Roads Plc? Why privatisation might look tempting

The day the M6 toll road opened The M6 toll road opened in 2003

10 reasons why roads privatisation might look tempting to the government...

1. Our roads infrastructure is hopelessly out of date

2. The Department for Transport estimates the cost of congestion to business is set to rise by £10-12bn over the period to 2025

3. Investment in roads will always be behind schools, hospitals and a lot more besides in the queue of things the chancellor will spend money on

4. A new RoadsPLC could borrow against a guaranteed steady stream of income - either road tolls or "shadow tolls" - ie a fee paid for each driver using a road by the government

5. It would raise a lot of money for a cash-strapped exchequer - £100bn according to a report by the bankers NM Rothschild

6. All parties have, at one time or another, accepted the need to find new ways to fund roads

7. A nationwide "pay-as-you-drive" system was unveiled by former Transport Secretary Alistair Darling in 2005

8. Vince Cable dubbed the Rothschild plan "an attractive, positive idea which could release considerable resources to the public finances and may have real environmental merits"

9. The RAC Foundation has backed the idea

10. It's hard to imagine a time when the government will have enough money to spend on roads

Road pricing


...and two big reasons why it might not

1. The public hate the idea of road tolls. Labour's examination of road tolls produced an e-petition of 1.7 million names which is why David Cameron is now saying that he won't allow tolls on existing roads. Since then the cost of motoring has gone up

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

PS: Here are a couple of reports which examine the options

RAC Foundation - Funding Strategic Roads

Social Market Foundation - Roads to Recovery

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  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I like this road privatisation thingy. I join the Fly Emirates '62 motorway at Warrington - double air-miles if you travel off-peak - then onto the Amex557 to Widnes. The Priority Gold Card lane is almost empty. I don't use the BetFred562 as the odds on getting there on time are rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Heavy vehicles pay more VED than cars.

    That said, a back of the envelope scribble & calculator session makes the roads budget of £3.5bn approx {M. Penning 19/3/12} seem rather low. How much does VED actually raise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    @90 40Watt

    I don't work in the public sector & don't get a London weighting. In fact I would have a far better quality of life living & working outside of London, even if I were to use the M6 Toll on a daily basis. If you reference your non-work time to your hourly pay rate, you will see that a fiver to avoid an hour of delays is a bargain; less than the minimum wage in fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Motorists don't only subsidise pedestrians and cyclists

    Most of the damage done to our roads is done by big vehicles like lorries and buses

    One single lorry causes the same damage as at least 10,000 cars

    Motorists have been subsidising business users for decades

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    What about tolling but linked to ability to pay (like income tax is), anybody see merit in that?

    So, for example, the average person pays 22p a mile but high earners pay 50p. Then a personal allowance for everyone of, say, 5,600 miles per annum you can do free gratis.

    For auto collection we'll need a big database mapping number plates to tax returns. Building this will create jobs.


  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Motorists have subsidised everybody for long enough

    Tolls for cyclists and pedestrians will help enormously, especially in city centres

    We're all in this together !

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Why shouldn't pedestrians contribute to the maintenance of high streets & shopping malls. It would certainly lower the tax burden of high street shops. Toll gates charging a small nominal amount could be easily implemented at the entrance to busy shopping areas. It's the only way a fair, free Market, capitalist economy should be. You only pay for the services you use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    #144. Ady
    "Charge cyclists $200 each a year, using street tolls
    It's about time they started to contribute to our infrastructure"

    Nice one Ady, but why stop there?
    Charge pedestrians for cluttering up our pavements and walkways.
    A pedestrian toll on every high street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    We've been here before, our 'Road Fund', paid for by compulsory vehicle taxation has long been appropriated for other political priorities - only the tax-pain remains, now hiked by environment excuse. Our water is also misappropriated for private profit, leakage waste politically tolerated; our highest privatised rail fares in Europe demonstrate precisely what to expect from Mammon's road system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Using Social Market Foundation policy each citizen will still own the road network by receiving tradable shares. All drivers will then only pay for the mileage & peak times they use. It's the fairest & most efficient way to run the road network. At £1500 each these shares will stimulate the UK economy. People seem to have their heads in the sand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Charge cyclists $200 each a year, using street tolls

    It's about time they started to contribute to our infrastructure

    That will cover things

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    You forgot No. 11 Nick.

    11) Because many friends and business allies of government ministers are in line to make billions of pounds from UK taxpayers when the Roads/ NHS/ Police/ Post Office/ Army (delete as appropriate) are privatised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I'm confused.

    According to the vocal minority on here the Coalition are so unpopular that they will be unelectable come the May 2015 election yet the latest opinion polls published by the Guardian/ICM indicate that between them the Conservatives (39%) and Liberal Democrats (15%) have 54% of the general population intending to vote for them.

    Who would have thought it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    So the government want us to pay for something we already own.

    Far out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    "People shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives" - Not so... our water was stolen from us. The problem is that there is no opposition party willing to look at re-nationalising water or the railways. That is what most people want and if Labour got their red ties back on they'd find a huge groundswell of support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    It is beyond belief that such small and norrow minded measures that the party in power are trying to take. .

    The only way to ease the economic problems is to recognise that not enough people are paying tax. The solution is easy. Reduce the working week by 2 hours and gain 3million jobs. problem will not be solved

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    The average motorist pays Road Tax, something of the order of 200 Pounds Sterling x 31 million vehicles = road tax received by the UK Government in any one year, then add on the vast tax on petrol/diesel that is also received........ So please please tell us why you cannot afford to build and maintain the UK's road network?

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Perhaps Dave should put a retrospective toll on any idiot who flies out to the Arctic Circle with a media circus to extol the virtues of some fantasy green credentials. Or privatise it, whatever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Collect the tolls - pay the share holders, wages, salaries and bonuses - what's left use to repair the roads!!! Nothing left? Back to the Turnpike Riots of the 19th century then. I think we've been here before Dave, try something like reducing maximum vehicle weights back to 1970 levels. It will reduce road damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    "1. Our roads infrastructure is hopelessly out of date."

    Rail PLC didn't help the rail infrastructure which is now renationalised(sort of) ntwork rail/east coast mainline.

    "The public don't.. like anything that smacks of privatising {stuff} they already think they own (although water shows that once it's happened people shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives)"

    Is NR Trolling?


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