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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    So lets get this right: David Cameron wants us to be more mobile and get the country moving yet people on here say that by paying for Tolls it gets them to think about staying local/regional.... so - what is it? Ben more mobile or more local?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    The chinese circumvented the world long before Magellan and Drake, so why shouldn't they take over our roads if we get them damn pot holes fixed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    Excellent, I assume we don't have to pay Road TAX any more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    Private enterprise simply cannot manage public infrastructure. Look at the energy companies massive profits little investment. The monopolistic water companies. Again massive profits and a reticulation system that leaks as much now as when they took over. Yet annually all of these companies raise their proces on the grounds that investment is needed, investment that never materialises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    Can anyone think of anything privatised that has actually improved?

    1085.farkyss British Telecom.

    That's because there is true competition in the telecoms market. Water, Gas etc there is no real competition. The sam would be true of reoads unless you built multiple toll botths offering different prices by different companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    There are toll roads like the M6 or the Severn Bridge were users pay cash. Then there are toll roads like the M25 where the Govt pays the people who have funded either the original construction or improvements based on the number of vehicles using the road, the level of maintenance and in some cases the amount (lack) of congestion. Which type is "Dave Boy" suggesting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    Yes the PM is right that more money is spent on roads after all a lot more is taken from motorists in vehicle licensing and fuel tax than is spent on the road infrastructure! Why has the go ahead been given to high speed rail serving only London- Birmingham at an estimated cost of 42 Billion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    The Government need to look at their business model, far too many projects and activities are undertaken that we simply dont need/want or deliver value to the BRITISH tax payer.

    3 weeks of running and jumping (Olympics) £10b - when we were told less then £3b
    Overseas aid - chariaty begins at home.
    Overspend in the MOD
    NHS IT projects

    Overpaid senior mandrins
    Too many Quangos

    The list goes on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.

    you would think looking at what thatcherism and her love of all things private did for the railways,one would be inclined to look at water,electric,gas and the nothsea development,and take a long hard look at the returns and benefits it has had on the lives and wellfare of all the people of these islands,is there a case to return to some form of nationalisation?come on be honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    I truly believed that no-one could do a worse job of governing this country than Nu Labour, with their illegal wars, ID cards and nanny statism. How wrong I was. This lot seem to have declared open season on anyone who has the audacity not to earn a six-digit salary or sit in a boardroom. For the rest of us our only purpose in life seems to be to line their pockets and make them ever richer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    The selling off of the roads is even a bit right wing for Dave, I can only think that this is a comment made to placate the right wing of his party, because he has promised the lib dems that he will enter the Euro.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    Perhaps this is merely a good old smokescreen trying to diffuse tension over the ludicrous fuel duty increase coming in August

  • rate this

    Comment number 1108.

    "Actually, this sort of infrastructure project is one area where private financing and operation actually works and is used throughout Europe."

    That would be a recipe for an unmitigated disaster in this country then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1107.

    @1095 gmawr1978

    Good enough for me, I will do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    Just food for thought, for those like Cameron who think motoring is a long term issue.

    If divide the oil industry's most optimistic oil reserve figures by the global population, even assuming we could access every last drop, it's actually less than ten barrels each.

    We've got to stop trying to expand a road network when road useage is already starting to decline, and will continue to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    But the trouble is when push comes to shove, you all still vote for Lib's Labour or Tory , this county needs a people revolution, we need you to start voting at the ballot box for other parties not just the big three, as long as you vote for them or worse, not vote, nothing will ever change and you only have yourself to blame when idiots like DC or worse Ed the brain dead get into power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1104.

    How about we cancel the Olympics to pay for it?

    No of course not. That would mean politicians losing out on their big day of grand-standing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1103.

    If toll roads weren't so expensive they would be used more, it's been mentioned more than enough buy the M6 toll, I'm sure if prices dropped 50-75% more people would deem it as value for money.

    The road tax scheme has never made sense to me, why does a 650cc motorcycle taking up 50% less of the road, equally or even beating fuel economy pay twice as much as a diesel car?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1102.

    It seems that only SOME NEW roads will be privately operated with tolls. It will not "drive " more traffic onto local roads, because the traffic that will use any NEW roads is already on local roads. No one will be forced to use these NEW roads - if you don't want to pay, use current roads. What's not to like?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1101.

    We should go back to the original idea of taxing cars off the road and putting it in to public transport. We don't want any more roads we just want a great, reliable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way of getting around that doesn't mean sitting in queues in a tin box being gassed by fumes. Simple - but some people seem more wedded to their wretched cards than to their wives!


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