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Misses his big brother :(
Mon 9th Jun '08 8:34AM
4597 Posts
Spanners's Avatar
Member Since
7th Apr '03
People have been making a big thing out of the fuel prices lately - they have rapidly escalated over the past few months to over twenty pence a litre more than this time time last year. Now although this price rise has been driven by supply/demand issues, not the Government people are protesting for the government to take action by lowering fuel tax.
Now I am rather torn on the issue - a big part of me says that it's a good thing the tax is high as it serves as a limiting factor on the number of vehicles out there and helps the environment, makes the roads safer, limits congestion etc. Also the tax pays for a lot of stuff we take for granted like the NHS (admittedly also the Millennium Dome, invading a variety of Middle Eastern nations, a bunch of Chinook helicopters that have never even been used......)
On the flip side it's putting people out of business and putting us ever closer to a recession.
I figure generally if you can't afford the fuel, don't get a car. I know there are situations where public transport just isn't in place to get you where you need to be but I recon 90% of us can happily get to work and back without a car. I've been loving riding my bike to work lately!

Also the new congestion charge scheme has been announced for Manchester. By 2013 they want to set up two charging zones - the outer one being everything inside the M60 which is basically the whole county! However the scheme does some with 3bn of public transport improvements...

Mrs Spanners if you please.
Mon 9th Jun '08 1:19PM
288 Posts
Magina's Avatar
Member Since
18th Apr '06
On the one hand I'm all for people getting out of their cars and either onto their bikes or making use of manchester's extensive transport system; the obvious benefits of this being a reduction in pollution and congestion and safer roads for cyclists.

However there are people who need their cars....

I have a friend who's place of work is a good 20 minute drive away from her home, she works shifts and sometimes starts as early as 4 in the morning and finishes as late as 11 at night. Public transport in that area is limited; often by the time she has finished the last bus has gone, likewise the first bus is too late. Her shift pattern in combination with the distance and the remote nature of her place of work make it virtually impossible to cycle; it would be dangerous, especially in winter, for a lady to be cycling in the dark on her own. She is also on a fairly limited wage and is already struggling to pay for petrol; which she has recently revealed to me costs her approx 50 a week!!!!!! If the price of fuel continues to rise there may become a point when she is unable to get to work. Luckily she lives and works outside of the M60 (I believe) and so won't be affected by the congestion charge.

Furthermore, there are major problems with Manchester's public transport routes....

It is very easy to get to the centre of town from virtually anywhere, these routes are usually reliable and regular. Going across town is another matter; the easiest way to get from Didsbury (south west) to Levenshulme (south east) is via the centre, thus doubling the distance!!!! If congestion charges are to be introduced, public transport will need to be improved.

I think flying carpets are the answer.

Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 9th Jun '08 5:21PM
4678 Posts
Demian's Avatar
Member Since
7th Apr '03
A point that is often overlooked in the debate is the cumulative effects of the geometric progression in the increase in car ownership. We've all seen the old puzzle whereby we're supposed to be astounded at the resulting figure if you place 1 grain of chess on the first square of a chessboard, 2 on the second, and keep doubling it. You end up with... lots and lots of rice. The point is that each rise is bigger than the preceding one, leading to a snowball effect of spiralling (in this case) rice.

The same is true of car ownership. Although it doesn't double each decade the way the rice is doubled , it does increase geometrically, i.e. each time it rises the rise is bigger than the previous time. If we assume that car usage rises by a factor of 1.1 per decade (i.e. an increase of 10 per cent), we subconsciously imagine that in 100 years the price will have gone up 100%. Of course, that's not the case as a moment's thought will show. Take this example:

Year Car users
2008 10,000,000
2009 11,000,000
2010 12,100,000
2011 13,310,000
2012 14,641,000
2013 16,105,100
2014 17,715,610
2015 19,487,171
2016 21,435,888
2017 23,579,476
2018 25,937,424

So after 100 years, a 10% year-on year expansion of car ownership would lead to a rise of almost 160% when subconsciously (or even consciously in the case of a lot of people!) we believe the increase would be nearer to 100%.

