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Opinion: Charge Cars Using Guildford Roads To Beat Congestion And Pollution

Published on: 18 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 20 Feb, 2022

Andrew Halliday

By Andrew Halliday

The managing director of Safeguard Coaches says why he feels that transport must be an essential component of Guildford’s masterplan.

We need an ambitious transport plan for our town. Guildford Borough Council’s town centre masterplan Shaping Guildford could influence our town for generations to come.

In the face of a climate emergency, and with our town regularly choked with vehicles, a vital aspect of the masterplan will be how it proposes to deal with movement to and through the town.

It is surely evident to all that something must be done. Our roads are heavily oversubscribed but are used inefficiently.

Pollution damages the environment and our health.

Like almost every other service with this characteristic, the fairest and most efficient solution is to use market forces, making road use subject to some form of environmental pricing.

If Guildford really wants to encourage a shift away from the car towards public transport and active travel, then the cost of motoring should go up, and the introduction of an environmental pricing scheme provides the opportunity to do that.

Such an approach may not be popular – no taxes are popular – but it would be the right thing to do and could be made a very fair and progressive tax if the level of charge imposed was based on distance travelled and time of day.

Short journeys that could be made by public transport or by active modes (eg on foot or by bicycle) would attract a higher charge, and journeys made at peak times on busy roads (such as Guildford’s gyratory) would attract a premium charge.

Other journeys might attract a discount, as might those with disabilities, and so on.

Guildford’s gyratory is frequently choked with traffic. Photo from 2018.

Such a system would make people consider whether their journey was necessary, allow them to factor the environmental cost into the choice of how to get from A to B and fund significant improvements to public transport services.

The reduction in vehicular traffic would reduce congestion, noise, pollution and segregation in the town, help buses to move more quickly, allow more provision for walking and cycling and facilitate the creation of a generally more people-centred town centre (as envisaged by the masterplan).

This, together with its inherent attractiveness, could make Guildford the jewel in Surrey’s crown and perhaps, most importantly, increase footfall and trade.

The next Shaping Guildford webinar hosted by Peter Gordon is coming up next week (Tuesday, February 22 at 6pm) and is a discussion on how we improve our town’s transport, housing and local economy. It will be fascinating to learn whether the level of ambition is great enough to unlock the potential that an environmental pricing scheme for our roads could achieve.

Every concerned resident should get involved in this debate to influence our town for the better and for the sake of our children.

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Responses to Opinion: Charge Cars Using Guildford Roads To Beat Congestion And Pollution

  1. Andrew Eacott Reply

    February 18, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    Shock news, the owner of a bus company thinks more people should use buses.

  2. Mark Stamp Reply

    February 19, 2022 at 12:31 am

    One positive step to improving bus usage in Guildford may be to look at demand-responsive bus services as introduced in Sevenoaks. Currently, there are few, if any, bus routes that go across the town without having to change at the bus station meaning people need to drive through the gyratory.

    Also, the council should look at charging different parking rates for different types of cars. This should be fairly easy, given it is all done based on number plates.

  3. D Flitcroft Reply

    February 20, 2022 at 8:27 am

    This is a bus owner trying to make money out of the motorist. I do not live in Guildford but travel there to shop, about a 10-mile trip. Will numerous free car parking facilities outside Guildford be provided?

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      February 20, 2022 at 4:53 pm

      We already have a network of Park & Ride car parks a couple of miles outside the town centre for over a decade.

      Even before Covid they didn’t seem to be fully utilised and didn’t even cover their running costs, even with electric buses. In fact, they were subsidised mainly from the car parking incomes, by £0.5 million.

      Currently, most are closed so with consequent reduction of GBC’s income it would be good to see an overall business summary for car parking including Park & Ride.

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    February 20, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    Car and motorcycle owners are already ‘charged’ to use Guildford’s roads via taxation. In addition to Council Tax and Income tax they pay:

    VAT on the purchase price of a car.
    Vehicle Excise Duty (‘Road Tax’).
    Fuel Duty.
    VAT on Fuel and/or electricity used to charge electric cars.
    Motor insurance tax.
    Vat on spare parts.
    Vat on servicing.
    Parking fees.

    Just how much more does Mr Halliday think the motorist should be milked?

  5. Mrs Cairns Reply

    February 20, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    There is no local bus service that passes the end of my road, I have to be driven to Cranleigh past the village nearest to my home.

  6. Keith Francis Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 9:49 am

    The latest Slyfield housing plan has over 1,000 new houses and only three bus stops with all the buses going to Guildford whereas they have also gone to Woking where some residents work and shop. Is this a government-inspired practice to be adopted by Surrey County Council and Guildford Borough Council and is a new cycle route into Guildford necessary?

    I know a £600,000 specially installed combined cycle/footpath alongside the A25 which is hardly used by cyclists, but those that do like to jump a set of traffic lights as I saw yesterday by one attempting to join a main road.

  7. J Holt Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Surely this is why the article was labelled OPINION. The reader should expect a particular point of view rather than a balance.

    Personally, I found the article interesting.

  8. B Dalli Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    Mr Halliday’s opinion allows alternatives for people who may be struggling with rising costs but need to maintain a vehicle, as their only option.

    The future might be a mixture of all forms of transport with shorter routes, favoured use of buses, walking or cycling and car hire schemes used for longer journeys.

  9. Barry C Williams Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    Indeed there should be more cross-town point to point buses and less reliance on the hub and spoke operations via the bus station. The Park & Ride services could also go between their sites via the town centre and railway station to allow greater flexibility of service and so encourage car users not to come into the town centre.

  10. Alistair Smith Reply

    February 22, 2022 at 10:34 am

    A key component to make bus travel attractive is to have a logical fare structure, that encourages use, and good information – as an example the Bus Route Map available on the Surrey County Council Website is dated 2019.

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