Coalition government manifesto: How will it affect the motorist?

When the Coalition Government revealed its 36-page programme soon after coming to power, its contents covered every aspect of policy with every pledge, promise and possibility the two parties could agree on.

It was, and still is, an ambitious document, and outlines many of the changes which will likely come to define the success or failure of the coalition's tenure. But where does it leave us, the motorist? What can we expect and what do we believe? Read on for Autoblog's breakdown of the new government's manifesto.
The car-related part of the programme falls under Transport, a section predictably dominated by the UK's antiquated train network. Nevertheless, the introduction is illuminating.

"The Government believes that a modern transport infrastructure is essential for a dynamic and entrepreneurial economy, as well as to improve well-being and quality of life. We need to make the transport sector greener and more sustainable, with tougher emission standards and support for new transport technologies."

They may go on to talk about rail franchises and cycle paths, but emissions standards and new technologies only point to the nation's cars and the industry that builds them. Lowering CO2 pollution is one of the most repeated phrases in modern politics, but in reality it's a hollow claim – the car companies are already moving well beyond the standards required of them by legislation. The hat-tip to new technology leads on to the first pledge.

"We will mandate a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles."

No surprise here of course, but it's certainly easier said than done. The construction of a network of charging points is necessary given the restricted range of electric cars, but the logistical impact, power usage, cost to user and viable locations are all basic questions which remain unanswered. Make no mistake, the electric revolution will continue to gather pace, and the UK's cities will be critical to the bandwagon, but don't expect to see a plug socket on the streets for a while yet.

"We will work towards the introduction of a new system of HGV road user charging to ensure a fairer arrangement for UK hauliers."

On one hand this makes perfect sense. HGVs are responsible for a much greater proportion of damage to the road than the car, and an adjustment to the way they are charged for using the highway network is probably overdue. Hauliers may even welcome a sensibly priced scheme as it means a level playing field for them to compete with foreign logistic firms (as they would be charged to use the roads as well). On the other hand, the successful implementation of any road charging system would open the door for it to be rolled out to car owners. This is already something the Lib Dems are in favour of even if the country's motorists have shown themselves to be strongly opposed to a change in the tax system. But hey, when did that ever stop a British government from doing anything?

"We will stop central government funding for new fixed speed cameras and switch to more effective ways of making our roads safer, including authorising 'drugalyser' technology."

The Tories promised to end funding for speed cameras during the election, and there won't be many people upset about that one coming true. Of course 'fixed' doesn't include the mobile speed vans which actually now catch the majority of drivers, but we can't have everything we want (for some reason). Both parties toyed with the idea of a 'drugalyser' and if the right technology can be found at the right price, it seems only fair to replace the current system of sobriety tests, searches and just plain guessing.

"We will tackle rogue private sector wheel clampers."

Unless you're employed by a cowboy clamping firm there isn't a human being alive who'll disagree with this pledge. The outrageous behaviour of these companies has become so commonplace that it doesn't even make the news anymore, but they continue to operate with impunity. This change cannot come fast enough.

So what didn't make it into the hallowed (compromised) programme for change? Well, the Tory's fuel duty stabilizer system which would have reduced the cost of petrol during high oil prices was scrapped – unfortunate news for the low-earners this government claims to want to help, but good news for the Treasury. No mention of lowering the drink drive limit either, something the Lib Dems said they would do if they came to power.
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