My MOT journey

I rarely get the bus. I avoid, when I can, getting the train. I do not, it must be said, like public transport. It is hardly a surprise, then, that I advocate car use, look forward to alternative fuels for cars and oppose strongly the proposed Road Pricing Scheme.

But today another aspect of attempting to drive people off the road occurred to me. The impact on the self employed.

To be honest it is easy, working for a FTSE100 company as I do, to start to feel a little socialist. It would not, in truth, be horrendous for me to use public transport to get to work. It would cost more, take longer and be more inconvenient, but it could be done if needs must (they didn't when I had to pay £3 per day to park after the socialist Brighton & Hove Council imposed that on the Goldsmid Ward — not even then).

As an employee of a large company you can look at new pension legislation that requires employers to provide a pension scheme (and perhaps in the future, be compelled to contribute) and say "Hell, that's fair". It is equally easy to look at Age Discrimination or Disability Discrimination legislation and sing its praises (as I do in principle) but what is that impact on the smaller employer? For every C&A or Enron, there need to be thousands of smaller businesses making money and doing well to take their places. Without smaller employers (and one-man bands), the country would be ruined.

One common feature of this government's legislation, though, is to ignore the impact of that legislation on companies that have no shareholders, on companies that don't make £1bn+ per year and who don't have the resources to employ a "Risk Manager" or a "Environmental Policy Director". Road Pricing is one such proposal.

Imagine you have to take your company's accounts to the Accountant — can you take a pile of books weighing several pounds on the bus? You could, but it would be uncomfortable especially in the rain. Would you have time, as an inventor, to visit all the suppliers you may need by bus? And how would you go about doing anything else in your normal day?

The reason I am suddenly so animated (what, you didn't notice) about this is the journey I took using so-called green methods of transport today. A third of my journey had to be made on foot to reach bus stops at either end — something that someone who is not quite clinically disabled couldn't manage but would need to without a car. The middle third (on the bus) cost me £1.50 for one person.

This cost multiplies linearly if I am taking a journey with children or other members of my family, but let's assume we consider the price just with me travelling. That assumes that my full tank of petrol (£30) would only take me twenty times along Portland Road in Hove (ten times in both directions). It is clearly madness because my car is 1.6 litres and with a really efficient 1 litre the madness is multiplied. I could get a week long bus pass, but why should I have to do that to get a reasonable price?

My journey took 35 minutes from door to door which would have taken a little over 5 minutes in my car. While I was on the bus, I did have an opportunity to relax that I wouldn't have had in the car, but that time to relax was interrupted by the screaming baby noise coming down the stairs and the horrendous noise of the bus' engine as it drew away too quickly from stops. That time to relax, too, could have been had when I arrived home 30 minutes earlier!

I don't have that magic pill which is the solution to all socialists non-car utopias, and I don't pretend that driving is the perfect transport method either, but it is a damn sight more pleasant and civilised than public transport. I shall continue to use public transport when it's an absolute necessity but when I'm taking a trip to the gym (24 miles return journey along a trunk road) or going to work (12 miles return journey mostly along a trunk road) I shall continue to use that convenient and most marvellous of inventions, the car.

And the next time you are driving to your FTSE100 or state employer's location, imagine how many hours you would waste trying to operate a small business without vehicles that, by their existence, contribute to this apparently evil congestion that is the government's excuse to hate cars.

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