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A line in the Sand

The UK Government is considering taxing cars as pay-per-mile. We look at the fundamental damage this could do to fair motoring.

Traffic flow nighttime

Government policy and objectives are often aloof and misguided as they bound from promise to promise sounding out the public for what seems to garner the most cheer. We have all got used to their ardent desire for something, only for a change of heart because the headlines have turned against them. The worst policies are always the ones that aren't thought out, and then require patching over quickly because the people that created them are unable to see past next week, let alone the years to come. Electric cars currently drive tax-free and without paying fuel tax, an idea by the government rushed in and has now created a pricy problem, lost revenue from fuel. The answer? Track citizens' movements, charge them by each mile they travel, and increase charges when they see fit to do so to 'encourage' people to use other roads or public transport. Soon to come, pricing increases for areas that actively want to discourage people from visiting. This isn't just an issue for car enthusiasts, this is an open attack on equality to all no matter your wealth, and what's worse, it is to answer a problem created by shortsightedness of those that claim to lead our nation.

An example in recent years of a government flip-flop is diesel cars, once hailed as a must by the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The science of total emissions was known for a long time, and ignored, aside from VW cheating, there is a reason many countries didn't widely adopt diesel for passenger cars, and the anecdotal evidence was clear to anyone that has seen a puff of black smoke from the tailpipe ahead. However, even today vehicle tax favours diesel cars, despite many older ones being charged to go into city areas. The worn phrase of, 'don't worry everything is now fixed, carry on as you were' means newer diesels are exempt from such charges, but the public aren't fools, they know these newer cars will also fall foul of regulations soon enough.

Electric cars, despite the negative press surrounding the supply chains and images of mothers in the poorest nations digging for cobalt with a baby on their back, are the golden egg for politicians at the moment. No doubt they reduce air pollution in cities and use their energy more efficiently than any current combustion engine could hope to achieve, but there is a problem for the government, and it won't surprise you to know that it is about money.

In the UK the chancellor pulls in tax revenues from many places, and hitting motorists at the pumps has long been a way to fill holes in the budget. Electric cars cause a giant problem for this tactic as it will be near impossible to discern electric use for a car to that of someone heating their home. Even if it were possible, policing a wall charger that had a tax charge over regular electricity use would be impractical if not impossible. And so a proposal has been made, and it is a giant swipe at the United Kingdom's steady march towards a more equitable and equal society.

charging you more to travel on motorways at peak times to 'ease congestion' or to put it another way, force those that can't afford it onto other roads

Instead of paying at the pump for your fuel, essentially paying an indirect tax for the mileage you cover at an even rate, a proposal has been made to fit every car with a tracking device in which you will pay by the mile travelled, no doubt your driving habits and infractions will also be recorded. To some this may be a 'shrug your shoulders' moment, we are already tracked on our phones and driving is beginning to be seen as an inconvenience by people that would prefer to stare at their devices than at the road. Many now feel driving can't be pleasurable, some believe it never was, alone in a machine that is totally within your control, people have long forgotten being 17 years old and going out for the first time without waiting for a bus or asking if they can be taken somewhere by a friend or a parent.

The idea of going out for a drive for any other means but necessity is lost on many, and if they feel that way they should of course be allowed to volunteer to be tracked for every inch they travel and charged accordingly, but making this a law for all is beyond the pale. The freedom a car affords you should never be restricted in a free nation, maybe it would work in a communist state where driving is rationed for a greater good, but the last time any of us at The Miles Driven checked that isn't where we live.

You may question why charging by the mile is seen as such a swipe at freedom, and it is a simple answer, do you believe that all miles are created equal? At this very moment, no matter where you are you may travel to a picturesque area of the country, join a busy motorway, or even drive through Mayfair to see how those on the other side of the green grass fence are living. The tax you would pay to do all of this is equal, your road tax isn't charged differently if you like to visit Snowdonia or Bolton on a weekend, and the same can be said for the fuel. Currently, the charge you face no matter where you choose to go is equal, as it should be in a free and fair society that doesn't attempt to block people from travel based on their socio-economic background.

Now consider charging you by the mile, charging you more to travel on motorways at peak times to 'ease congestion' or to put it another way, force those that can't afford it onto other roads or tell them to take the train (train pricing is another subject). Before long there would be requests from pretty villages in the Cotswolds to increase charges on their roads for non-residents to ease the summer traffic that plagues them. Soon areas of natural beauty that need road improvements would charge more, cities like London would be out of bounds for drivers unless you are particularly wealthy. The problem here is simple, who suffers? Those with the least. Essentially hemmed into to where they live by road pricing making it impossible for young children to be shown anything but their own estate. An entire generation growing up without ever being taken to see farmer's fields, quaint villages, giant cities, and beauty spots because their parents are forever stretched in their budgets. It wouldn't be popular for the government to call this the 'restrict the poorest road tax' but that is what it will doubtlessly become. The UK has a long history of a class system but our roads have been mostly immune. It is what makes car enthusiasts such an eclectic and varied bunch. You can drive a six-figure supercar to a venue and meet people driving a ten-year-old hot hatch that has been polished to death and at that moment you are nothing more than enthusiasts there to enjoy your passion. Few other hobbies can bring people of such diversity together. Any attempt to price people off the road or make a trip to the countryside more expensive for a family that works every hour in the day to feed themselves is utterly shameful, road pricing, and taxing by the mile are not in our best interest, not just as car enthusiasts, but as people. The government has crossed a line in the sand by even contemplating this idea, shame on them.

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