Learning to drive at peak time?

Manchester’s driving schools are lobbying to be let off the city’s proposed congestion charge, claiming it could cost them £600k each year. That sounds like an awful lot of learners on our roads at peak time.

The proposed congestion charge would consist of two charging rings, with drivers paying £2 to cross the outer ring and £1 to cross the inner ring, entering the city in the morning (7am to 9.30am) and £1 per ring to leave the city in the evening (4.00pm to 6.30pm). You’ll pay nothing if you’re travelling against the tide.

The most a morning lesson could pick up in congestion charges is £3; that’s 200,000 lessons or 790 lessons each day between 7am and 9.30am Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). But as a high proportion of lessons would cross only one charging ring or be taken during the evening rush, it’s probably fair to say that the Motor Schools Association of Great Britain, whose figures these are, reckon there’s more than 1,000 driving lessons going on at peak time every week day.

A lesson given at peak time, crossing both charging rings, can’t be good for the learner driver. They’d be travelling on the city’s most congested routes at the worst time of day, spending ten minutes of the lesson sitting still. In any case, a driver taking a route like that, would most likely be using their lesson to commute to work and so should pay up like everyone else.

We should be tolerant of learner drivers, but the point of a congestion charge is to discourage people like them, who could just as easily use the road outside peak time, clogging up the roads when everyone’s trying to get to work.

Another person who doesn’t seem to get it is Steve Brauner, editor of the otherwise excellent Crains Manchester Business. Brauner suggests workers on flexi-time might alter travel patterns to avoid paying… well yeah, that’s kind of the point. Cynical Brauner seems to suggest only civil servants have flexi-time, but that’s nonsense. In London, it’s fairly common for people to start work at 10am or later to avoid the morning rush.

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