Prime Minister David Cameron plans to open Britain’s road network to further privatising. Under the Prime Minister’s idea, leases on roads owned and operated by the Highways Agency would be sold to private companies, who would then fund any improvements and maintenance, in return for a proportion of the income generated by vehicle road tax. This is certainly bad news for lorry drivers; Although roads operated by the Highways Agency make up just 3% of the UK’s total road length, they carry a third of the traffic and two-thirds of road freight.
Charging people to use roads should also provide money, which could be spent on the UK’s national roads network, reducing the £7 billion Cameron claims is currently lost every year because of congestion. He sees therefore a need to look for options for private investment into the national roads network. Sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and other investors, including Chinese firms, are considered as potential sources of spending. The PM argued in favour of his plan by reminding that other infrastructure – for example, water – is already funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated utilities.
The news, however, has been slammed by a group representing lorry drivers. Although they acknowledge the need to improve the UK road transport infrastructure, in light of the exorbitant costs of petrol and diesel, high rates of other taxes on drivers and increasingly expensive car insurance cover, they argue, that the idea of vehicle road tax would only put the economy back on its knees.