The point I am trying to make is that reducing car ownership not only has an immediate effect, but has a knock-on-effect echoing down through the generations which is amplified by the geometric (i.e. curved rather than linear) progression of the sequence. In other words, the effect of anything we can do to reduce car ownership now has an effect way out of proportion to today's impact on the environment, and the longer-term view we take the more dramatic the effect is.

After all, if we go back to the chessboard example, if we managed to simply halt the growth of rice on on of those earlier squares, if we put 4 grains on square four instead of 8, for example, how much rice would be saved?

In order to test my theory, make a guess at the answer before checking below. According to my theory on the non-intuitive nature of geometric progressions I believe your answer will be lower than the actual answer.


[[ By halting the increase for a single square of the chessboard, you would save

4,611,686,018,427,387,904, or 4.6x10^18

grains of rice! I make that 4.6 sextillion (ak 4.6 trilliard) grains of rice, or slightly more than the weight of the earth in tonnes!

What was your guess?

Well that turned into a lengthy ramble. Eggs are pricey these days too aren't they?

It's your time you're wasting!
Mon 9th Jun '08 6:36PM
288 Posts
Feign's Avatar
Member Since
24th Dec '04
I don't know about this, I agree there needs to be something done about the amount of cars on the road, but I'm not sure hitting people with a charge, especially one that extends to and includes the M60, is the best solution.

I'm not sure how investing 3 billion (1.8 billion of which is a loan - i.e. needs to be paid back) into public transport will work in Manchester as the public transport is privatised. What sanctions can you put in place on a private company to ensure the money is spent on improvements and not on wages/bonuses etc? Anything too strict and private companies will walk away.
Granted public transport needs a huge improvement for boroughs (not so much the city centre which is generally well serviced).


Many services from the city centre to borough villages end by 19:00 - e.g. I have to leave Manchester at 18:50 if I want to get a bus to where I live.
This bus operates hourly.


The bus service mentioned above is full during rush hour after leaving the first stop from Manchester to Norden. From Norden to Manchester unless you're on the first 6 stops or so, you're looking at standing room only until it reaches Manchester (about an hour).
If the 20% of drivers affected by this charge (figure from Manchester council - personally I'm not sure 20% is a high enough figure to cause congestion) suddenly switched to public transport the infrastructure would crash as it is at capacity during rush hour already, so an immediate cost would be doubling the current level of provision which would be a big chunk of the 3bil.


I do admit the service has improved over the last few months, but was cancelled last Thursday meaning my girlfriend was late for work. Getting back from Manchester to Norden is less reliable.


For late-night services, often populated with those drunk heading home, there would need to be an effective security presence on the services.

Other factors to consider are businesses - I don't imagine haulage companies will change their shift patterns to accommodate the charge and rather will increase their running costs. These costs will be passed onto consumers resulting in higher prices - so you could see another cost of living increase.

If reducing congestion is the true aim of this charge then revising signal priorities and traffic calming techniques might be a better approach - however this doesn't affect the exponential growth of traffic volume Demian outlined. Maybe this could be coupled with a congestion charge for the city centre only.

Then there's paying back the 1.8bil loan - if a reliable public transport system is created and the majority of drivers move to it, how will the congestion charge raise the necessary revenue to sustain the transport system (the majority of which I see coming from ticket sales) and payback the loan? If the charge does not generate the revenue will we then see an increase in council tax? A widening of the C-charge areas? An increase in the C-charge?

There's too many questions at the moment for me to agree with the charge. I'd need to see what the proposals are for improving public transport, what contingency plans are in place to make up short falls on loans, and what sanctions are in place to limit the profit making capacity of the private companies running this service are.

My ape goosed a Bishop. Who are you?
Mon 9th Jun '08 7:40PM
1673 Posts
Malcolm's Avatar
Member Since
3rd Jun '03
Can I firstly say, what a great thread so far! Top marks to all posters - really interesting stuff.

Magina was friendly enough to comment:

I have a friend who's place of work is a good 20 minute drive away from her home, she works shifts and sometimes starts as early as 4 in the morning and finishes as late as 11 at night...

