Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tightwads.

My friend Andy has been in touch. As he reads this blog, permit me a few moments while I say hello otherwise I feel I would be talking behind his back and that would be rude: hello Andy.

Andy is an ex-colleague of mine, a fellow student of the human condition as demonstrated by the 50 million or so motorists who annually use the world's premier toll road, the Dartford River Crossing or, as it has been known for the last three years or so, Le Crossing. For the ignorant, we used to charge people for entering Kent and then fine them for leaving. Andy isn't the most excitable of chaps, he's solid and dependable and is a good man. He is an efficient worker and was there when I joined in 96 and is still there, day in and day out, come sun, rain or snow, bravely putting up with the evil and ignorant beast that is the British motorist. He has also corresponded with me regularly since I left in 2002.

This time he had disturbing news. During my time there, the management of the crossing was never known for its outstanding generosity and there was an uneasy distrust between white and blue collar. In the 80s, the Tunnel (as it was then before the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge was completed in 1991) had a dreadful local reputation and there were many toll booth operators doubling their salaries illegally. A purge was undertaken, new equipment installed and a human bloodhound called Bill set loose who knew every scam possible. The upshot of this commercial dilligence was the place was a license to print money and the loan taken out to build the bridge (the Thatcher government's first PFI project) was paid off several years early. We were fairly well, but not brilliantly, paid.

Apart from the lengthy holidays we were able to take because of the strange shift pattern we worked, we had one other perk - we could use the crossing for free. You'd expect that, wouldn't you. After all, railwaymen and their families get free travel and I dare say bus drivers get to use buses for free. Tesco employees get discounts and my next door neighbour works as a lowly night porter at a local hotel and gets to use their golf course for free. The free trips were a little concession they made for whenever the employees from Kent wanted to go to Ikea in Thurrock or the Essex lads wanted to take their children to see people who could eat with their mouths closed. In the great big scheme of things it probably deprived the company of no more than a few thousand quid a year. Notice I said deprive - it doesn't cost them anything unless they cause an accident. Wear and tear is negligible. The number of free company trips taken annually could be fed through one bore of the tunnel in less than an hour.

I'm sure you've guessed. Yes, Andy tells me that the bastards have started to charge employees to use the crossing. Such overwhelming generosity will, I'm sure, be met with a reciprocal gesture from the troops. I'd add half an hour on your journey on busy days if I were you.

9 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Geoff said...

I say "Bastards", too. I'm an occasional user but I'd say the same even if I had to use it every day.

And hello, Andy.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Sharon J said...

Pigs! I have now officially used the Dartford crossing for the very last time. Blackwall here I come!

1:11 pm  
Blogger Carmenzta said...

Big business/government is "piggy" to say the least. I work for a university and I have to pay for parking! AND the parking situation here is so bad I have to park like 3 blocks away, rain, hurricane or shine.
Also, up to about 2 years ago, we did not have tuition waivers for our kids. Now we have them BUT they have to get a B minimum grade otherwise we have to pay the tuition back.
IT SUX.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Richard Seamon said...

Quandry - I'd say don't use it but it's my pension!

4:18 pm  
Blogger tom909 said...

Ah, the joys of the capitalist system - don't ya just love it!

7:17 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

I'm told the Nazis that run the Humber Bridge only allow their employees free trips to or from work and they have to pay if they are carrying non-employee passengers. They just put it up to #2.70 each way too. I'm thinking of getting a micro-light instead.

7:23 pm  
Blogger Richard Seamon said...

You see, I don't actually disagree with the principal of toll roads. The tolls raised from Dartford, as far as I understand under the new licence, go towards the maintenance of the local road system, especially the A282 (it's not the M25 there). I've been over the Humber and I think it's an obsessive amount to pay even though it's longer. The tolls at Dartford haven't been increased for over 4 years, in fact one's disappeared completely and it's a quid for everything overnight. They pay well and are a major employer too so the local economy benefits. I can't call it, too many old mates there.

7:40 pm  
Blogger tom909 said...

I sometimes wonder if we could somehow turn the clocks back a little and go back to running things for the good of society (There is no such thing as society - MT) then things might actually have worked out a little better.

8:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right, the managing company have done themselves no favours with the staff, there is less traffic than 3 years ago, and the q's are longer in length and time. And don't mention Jan 1st 08.

10:38 pm  

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