Rules needed on excessive tolling, says FTA
28 May 2012
As Spaghetti Junction turned 40 on 24 May, the Freight Transport Association said that the level of tolls – including those for goods vehicles - on any new, privately built parts of the roads infrastructure should be restricted in order to get the best use out of all parts of the roads network.
Originally known as the Gravelly Hill Interchange the junction serves in total 18 routes, and is an essential part of the road network in the West Midlands as it most importantly links the M6 with the A38(M) Aston Expressway in Birmingham, as well as the A38 (Tyburn Road) and the A5127. When the M6 Toll road was planned, it was envisaged that significant relief would be provided for the M6 and Spaghetti Junction, but that did not happen, particularly for goods vehicles. The toll charger decided to price heavy goods vehicles off that road, leaving them, along with the majority of motorists, to use the M6.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, said: “Due to a combination of where people need to get to and excessive tolls, particularly for goods vehicles, the 40-year-old Spaghetti Junction infrastructure to the north of Birmingham is still the choice for most drivers. Therefore we believe that going forward, some rules are needed in order to make privately built parts of the road network affordable for all drivers, including goods vehicles.”
Unite says public sector fleets should buy British
28 May 2012
As part of a 10-point plan to build on the recent successes in the UK automotive industry, Britain's biggest union Unite has called on public bodies to buy local to support UK automotive and components manufacturing.
A freedom of information request tabled by the Union has found that 72% of vehicles procured by police authorities were manufactured overseas. Merseyside police procured 11.5% of their vehicles from UK-based manufacturers, with 8% of the total from Vauxhall, while West Midlands police procured 30% of their vehicles from UK-based manufacturers, with 2% of the total from Jaguar Land Rover.
Unite believes that a key element of boosting vehicle manufacturing must include a positive procurement policy encouraged by central government to buy vehicles manufactured in the UK. The public sector spends around £220 billion each year on procurement.
Volkswagen introduces standard DAB radio from Polo
28 May 2012
Volkswagen is tuning in to customer demand and fitting DAB radios as standard on all models from the Polo to the Phaeton, giving buyers not only a wider choice of radio stations but also a higher quality of sound.
The change means all 2013 model-year Volkswagens, from the Polo to the Phaeton, will be ready for the UK's switch to digital radio. All of Volkswagen's audio systems will still be able to pick up conventional FM or AM analogue radio signals, as well as play audio CDs (including MP3 files), while every model in the Volkswagen range comes with an aux-in socket, to allow the connection of external audio devices such as an iPod or MP3 player. To make the most of the higher quality of digital audio, every model from the Polo S upwards now comes with at least six speakers (the majority of models have eight speakers), connected to a standard RCD 310 audio unit or better.
Upgrade options include the MDI multi-device interface, which allows easy connection of iPods or USB sticks, which can then be controlled via the car's audio system; Bluetooth connection of compatible telephones; Bluetooth music playback; audiophile-pleasing speakers and amplifiers from Danish specialist Dynaudio; higher-power audio systems with colour touchscreen controls and an SD memory card slot; and touchscreen satellite navigation systems, including with built-in HD memory.
Beetle models may also be optionally ordered with an audio system developed in conjunction with legendary guitar and amplifier manufacturer, Fender.
England's motorways 'unfit' for 80mph
28 May 2012
England’s motorway network is not safe enough to have the speed limit raised to 80mph, according to Unfit for 80, a new report from the Road Safety Foundation.
Poorly-maintained and inadequate roadside protection and the rapidly rising risk of shunt crashes from the sheer volume of traffic using England’s motorways are key factors of safety concern in the report, which is published while the Government continues to consider a review of the motorway speed limit. Last autumn, Philip Hammond, then Secretary of State for Transport, stated the Government’s desire to “make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago … we must consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times”. He promised formal proposals. The Road Safety Foundation report finds that currently motorways do not provide enough protection to drivers and car occupants to consider raising the speed limit.
In new research, it shows widespread faults in run-off protection which are doubling the rate of death and serious injury where there is missing protection. It reveals shunt crashes rise exponentially with increased traffic flow, yet only a handful of motorway sections like the M25 and M42 have the electronic controls with hazard warning and variable speed limits that are needed to manage the intense flows common across England’s motorways.
Director of the Road Safety Foundation Dr Joanne Marden, who oversaw the new research, said: “The vehicle fleet has become safer in the last decade through better crash protection. At motorway speeds, the car alone cannot protect the human body. The car has to work with the motorway’s protection systems such as safety fencing to absorb high speed crash energies. In the next decade, the greatest potential for reducing deaths is on higher-speed roads outside built-up areas. This will be delivered through crash avoidance technology and road engineering catching up to complement improved vehicle crash protection.”
Marden continued: “Our cars provide 4-star or 5-star crash protection but too many of our motorways rate only 3-star with major weakness in run-off protection. England’s most heavily trafficked motorways can carry a million vehicles within a week. But a one-in-ten million combination of circumstances can arise every three months. Even though they may seem minor, the rate of exposure to any risk is so intense that even minor flaws in motorway layout or safety provision are likely to have serious consequences sooner rather than later. These ‘unusual’ circumstances include pedestrians on the hard shoulder, roadworks, extreme weather, spilt loads and rear-end shunts when free-flowing traffic breaks down.”
The report outlines the negative economic effects of a higher speed limit, which include increased vehicle operating costs through higher fuel consumption; increased crashes and crash severity, resulting in raised crash costs; and the increased cost caused by delays from crashes. The Road Safety Foundation recognises the argument that respect for the 70mph limit is poor and does not dismiss proposals to raise motorway speed limits but concludes: “Drivers who want to are already travelling at 80mph when they can. Economic benefits only arise if ‘80 means 90’ and opinion surveys show no public support for that.
“However, large economic benefits arise from fixing the motorways systematically rather than raising the speed limit. If 80mph is to be trialled, it must be on controlled motorways such as sections of the M25 and M42, because England’s busy motorways cannot cope with 80mph without enforcement and the ability to lower speeds at busy times, bad weather, congestion and other hazards like spilt loads and crashes ahead.”
New Fiat 500 back in best seller list
14 May 2012
Official figures have revealed the iconic city car has forced its way back into the overall Top 10 new car registrations list for last month.
Some 2,600 Fiat 500s were sold in the UK last month, putting it in 10th place in the Best Sellers list. The result helped Fiat to a total of 3675 sales for the month, up almost 25 per cent on the figure of 2941 for the same period in 2011. Year to date sales of 16,734 are up 9.5 per cent on last year.
“It is wonderful to see the Fiat 500 in the Top 10 again, proving what a great success story this remarkable car has been,” says Elena Bernardelli, marketing director, Fiat Group Automobiles UK Ltd. “It has always caught the British public’s imagination, and our continuing improvements and new ideas, such as the 500C convertible, TwinAir technology, special style editions, and sub-100g/km CO2 levels for further environmental benefits, all go towards keeping the 500 among the best sellers.”