Private cash needed to boost roads network, says David Cameron


David Cameron: "This is not about mass tolling"

David Cameron has called for an "urgent" increase in private investment to improve England's road network.

He said tolls for new roads were one option, alongside attracting more money from pension funds and other investors.

Work was also needed to relieve gridlock by widening "pinch points" and allowing traffic to use motorway hard shoulders, the prime minister said.

But Labour said it would be "wrong" to "load extra costs on ordinary families" to pay for improvements to roads.

In a speech on infrastructure, the prime minister said there was an urgent need to repair its "decades-long degradation" and to "build for the future with as much confidence and ambition as the Victorians once did".

'Sweating old assets'

He argued it was clear there was not enough capacity on the roads in busy areas.

"There's nothing green about a traffic jam - and gridlock holds the economy back," he said.

Part of the solution was to move more people and goods onto the rail network, Mr Cameron said, "but also to widen pinch points, add lanes to motorways by using the hard shoulder to increase capacity and dual overcrowded A-roads".

But the prime minister said "innovative approaches" were needed to finance road improvements at a time of tight government finances.

The public don't much like anything that smacks of privatising that which they already think they own - although the experience of the water industry shows that once it's happened people shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives

"Road tolling is one option - but we are only considering this for new, not existing, capacity. For example, we're looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part-funded through tolling.

"But we now need to be more ambitious. Why is it that other infrastructure - for example water - is funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated, utilities... but roads in Britain call on the public finances for funding?

"We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network, from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors."

Mr Cameron also said: "To put it crudely, we've become good in Britain at sweating old assets. But if you do that for too long, there's a price to pay."

He promised to move "from a tactical, piecemeal 'make-do-and-mend' mindset to a strategic, comprehensive, systematic vision".

'Dead-end policy'

Mr Cameron claimed that congestion on roads costs the UK economy £7bn a year.

A feasibility study looking at "new ownership and financing models" for roads will be carried out by the Treasury and Department of Transport, to report by the autumn.

Labour leader Ed Miliband: "People are struggling to make ends meet"

Alasdair Reisner, from the Civil Engineering Contractors' Association, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that one option was a system of "shadow tolls", whereby the motorist does not pay the cost but private firms are paid by the government depending on the amount of traffic using a road.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "We will look at the detail of any scheme but I give the prime minister this warning: people are really hard-pressed; people are struggling to make ends meet.

"I think loading extra costs on ordinary families for using our roads would be the wrong thing to do at this time. It would be wrong for them; it would be wrong for the economy.

"If they want to get the economy moving they should be investing in our infrastructure in order to actually help us build up to the future and get economic growth going."

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI employers' group, said: "Congestion on our roads costs the UK economy up to £8bn a year, so the prime minister's ambition to get much-needed private investment into the strategic network could not have come at a better time."

Edmund King, president of the AA, agreed that investment was needed in roads, but added: "We need to be careful about how we go about this."

Prof Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation: "The money has got to come from somewhere"

On the prime minister's comparison between the water industry and the road network, he said: "Many consumers - drivers - will raise their eyebrows at that. In the water industry we saw big companies make big profits initially, at the same time as water and sewage costs went up by 42% and 36%."

Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "We should cautiously welcome the prospect of private sector involvement. There are just not enough public resources to provide the capacity we need and this offers the chance to make long-term plans for a utility every bit as important as things like water, power, electricity and the railways."

But Friends of the Earth's head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: "Building and widening roads to tackle congestion is a dead-end policy that will simply lead to more traffic, more pollution - and even more gridlocked roads.

"The prime minister should be promoting alternatives to driving such as affordable buses and trains - and reduce our transport system's reliance on expensive overseas oil."


More on This Story

Budget 2012

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    Good for you, Dave. Now let's see some more gutsy Tory dogma and privatise the pavements, the sea and most ambitiously, the air people breathe. Yes imagine that, thanks to centuries of pinko leftist politics people in this country get all the air they breathe for free!
    Just think of the profits your business mates could make charging people for being alive.

