Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Why privatise our roads?

by Claire Stephens

Anyone who follows the news will agree that this week has been overwhelmingly focused upon contentious issues surrounding the coalition’s proposals. With George Osborne waiting to announce the budget tomorrow whilst today has been centred around the debate on NHS reform, my concerns were raised when I learnt of the proposition to enhance private investment in the UK’s road network.

Having recently passed my driving test, I must say that the financial implications involved with simply qualifying to drive are enough to put any modest person off the entire process. Through paying £50 for the provisional license; taking an adequate number of lessons to meet the required standard and then paying for each component of the two-part test, it is easy to see how the costs quickly add up. And for what? To pay a substantial amount of money in insurance and tax, not to mention the ever-increasing fuel costs forced upon drivers.

When the M6 Toll road was opened in 2004, one cannot deny that it was warmly welcomed by any commuter looking to fasten the time of their journey. However, it was hardly anticipated that the cost of using this road would increase so substantially; the price for a ‘Class 2’ vehicle rose from around £2 upon the opening to a significant £5.50 today. It is hardly surprising when one considers that the route is owned by a private business, ultimately looking to make money. Yet, motorists are being pushed to the very extreme of their tolerance levels as yet more and more money is being taken from their pockets.

With Cameron having said that, "There's nothing green about a traffic jam - and gridlock holds the economy back," it is argued that the increase in private investment is a necessary factor in order to improve the road capacity in busy areas. Yet, if the main issue of concern is finding a way to improve the traffic flow in the UK, it makes more sense to invest in refining public transport systems so that one can encourage a reduction in the number of cars. Ultimately, the fact that Cameron has already urged specific foreign investors to capitalise their money in the UK’s road network suggests that the process of privatisation is just another way for ordinary citizens to take the hit for the bankers’ mistakes whilst the government attempts to shed responsibility.

1 comment:

  1. Are you therefore suggesting that privatisation of our roads is out of the question? I have been doing some research on privatisation as I have an economics exam in a week and I am predicting that my lecturer will quiz us on the road debate.

    I, for one, am unsure about the possibility of the privatisation of our roads, there are ups and downs to the argument to which you have discussed in this piece.

    Is it the objective of the State to reduce their spending or is it to make efficient use of transportation - what do you think?


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