Tom Henderson, Senior Associate in the Government &
Infrastructure department of Bircham Dyson Bell LLP believes that
recent Government moves to explore road privatisation might be a
first step towards the introduction of more widespread road
"The strategic road network is in need of new
investment to alleviate congestion at key pinch points and improve
standards of maintenance and clearly public finance is in short
supply," explains Tom.
"For that reason the proposals are to be welcomed,
though the devil will be in the detail. History suggests that the
privatisation of key infrastructure has not been without its
problems, and it will require a strong regulator to ensure that the
public interest is protected.
"The Government has stated that new infrastructure may
be tolled, but given that all evidence suggests tolls are a vote
loser, it has been careful to distinguish this from the existing
"So on the face of it widespread road tolling seems a
long way off. However, most economists would argue that the basic
principle of road pricing stacks up. To address issues of fairness,
road pricing could be offset by changes to other road taxes, and
the technology is sophisticated enough to differentiate pricing
according to the time and route travelled.
"In my view road pricing is desirable and in any event
inevitable, as congestion worsens and alternative fuels become
widespread in use. The Government has ducked the issue of
widespread road pricing for now, but it will have to return to it.
Perhaps the rolling out of road pricing for selected new routes and
lanes will be a first step in the process, by bringing
sophisticated road pricing technology into everyday use, and
exposing motorists to the principle on a wider
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