    You were not elected to do this, Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    4. I am against the idea of growth driving eveything. We are already the second most densely populated country in Europe and growth rather than true rebalancing seems the only "answer". We will have more houses, still out of reach for most, more roads and people stanind on one another's heads if this carries on. Road growth is being driven by population growth that politicians of all hues back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    More work is needed to relieve gridlock by widening "pinch points"

    The only pinch point is between Camerons ears. This is the most vile government in living memory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    What a surprise. Conservative government, privatise everything!! NHS, roads, what next, why not schools too and turn this country into the United States of Great Britain, where if you have money great if you don't you're doomed to rubbish roads, healthcare, schools etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    If the money generated by the road tax and petrol tax was used to build and repair existing roads instead of propping up the military and other causes with it, we would not have to have toll roads or take up the hard shoulders that are there for emergency's. Is this to much to ask for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    This idea will create more jobs but in the shape of a new raft/level of managers and consultants that will cost us more than the existing set-up, Just look at the train companies with their subsidies, and the way Network Rail is not really accountable to government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Political suicide. If there's one thing that unites everyone in the UK it's the money they spend on supplements to their car.

    Seriously though, a nice big investment in public transport wouldn't go amiss. More buses, more trains..... Oh wait, sorry, we privatised those didn't we?

    Oh well, on your bikes everyone! Added benefit of potentially avoiding having to go to a non-existant hospital too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    re : The Deutsche

    Exactly, unfortunately we have a "loony left" in the UK which seems to think the UK can operate outside of financial rules which is why each time the Labour part has been in power for any length time over the last 50 years they have left us impoverished. Last time they came up with a "clever" marketing trick calling themselves "New" Labour but basically it was same old same old

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    everything that has ever been privatised in this country ends up costing the tax payer AND the user more at a reduced service. where are these so called "new" roads going to be built? I think there wont be any new roads just revamed old ones which then leads to the question, will all the lorrys that use these roads further push up the cost of living as the costs are then passed on the public?

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Privatising only means one thing 100% profits for shareholders! high costs for us! NOTHING good has come out of privatising! at this rate will be a shareholding country! Why are we paying all this tax where is all OUR money going!!!????? our pensions our NI tax and the rest?! someone please get rid of camron! its like having a Mafia run the country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    What a load of rubbish privatizing the roads. How is it going to be done are companies going to get a motorway say M6 or are they going to get area's say SE. Tolls will it be for the full length or part. If building new lane's alongside where will the land come from unless already owned or are they going to change planning regs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    If our country is hell bent on rapid population expansion due to giving money away to anyone that breeds - then these kids grow up and then run a car.... of course congestion and road traffic is going to get worse.

    Doing nothing is not an option

    And from other comments, if the rail privatisation was so bad, why didnt the last ineffective bunch of muppets re-nationalise it?
    (Too expensive?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Today the roads, tomorrow its the post office, everyday he comes out with something new, but cant fix yesterdays problems. grrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    502.Name number 6

    Sounds just the labour party

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    Road fund licence used to be just that, to fund building and upkeep of roads. Via the back door it is now blatantly called car tax, cash used to prop up this mishandled economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    What new roads? Can anyone see any new roads being completed within the term of this Government or even the next? The motorist is ripped off at every opportunity and this is just more of the same.

    I expect certain lanes to become 'Toll Lanes' instead......the start of the 'Elite Zil Lanes' populated by BMW's, Merc's and 4 x 4's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Cameron & his crooks build a better Britain,so far theyv'e failed miserably as no-one could build a worse one,theres not a lot left for them to sell plunder & privatise can't help but wonder what other treats may be on the cards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Vanessa - the trouble with DBFOs and PFIs is that the contractor must have a profit margin, the timescales are long meaning less flexibility, and we still have to pay for contract managers to prevent too much rip-off. The costs will be higher than works &mgmt done by direct labour. And yes, there may be more tolls. Big Biz won't do this for love, it will be money money money all the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Why on earth does anyone vote Tory, ever?
    Privatise NHS
    Cut income Tax for the top earners.
    Dish out lucrative public contracts to their mates.
    Cut everyones pay but their mates.
    Erase employment, civil and human rights.

    Why does anyone vote Tory, ever?

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Really privatise roads and the hedge funds will spend more money to improve the road network funny i dont believe it what i do believe is a future of congestion charging failing road infrastructure and motorists paying vast sums into hedgefund directors pockets if they cant sort out the leaking water the trains how can privatisation possibly sort out the roads.


Page 50 of 75


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.