Are privatised roads coming courtesy of the Coalition government?
Good news! David ‘Honest Dave’ Cameron is going to make the roads all better! Bad news! He’s planning to privatise the big roads and we’ll probably all end up paying more tolls as we endeavour to tootle about the land.
The PM will later say that there is an urgent need to repair the “decades-long degradation” of the roads and to "build for the future with as much confidence and ambition as the Victorians once did". Good old Victorians.
Other big ideas such as widening ‘pinch points’ and allowing traffic to use the hard shoulder to increase capacity on busy roads will be thrown into the air like car-shaped confetti, along with a call for “innovative approaches” to finance it all – which will almost certainly mean privatising the more potentially-lucrative parts of our roadways.
In his speech, Cameron will say: “We now need to be more ambitious. Why is it that other infrastructure - for example water - is funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated, utilities... but roads in Britain call on the public finances for funding?”
He will then add: “And the fresh air. We need to have a rethink about how we manage its infrastructure in the future, as needs change. We’ll probably have another stab at selling the forests off first though – we almost pulled that one off last time around.” No he won’t – we made that bit up. Meanwhile, the NHS bill goes to the Lords this week, while we're all briefly talking about roads. Nice.
In response, Edmund King, President of the AA (yes, PRESIDENT) mumbled this about Honest Dave’s comparison with the ‘water industry’ (which isn’t really an industry when you think about carefully for about, oh, half a second): “Many consumers - drivers - will raise their eyebrows at that. In the water industry we saw big companies make big profits initially, at the same time as water and sewage costs went up by 42% and 36%.”
So then – privatised roads? More tolls? A good thing? Tell us, you big blethering bunch of road-users you.