R is for Road.

In another short article about mundane things, the object in the spotlight today is the road. It is such a commonplace thing, it doesn’t even get capitalised. Like may commonplace things, it’s only noticed when it fails to work as expected.

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On the off chance this is read by someone who is not in the knowing of how Britain functions, well, basically it does, but no one can be really sure how.

Road building and repair is funded by General taxation.

The use of powered vehicles is subject to further tax.

Petrol, and diesel, for example, are subject to Fuel duty, to make it sound less like tax, because we are all pretty gullible.

That is then itself subject to a purchase tax, which we call Value added Tax.

Another masterful piece of misdirection, implying that Tax is Value.

Did I mention how gullible they think we are?

To actually have a vehicle physically on a road, you must pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

Another way of saying tax, adopting the old word of excise (literally extort), in the comfortable knowledge most of us don’t know what the word means.

The other document you will need is Third party Insurance. Basically, if you hit another car, or anything else with your car, then your insurance provider may help with the costs.

So you pay an insurance premium, and, yep, that is taxed too..

Insurance is mandatory. Unlike Vehicle Excise Duty, which is paid directly to the Government, you have to buy Insurance from a private company, which will of course profit from the deal.

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With all this Tax flowing in, our Roads should be awesome.

And in many respects they are. Generally.  If you want to go someplace other people go to as well, then there will be a road for you to use.  Most dwellings come with a nearby road, and most dwellers in those dwellings can find a piece of handy road nearby to abandon their personal car for most of the time.

Given they live outside in all weathers, they seem to last quite well if maintained. The problems tend to occur owing to a strange habit we Brits have of hiding all manner of utilities under roads. Stuff that requires frequent attention is buried under something which of necessity is hard wearing and strong. Strange really.

Most cars, which are designed to get you from A to B, spend the vast majority of their time at A or B, parked up, on a piece of road. We might seem a bit selfish in that respect, but, given the amount of coin shaken out of you, there is an understandable sense of entitlement.

 But car use is apparently declining. Given the state of the roads it’s hardly surprising.

I use a ubiquitous basic bog standard hatchback, my dear Wife has a racier hot hatch, that used to be a lot of fun to drive. The bog standard car now gets more use, as it is a lot more tolerant of indifferent road repairs, potholes, speed bumps, and so on. It doesn’t cause your teeth to rattle.

So I predict roads will continue to degrade. It slows traffic down as perceived benefit. Oil based products to make roads will be phased out and replaced with other materials, recycled tyres possibly, as costs equalise. Prohibitive costs will force a lot of people away from personal cars.

This reduction in tax receipts will be made up elsewhere, governments don’t spend less do they? Possibly a tax on fresh air?

Car clubs with shared use will work for some, but requires a level of community commitment and cohesion that is becoming rarer. The need to travel to work should be reducing for some sections of the workforce, as many roles are suitable for teleworking, but we are not ready for that yet as a society. The Office culture is a real thing, and infantile management has little faith in workers ability, and needs to micromanage, possibly to justify its existence?

The other side of this is that 99% of daily consumables, like food, are transported by road at some point. The network can only be degraded so far.

Now if Mr Musk starts making one of his electric cars that is suitable for poorly maintained roads, and priced for the mass market, in a modular format, to suit the small trades / delivery, as well as a family mover, with a solar panel on the roof, we’d be heading in the right direction. Something perhaps like product of an illicit coupling of a Fiat Panda and a Transit Connect?

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In my unqualified opinion. 

Thank you and good day….

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