I think that's a good illustration of why we're mired in a pretty difficult situation. To compare myself to your friend: I work mostly from home, but when I do go out for work (which happens at some point most days) I cycle, walk, or occasionally get a taxi. It's not unusual for me to travel about 10 or 11 miles in a day by foot and bike combined. I've never been a driver, and I've lived and worked here in York for 8 years now, including several periods of seeking and changing jobs. I would never have considered a job that would land me in the same circumstances as Nina's friend; it's just not an option (mainly because I'm not prepared to put myself in a situation of having to use a car every day until it's absolutely, utterly unavoidable). But for your friend, it was an option - the same as for millions of other people in the country. And since the option was there, they took it, and so locked themselves into being dependent on a car.

There are millions of people who need a car every day - but I'd argue that for many of them, that's only because they once decided to make that choice (for whatever reason). But I'm not criticising them for that, as I know it's completely endemic in the UK. Really my point is that we're in the plight we're in because millions of our co-citizens are (or feel) trapped in their situation by decisions they made one, two, five, ten or thirty years ago. Which makes me pessimistic about the possibilities of ever changing more than a tiny fraction of their minds based on anything that's said or done now. We need to be targeting people who have yet to opt into that lifestyle, and making it feasible for them never to feel they have to do so.

If there's enough time left for that approach, of course...

It's your time you're wasting!
Mon 9th Jun '08 10:22PM
288 Posts
Feign's Avatar
Member Since
24th Dec '04

Malcolm was bold enough to comment:

We need to be targeting people who have yet to opt into that lifestyle, and making it feasible for them never to feel they have to do so.

It's a great idea, and whilst I lived in the city centre a short walk from work it was brilliant, I didn't need any transport at all - until my circumstances changes and I moved out of Manchester but kept the job, thus forcing me to need to travel.
Unfortunately there's no guarantee that circumstances won't alter for people so they end up in a position reliant upon transport.

The other issue with this is where businesses locate - mostly businesses will be based in the city centre (not all admittedly, but I think its safe to say cities have more jobs available that local towns). However cities generally have a higher cost of living and property prices making it difficult for people entering the working world to move close to work. The flip side is as you stay in a career and earn more money you want a house as opposed to a flat and therefore the boroughs surrounding a city become more appealing - now this does fall into the choice you state, if you choose to move out of the city then you accept the costing, but that kind of forced choice doesn't sit happily with me. However given the depleting oil reserves maybe that choice is a luxury only the very wealthy can afford.

There is the possibility we go back a few decades and businesses set up housing for workers near to the job, but I don't know how practical or how much economic sense that makes. Maybe it will become a necessity.

It's a really difficult subject, we really can't afford to carry on as we have and it'd be better to address the matter now as opposed to when the matter is forced upon us, however I still think there are alternatives whereby an effective public transport system can be created before the implementation of a C-charge and the massive public borrowing involved with it.
Do we need to de-privatise public transport if a C-charge is to be implemented? I think we do, I don't understand how you can invest public money into a private company which by definition has a goal of making profit for shareholders as opposed to supplying a service to the public. Public transport needs to be not-for-profit if you invest public money into it.

Windows Bob - the best!
Tue 10th Jun '08 5:20PM
4213 Posts
General's Avatar
Member Since
7th Apr '03
I'm with Malcolm on this one.

Mostly you have a choice.

A while back I had to spend most weeks in Glasgow for work. I could have taken the train, but I wasn't prepared to spend five hours getting there when I could fly. My time was too precious to me to sacrifice for the sake of my carbon footprint.

Giggity Giggity goo
Thu 19th Jun '08 3:38PM
2708 Posts
Amanshu's Avatar
Member Since
25th Aug '04
I think I'm going to jump on the general trend of you have a choice here.

However, I would also point out two things:

Firstly, if the aim here is to get people out of their cars and into public transport then there needs to be a fundamental shift in thinking. A car is nice, and tidy, and yours, and the type of thing that gets you from A when you want to leave to B when you want to arrive whenever you want. Assuming of course you don't worry about things like speed limits and the laws of physics.
Basically a car is really convenient. Plus it just works. And you only have to pay for it every so often and then you can forget about it for a while.

