As we run up to the manifesto launches for the 2015 election , who will adopt a manifesto for motorists? The last couple of decades have seen motorists in the dock, blamed almost solely for wrecking the planet with their CO2 emissions, and held to account for any problem on our inadequate road system. Despite all this, 86% of our journeys are by car or van, and we need road transport to supply us with food and other necessities, to get people to school and hospital and to get many to work.
A freedom manifesto for motorists could begin with the decriminalisation of parking offences within car parks and designated parking areas on highways which the government is pursuing. If someone overruns at the shops or gets detained on the way back to the car they should have to pay for the extra parking time, but not end committing an offence and having to pay a fine. Parking charges should be like the BBC Licence fee – a debt you owe a public body, not a tax you have to pay. Parking in places which blocks the road or causes danger to others is another matter where you should still be charged with an offence if you have broken the rules.
It could go on to incorporate common sense over road works. When will a party take up the idea that utility pipes and wires should in future be buried in easily accessible conduits under the verge or pavement, with access points, so we do not have to dig up the main road every time a pipe or wire needs mending or improving? New construction should include these friendlier arrangements as a matter of course, and when pipes and wires need renewing the issue should be raised to see if they can buried somewhere more accessible than under the middle of a main road. The government and local authorities should improve their work with the utility businesses over hours of working, length of contract and arrangements to allow maximum use of the highway when works are being undertaken.
It needs to offer motorists some respite from ever higher taxes and charges. Cutting the planned increases in fuel duty has been a popular action by the current government. Motorists still pay a disproportionate amount of the tax in the country, and further reductions would be welcome as the public finances improve.
Transport capital budgets need to be better balanced to allow more improvements on the highways. Improvements are particularly needed at busy junctions, where more segregation of different types of user of the junction allied to more capacity can make these crossing points safer for all and speedier. There should be more bridges to get over railway lines and rivers in busy towns and cities.