Sunday, March 25, 2012

A car-sick society–we want puff before petrol

This Post started with me reading an article indicating that “One in four hospital increase parking charges – some by up to 200 per cent”. Aside from the question of what is the real rise in the price being charged. After all if it cost 2p an hour we wouldn’t care if it increased by 400%  to 10p per hour compared with it costing £2/hour and increasing by 100% to £3/ hour would we.

Scarce car-parking – between Burwell Lode and Wicken Fen!

However the article does suggest that charges could be as much as £3.50 an hour. It also notes that Hospital parking is free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst in England £earns” more than £100 million a year.It also appears that the 200% increase was from 25p to 75p an hour and that a London Hospital  Trust (Chelsea and Westminster) charges £2.50 an hour. The UK average Hospital car-park charge is 75/hour.

This has been termed as a “tax on illness” by the Head of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support. The Government does have guidelines that free or concessionary parking should be provided for patients travelling regularly to hospital for treatment. There is no indication as to how closely this guideline is followed.

It seems to me that there are three ways of looking at the use of charges;

Other considerations are that the NHS is free at point of delivery, a core principle for the NHS, whilst the “need” for medical services is a growing and even open-ended. New treatments and drugs are continually being developed whilst at the same time in the UK we have an ageing population which has considerable consequences for our public services.

Addenbrookes Campus – A growing Hospital

All in all this seems to me to be a way in which we have conflated car ownership and basic human needs, such that to live without a car is considered odd. We have also seen a decline in the provision of alternative means of transport which puts even more pressure on people to own cars.

So what will happen as the rates of congestion increase, with our increasing UK population, with predictions that it will rise from 62.3million in 2010 to 70million by 2027.  This is an increase of 12% in 16 years. Will we knock our towns down to build more and wider roads to cope with the new traffic or will we charge more access to our towns – like the London Congestion charge.

My diagnosis is that we are chronic car-oholics. My prescription is lots more fresh air and exercise. (And significantly improved cycle facilities and public transport.)

Puff before Petrol
Audley End, Saffron Walden


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