Public transport however is loud and noisy, and it doesn't wait for you, and you're never quite sure what that stain is, and you might even have to sit next to strangers.
Basically public transport is not convenient. And it doesn't always work. Plus you need to get organised beforehand and you have to pay every single time you use it (unless you're willing to plan in advance and what if that doesn't save you money).

Now personally I'm a huge fan of public transport. I don't even hold a driver's license and I'm only starting to looking at getting one now because it's the kind of thing that's useful to have for work sometimes and it's sort of getting silly. I quite the like the feeling of anonymity and being able to hide from the world you get. Consequently I seem to spend most of my life on trains, buses, trams, ferries, taxis and other assorted methods of transport.
However, I don't know what I'm missing. The vast majority of people out there have cars and so they're used to them. They can compare them to public transport and let's be honest, public transport is always going to fail. It needs to be able to guarantee that you can get from where ever you are to where ever you want to be relatively easily at any time of day or night.

So it becomes a chicken and egg thing - public transport needs more passengers to get more money so it can improve the services so it can get more passengers. The expectation needs to be raised and met at the same time.

On the point of giving money to private companies - well I'd have to disagree that they need to be de-privatised. Are you somehow under the impression that the money is just being given away, and the council is somehow hoping that it'll be used in the way they want? I suppose it's possible they could do it like that (although they'd be stupid).

Instead I'd imagine the council will ask each company to state how they'd improve the service they're providing. The companies present ideas. The good ideas get offered more, the bad ideas get offered less and the rubbish ideas get laughed at. The companies then go off and put their ideas into practice using their own money. When they're done, the council pays them the money that was agreed to in the first place.

So the council gets the improvements they were after (and get to choose how they're implemented and by whom) the companies get to improve themselves at no cost - and then get to make more money from the improvements.

The idea isn't to grab the whole pie, but to make the pie bigger. Then everyone gets more.

As for the loan, if the congestion charge doesn't cover it then (hopefully) the money being spent on public transport will increase. That means more VAT and hence more money that can be spent on the loan... Basically you're either being taxed on using public transport or on not using public transport Crazy huh?

Mrs Spanners if you please.
Tue 26th Aug '08 10:24AM
288 Posts
Magina's Avatar
Member Since
18th Apr '06
Just a further thought...

I saw something worrying on my walk into work this morning....

Within the last year, on Wilmslow Rd (the main road into Manchester centre from SW Manchester) a mini bus-station divorced from the main Rd by an island, like a layby or pitstop, has been constructed. This is, I believe, to ease conjestion caused by vast hoards of students boarding buses at this particular point (outside student halls).

This morning I noticed dark black charcoal-like stains on the road where the buses wait by traffic lights at the end of the layby. As the stains are behind and to the right of where the buses sit I can only presume this is the result of an excessive amount of fumes.

I have recently started walking (3 miles) up this road to work and back almost everyday... is this what I'm breathing in to my body every day?

Furthermore, this stain has appeared in under a year, I have to ask... is public transport really greener? This particular bus route is frequented by buses from at least 4 different bus companies, all competing for business, all half empty.

I'm not attempting to be contraversial, or even putting forward a defined opinion.... I'm just saying maybe this is someting that needs carefull consideration.

Even red onions have a silver lining
Tue 26th Aug '08 1:58PM
838 Posts
Clara's Avatar
Member Since
27th Sep '04
And just as an addition to Magina's question...

I walk to work and back. It probably means I walk at least 4 miles a day in York whenever I am working. I love the walk. It wakes me up and clears my head and it does, genuinely, make me feel healthier.

I spent a few days in London last week and, again, tried to walk everywhere as much as possible. When it was too far/late/dark, we used the tube. I came home with a stinking headache, sore throat and sneezing lots. I thought I was getting a cold, but it cleared up as soon as I got home. I can only think it was the pollution that caused it. It didn't seem like there were fewer cars about!

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