'A two-tier UK road network would divide rich and poor motorists'

A two-tier road system would separate the rich and poor motorists forever if we aren't careful, says Mike Rutherford

Opinion - M11

Britain's ruling Conservative Party spoke enthusiastically about raising the speed limit to 80mph in recent days. I wonder why.

It’s not as if the typical motorist (or the kids that travel on his or her passenger seats) is, in the current climate, demanding from politicians the right to drive or ride at greater speeds across our troubled motorway network, where 70mph, if you can do it, is plenty in view of the sheer density of traffic. Come to think of it, I know of no motoring or non-motoring individuals, pressure groups or companies who are seriously advocating increased limits in an era when the number of vehicles per usable mile of UK highway is among the highest in the western world.

• AA calls for £1 billion diesel scrappage scheme

But to put this ‘maybe we’ll raise it to 80mph’ suggestion from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps into context, it’s hardly new. Conservative and Labour Governments have occasionally flirted with the idea, usually in cheap, cynical attempts to deflect attention away from more pressing matters. 

This time around, the Conservative cry for 80mph is nothing to do with allowing motorists to travel faster. Instead, it’s about preparations for a two-tier road system that, if we’re not careful, will rapidly and rudely be dumped upon us from a great height. This is a natural extension of the road-pricing ideas recently proposed by the Transport Committee.

Tier 1 will comprise a miserable, desperately slow network catering for cash-strapped drivers who are unable to pay exorbitant toll fees. Tier 2 is likely to be happier and quicker – this is where the proposed 80mph limit kicks in – and will serve wealthy drivers who’ll pay a very high price for a cocktail of eye-wateringly expensive road-toll fees-cum-fines – either out of their own pocket, via their expense accounts or, in the case of national and local politicians, thanks to income tax and/or council tax-payers who’ll be forced to pick up the tab.

For decades, close neighbours such as France and Spain have subjected motorists to the unpalatable ‘choice’ between roads that are slow/non-toll/traffic-choked, or fast/tolled/free-flowing. And for their governments and high-income car users, this works just fine. Trouble is, for the low-to-mid-income motoring masses, it’s a daily headache that wastes years of people’s lives due to needlessly long journey times, plus unnecessary wear and tear on their vehicles, which are forced to stop and start every few minutes or seconds.  

Road pricing enquiry plans

It’s crazy that England may adopt this European model, thereby creating one road network for the rich and another for the poor. And it’s ironic that it could be adopted when we’re supposed to be departing the EU, which has long championed tolling systems.  

In the UK at least, driving shouldn’t be about one free-flowing road network for the elite, then a separate series of clogged rat runs for minimum-wage workers – never mind pensioners struggling to make ends meet while proudly trying to maintain their independence. That just wouldn’t be the motoring democracy and freedom the vast majority of Brits surely have a right to – whether wealthy, skint, or somewhere between.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

Recommended

'This really is a great time to buy a new car'
Opinion dealership
Opinion

'This really is a great time to buy a new car'

Steve Fowler points out some great new car deals to be had in post-lockdown
14 Apr 2021
'Some traditions need to be abandoned, and working 9-5 is one of them'
Opinion commute
Opinion

'Some traditions need to be abandoned, and working 9-5 is one of them'

Britain needs to re-think its approach to commuting, according to Mike Rutherford
11 Apr 2021
'It's clear that lorry drivers deserve much-improved working conditions'
Truck
Opinion

'It's clear that lorry drivers deserve much-improved working conditions'

Mike Rutherford proposes some alternative options to help streamline British imports and exports
23 Jan 2021
'Gordon Murray is my British motor industry person of 2020'
Opinion

'Gordon Murray is my British motor industry person of 2020'

Mike Rutherford highlights his positive car industry stories of 2020
4 Jan 2021

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased
New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased
Volkswagen Transporter

New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased

Next-generation Volkswagen Transporter T7 will break cover later this year with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain
14 Apr 2021
'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'
Opinion Nissan EV
Nissan

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'

Steve Fowler thinks Nissan is in a great position to build on the Leaf's success
8 Apr 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and it brings a practical outlook to the EV ownership experience
13 Apr 2021