The secrets of petrol?

Good news! Yesterday fuel prices dropped by a penny…. Yes one whole penny. I have been driving for just under a year now and in that period alone I have seen a rise in petrol prices by 21p. That’s nearly 17%, so it’s only fair the government award us with this long awaited gesture of gratitude.

So why is petrol so expensive? One of the first points people don’t think of is the decline of the GBP. If it’s not worth as much at the exchange it’s going to cost more to buy the oil which in the long run will cost us the consumer more.

Another point to consider is how the kind government (Who just gave you that super discount of a penny) likes to tax you twice, yes you heard me right twice. Fuel duty and VAT are both taken from your hard earned cash (Yes which is also taxed) just so you can drive your car (Which you also paid tax on to have on the road). These are factors that they say can not be avoided as if you didn’t pay tax here you would only pay it somewhere else, maybe I want to pay it somewhere else mix it up a little then I’d have less to complain about :). (1)

Breakdown of How fuel is taxed

A Breakdown of How Fuel is Taxed


Yet there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Professors from London and Oxford have managed to develop a new type of fuel that could be used in the same way that petrol is used today. It is a hydrogen based fuel meaning that it will remove all of those Nasty carbon emissions yet still see the same kind of energy performance you would expect to see from petrol. On top of that they reckon they can do all of that for 19p per litre, though by the time the government has finished taxing it to high heaven I doubt there will be much of a difference but it does mean there is an alternative. They hope that the fuel will be readily available within the next 3 years, to read more on this click Here. (2)

1) Why is Petrol so High?, [16/3/2010]. <;, [accessed 26/3/11]
(2) Mail online, [29/1/2011]. <; , [accessed 26/3/11]

Posted in Transport | 2 Comments

What’s so bad about the bus?


Buses. Cheap, nasty and from hell, or the answer to our traffic problems?

I have to admit I don’t know the answer to this one, but lots of people, it seems, NEVER take a bus. Maybe it’s because we’re so deeply embedded in the car culture. Some people say that buses are for the elderly, the unemployed, single mothers and the occasional nutter. A bit cruel perhaps, but not terribly far from the truth.

Rural areas are very badly served, some having just a handful of services a day, some none at all. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the car is a vital link to the outside world. But for the majority of we town and city dwellers, buses are regular and plentiful. So why don’t we make more use of them?


All this could fit in one bus...

During the morning and evening rush hours in every town or city, every arterial road is clogged with cars, each containing one person, fighting for precious available parking space, with the overspill parked anywhere possible, hoping not to get a ticket.

Why do they need a car each? Apart from themselves, they will carry at most a briefcase, a handbag, an umbrella and/or a sarnie box.

  • A single-decker bus can carry 49 passengers, a double decker 77
  • A bus is about 10 metres long
  • The average car is 4 metres in length

So for each single deck bus, even at half capacity, the equivalent car queue (1 metre apart) would be 125 metres long. A 2km traffic queue would be replaced by just 16 single deck buses or 12 double deckers.

  • How much does it cost you to park in town for the day?
  • What time do you have to get there to find a space?
  • How many times a week do you pull your hair out at other drivers, roadworks and red lights?
  • How nice would it be to sit back and let someone else have all the hassle?

Try leaving the car at home and taking the bus. In terms of time, money, convenience and your own sanity, it makes perfect sense. And once you’re a passenger, you can get the bus companies to make the improvements necessary for a more pleasant stress-free journey – and don’t forget your book and your iPod!

Posted in Transport | 2 Comments

Jeremy Clarkson is an idiot

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson - idiot.

There. I’ve said it. Clarkson is an idiot.(1)

I like Top Gear and his press columns and I find him amusing and probably worth the reported £3 million salary the BBC pay him. He’s a petrolhead. Fair enough. He likes to drive fast big engined cars and shout. His choice. He thinks that everyone else should do likewise – Very big mistake, Jezza.

Thing is, if everybody drove big fast cars, then a) they would lose their exclusivity value, meaning you would have an ordinary car, and b) the roads would be even more congested.

Also, petrol is running out. So, if more of us take the bus and train, cycle or walk, there’ll be more fuel for you to burn.

If we’re all on cycle paths, railways and bus lanes, there will be lots of open tarmac for you to zoom along, shouting as you go.

We won’t be wearing the road out, so there’ll be fewer contraflows, which will be good for your blood pressure.

And the chances of you getting stuck in traffic behind a 15-year-old Vectra or a caravan will be greatly reduced – also good for your blood pressure.

Wise up Jeremy and support sustainable transport. You know it makes sense. It’ll be good for your blood pressure, which is important to a man of your age. And no-one will expect you to join in.

(1) Everybody.

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How do you commute?


Beijing-Tianjin High-Speed Commuter Link, China

If I’m being honest, trains aren’t my preferred form of transport. It’s more the scene of pushy business people commuting all over the UK, but are the trains as busy as the roads are with commuters, lets look at the facts.

There are over 4000 trains operating in the UK transporting people to their destinations every single day. This is only a tiny number compared to the staggering 45.6 million cars registered in the UK. (1)

This graph shows British Transport mode use between – 1952 to 2008

Graph of Traffic

You can see how popularity has changed in transport over the last 50+ years. Rail has seen no dramatic increase at all but road use has boomed drastically. People complain about waiting for trains and them not being big enough, but the traffic on roads is only going to get worse will people ever change there ways?

