Lord Wolfson offers £250,000 prize for roads solution

Lord Wolfson
Image caption This is the third time Lord Wolfson has run his economics competition

Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, is offering a £250,000 prize for the best suggestion on how to solve the problem of the UK's overcrowded roads.

The competition is expected to attract entries from policymakers, businesses and universities around the world.

He is looking for new ideas to bring more investment and a better deal for road users.

The competition asks: "How can we pay for better, safer and more reliable roads?"

Lord Wolfson says that road users pay more than £30bn to use the road network, yet only around £9bn is put back.

"The new prize is an opportunity for fresh thinking about how to tackle congestion and secure investment in a modern road network," he said.

"If we can learn from the rest of the world, or pioneer new thinking in Britain, then we can do something about delays."

This is the third time the prize has been run.

It is free to enter, with the deadline for submissions on 2 March, 2017.

The judges will consist of a panel of experts, including former chancellor, Alistair Darling.

Previous topics have been how to safely dismantle the eurozone, and how to deliver a new Garden City.

Image copyright PA

Analysis: Kamal Ahmed, BBC economics editor

Successive governments have been accused of dragging their feet on major infrastructure investment as voters tend not to like major building projects on their doorstep.

Sir John Kingman, former permanent secretary at the Treasury and now chairman of the Wolfson Prize judging committee, said that - in competition with education and health - infrastructure projects like road improvements often miss out.

"It's full, it's slow, it's creaking," Sir John said of the UK's roads system.

"People think our roads are free, but they are not free.

"Actually road users pay a huge amount in tax and that's a very important source of revenue for the government.

"But that source of revenue is in decline.

"So the Treasury has a vested interest in finding solutions - ways out of this problem - that get us to a better place where we can have both a sustainable source of revenue for the government but also better roads for the user."

As economists warn about the possible impact of leaving the EU, investment in projects that will boost growth is becoming more urgent.

Read Kamal's blog in full

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