12 May 2008.
For immediate release.

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Fifteen UK councils implicated in EU Backed Road Pricing Skulduggery
The Association of British Drivers (ABD) has discovered that fifteen UK councils are implicated with an EU funded project which advocates underhand and undemocratic means to railroad through urban road pricing schemes in the face of massive public opposition.
The CURACAO 1 project states that its aim is "to create the conditions for reaching the tipping point for the widespread adoption of road pricing in European Urban Cities." 2
 
CURACAO names Bristol City Council as one of their key partners, with Notts, Derbys, Leics, and their 'Three Cities'; Tyne and Wear, Durham, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Plymouth, Shropshire, Belfast and London (Transport for London) as all involved.
 
CURACAO advises councils to use various tricks to push through road pricing schemes, including: CURACAO also labels opposition to road pricing as 'irrational' and warns of civil disobedience over the loss of 'personal mobility'.
 
Keith Peat, the ABD's East Midlands Co-ordinator against the Congestion Charge, says:
“If council officials are involved in a covert mind-bending exercise to manipulate public and politicians alike into accepting congestion charging, then it is an extremely worrying development. ”

 
The ABD is against road pricing in all its forms because it: ABD Chairman Brian Gregory added:
“Perhaps the CURACAO advice should be entitled 'How to Defeat Democracy'.”

 
 
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 
1. Coordination of Urban RoAd-user ChArging Organizational Issues
 
2. www.curacaoproject.eu
 
The Curacao scheme draws together experience from previous European congestion charge projects including PROGRESS which featured failed attempts to introduce congestion charging in Bristol and Edinburgh.
 
Cities have access to a 'state of the art' handbook ('SoA').
 
In 2006 a questionnaire was sent to 42 cities asking what were the barriers to road pricing in their city. Among the 22 cities who replied were Nottingham and Manchester who identified PUBLIC OPPOSITION as the biggest barrier.
 
The advice to local UK officials to overcome public opposition includes:
  1. To make people feel that they must bow to the inescapable by a psychological effect they call the Dissonance Theory. This also induces effects like less anger, less resistance, weaker intentions to protect their freedoms. In other words their minds should be manipulated. (SoA 10.3.1.4 and acceptability paper graph)
     
    Quote: 'They show that persons with a strong convictions that road pricing will be introduced indeed developed more positive attitudes than persons who were less convinced of an early introduction. However, the authors explain the results on the basis of the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) which predicts that people increase the attractiveness of an unavoidable event in order to maintain a consistent cognitive belief system. Once, RUC is decided or looks likely to happen and citizens can no longer avoid it, their attitudes towards charging become more positive (needs to be further validated)'.
     
    'According to dissonance theory the introduction of road pricing evokes feelings of cognitive dissonance. However, this is only the case, if the introduction is (perceived as) inescapable.' 'Persons who got the impression that the introduction of road pricing is almost inescapable report: • less negative emotions like anger • a lower importance of toll free use of infrastructure. • a weaker infringement of freedom. • weaker motivations (intentions) to defend or restore personal freedom e.g. by taking action against the toll.
     
    These politicians have all claimed that road pricing is inevitable and that 'Doing nothing is not an option':
     
    • Ruth Kelly (Cabinet Minister), 24th September 2007
    • Douglas Alexander (Cabinet Minister), Telegraph 16th February 2007
    • Sir Richard Leese (Manchester councils/AGMA) 2007
    • Alistair Darling (Cabinet Minister), June 2003
     
  2. To get the media and other key stakeholders on side at an early stage. What inducements are to be offered is left to the imagination.
  3. Officials are advised that the risk of rejection in a referendum is too high. In addition a negative result could impair the prospects of other schemes elsewhere in Europe" "Referenda are still a game with very high stakes (people have the chance 'to escape')"
     
    "a referendum just before the last steps of the scheme introduction is very likely to hit the lowest level of support, and therefore runs the greatest risk of failure." (SoA 10.3.2)
  4. European experience suggests that the charge should start low and be increased over time if necessary
     
    "In a similar vein experiences from the PRIMA [project] cities indicate that rather low starting levels are needed and that the charges can be increased successively to meet financial requirements" (Harsman, 2003) (SoA 10.3.1.3).
     
    To have a champion or figurehead leader of the politicians to take ownership of the scheme. And to preserve the politicians by having a trial period then a referendum when it is most likely to succeed. "They (politicians) may avoid a clear commitment to the scheme, especially if they are not sure about the outcome of the political process. But a lacking strong political commitment acts as a benchmark for other stakeholders. Their attitude may become more negative as well. This also contributed to a slower or even stopped introduction. In this situation, a political champion or figurehead, who takes ownership of the congestion charging concept clearly facilitates the implementation process. However, unlike the officials involved in the preparation of any scheme, politicians depend on re-election, and the fear of losing elections by promoting road user charging holds many politicians back." (SoA 10.3.2).
     
    To "Consider how to implement the scheme against the majority of voters and car drivers":
    Considering the social dilemma situation, "how to implement RUC against the initial majority of voters and car drivers?" (Acceptability paper. (3) Plans for future research).
     
    The authors acknowledge that the biggest impact of Congestion Charging is on the poor. "Firstly it is likely that the wealthy experience greater costs than the poor; since wealthy people are more likely to drive cars than the poor, they pay more under road pricing. However, one could also equally and validly argue that the poor experience greater costs than the wealthy; since the toll is a flat rate tax, a disproportionate share of their income is required to pay road pricing fees. This technically makes the flat road pricing charge 'regressive'. In addition, the poor are less able to alter their driving times to avoid peak period travel to incur the highest charges. A general conclusion from various studies is that low-income car users or less-flexible car users (e.g. based on gender or flexibility of working schedule) are likely to be the worst-off groups as a result of road pricing. In addition, it is possible to argue that the wealthy experience greater benefits than the poor since by definition, the wealthy possess a higher value of time and will be less likely to be 'tolled off'. Equally valid though is the counter-argument that the poor experience greater benefits than the wealthy because the poor are more likely to use public transport and therefore less affected by the cost of road pricing." (SoA 9.3.1)
  5. Failure adequately to canvass the opinions of those most concerned can lead to 'irrational' resistance. On such a sensitive topic as peoples` right to personal mobility, the introduction of Road User Charging could lead to active opposition that might extend beyond protests and demonstrations as far as sabotage. (ITSS, April 2007)
  6. "The CURACAO User Group is a select gathering of 20 EU cities who take the lead in road pricing strategies for urban areas. The User Group has been asked by the European Commission to formulate concrete actions regarding road pricing in the follow up to the Urban Transport Green Paper."
     
    It includes:
     
    UK:
    • Belfast
    • Tyne and Wear
    • Durham
    • Nottingham/Derby/Leicester (both County and City)
    • Shropshire
    • Cardiff
    • Plymouth
    • Cambridgeshire
    • London (TfL)
     
    Europe:
    • Barcelona, Spain
    • Dublin, Ireland
    • Genoa, Italy   This press release in Italian/Italiano
    • Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • Utrecht, Netherlands
    Emilia-Romagna region (Bologna), Italy   This press release in Italian/Italiano
    Deutsche Städtetag (German Cities Association) {Deutsche≡German}
    • Warsaw, Poland
    • Helsinki, Finland
    • Riga, Latvia   This press release in Russian/Русский
    • Vilnius, Lithuania   This press release in Russian/Русский
     

 
Notes for Editors about the ABD