22% of all road travel is people commuting to and from work, this compared to the 46% of train passengers using the rail for the same thing. However rail only accounts for 5% of transport used when commuting losing out a long way to the car.(2) Why is this? are we that lazy we cant even walk to the train station, or am I being silly and not recognising the unreliability of the public transport system. Though catching the train can cost you as little as 5p per mile compared to an average car costing 12p per mile and that’s only accounting for fuel not including up keep of the vehicle, tax and insurance which can see prices from 20p right up to 40p per mile.(3)

It doesn’t stop there either, as their are plans for new train lines to be put in through the main towns of cities across the UK reducing train times for commuters and also increasing reliability and accessibility to jobs which before would have been inaccessible.You can read more on this Here!

I think that train use will change in the future, not for environmental reasons like people would think. Trains will become a better alternative and save a lot of people a lot of money.


(1) Railway Technical Webpages, [n.d.]. <;, [accessed 23/3/11]
(2), [n.d.]. <; , [accessed 23/3/11]
(3) What Price? , [n.d.]. <; , [accessed 23/3/11]

Posted in Transport | 2 Comments

Electric cars

We all pretty much agree that burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is a bad idea, right? Mining and drilling ruins the landscape for decades, refining and using the fuel causes major pollution and the latest in a long line of disastrous oil spills – in the Mexican Gulf – is still fresh in the memory. So what’s the alternative for the car owner?

Electric cars.

There are around 20 models of electric car in production,(1) in very limited numbers (e.g. the oddball little G-Wiz, the Nissan Leaf and the sportily quick Tesla) but these all have problems in terms of cost, speed, convenience and range;

Model Price Top Speed (mph) Range (miles) Equivalent MPG Recharge time (hours)
G-Wiz £7000 48 75 600 8
Nissan Leaf £29,000 90 100 99 8
Tesla £94,000 130 200 246 8

Major manufacturers are unwilling to take a major step into all-electric – who would make a huge number of cars that no-one wants to buy? There are a few new companies making an even more limited range. And the majority of the electricity still comes from power stations burning fossil fuels.

So in terms of cost, speed, convenience and range, electric cars are still out of the question for most of us. Most of our journeys are within the capability of electric cars, but at the weekend and holiday trips, what do we do? Have a second, petrol car on standby?

The answer for now is the hybrid electric car (like the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight), with a cross between an electric motor, which runs at lower speeds and for a limited range, and a standard petrol engine that takes over for longer, faster runs, recharging the battery as it goes.

There is currently a choice of 10 hybrid cars, largely by Toyota and Honda, with around 40 in the pipeline by a wider spread of manufacturers. Unlike the electric vehicles, they are largely standard 4-seat saloons or hatchbacks.(3)

This is the advert for the Toyota Prius, one of the first main stream hybrid engine,

So, unless you’re a die-hard fan, or have lots of spare time and/or money, fully electric cars are not a viable option. While we’re making some progress, it may be a long time before we’re fully independent of the big bad oil companies.


(1) GreenCarSite, [n.d.]. <;, [accessed 22/3/11]
(2), 16/2/2011. <;, [accessed 22/3/11]
(3) GreenCarSite, [n.d.]. <;, [accessed 22/3/11]

Posted in Transport | 6 Comments

On Yer Bike!

I have a 30-mile round trip commute. 3 days a week, I cycle all the way. The other 2, I take the train and just cycle 14 miles. My commute costs are down from £65 a week by car to £17 (train fares plus £200 a year on bike maintenance). I’m stronger, fitter, more alert and have HUGE bragging rights. And I’m 50 years old.

There are just under 30 million workers in the UK.

  • 65% of these (20 million) are under 50
  • 70% of journeys to work are less than 6 miles.
  • 70% of journeys to work are by car
  • Just 3% of journeys are by bicycle and 10% are on foot
  • Employees who walk or cycle to work are more productive, punctual and less likely to take time off sick (1)

So, every day, about 10 million people aged under 50 travel less than 6 miles to work by car. How about you?

How much could you save on tax, insurance, service & MOT, loan interest and depreciation if you sold that second car? How much fitter would you be for cycling 1200 miles a year? How good would it feel whizzing past a queue of gridlocked cars, then paying a parking fee of nothing to park right outside your office?

Or keep your car, but save £300 – £400 a year in petrol and the same again in parking fees. And another £600 on the gym membership you probably don’t use. As for getting in that swimsuit this summer – a round trip of 10 miles will burn an extra 360 calories a day!(2)

If walking or cycling’s not for you, how great would it be to be stuck in fewer traffic queues and not to have to leave for work an hour early just to get a parking spot.

Leaving the car at home is good for you, your wallet, your job, the environment and your fellow commuters. Most of you have a bike sitting in the shed or garage. Spring is just around the corner – a perfect time to start using it to commute.


(1)Telecommuting 2000 – The costs of congestion & commuting [n.d.]. <; [accessed 23/3/11]
(2) Everyday Health Biking Calorie Calculator [2010] <; [Accessed 23/3/11)

Posted in Transport | 4 Comments