.2 million in 2005. The Government says reason for the increase in speed cameras has been to increase road safety, but while fines have increased over 400%, road deaths have fallen by 6%.

If you think speeding fines are a cash cow, then you haven’t considered parking fines. These amount to £1.2 billion a year. Now the amount is set rise dramatically.

Parking attendants are being given new powers. They no longer have to put the ticket on a windscreen. All they have to say is that they observed the offense but were prevented from putting the notice on the car. This is intended to prevent drive-offs on the one hand and threatening behaviour on the other, but there is nothing requiring either of these extremes. A motorist could be completely unaware that their car as been “oberserved”. But it gets worse. No, really.

Parkers will also be losing the right to an independent appeal. Currently, the National Parking Adjudication Service handles appeals. This means that local councils, who receive the money, don’t decide them. Now they will. It is a bit like the police serving as the judge in crminal cases.

It’s just a little bit of a conflict of interest. In essence, the council employee writes a cheque to the council from your bank account. You will then have to prove that the council should give you your money back. Since the parking attendant has no burden of proof whatsoever, you have an overwhelming burden of proof and virtually no way to collect evidence.

Parking attendants will be able to meet their quotas, or exceed them, without any worry about any come back on their actions. Councils may have to hire additional employees just to haul all of the loot to the bank.