Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Let England's Motorway Madness Be A Warning To Scotland

Throughout my lifetime it's been blatantly obvious that the SE of England gets the spoils while the remainder of the UK contributes.

Now, due to the neglect of road infrastructure in England - particularly the south east - David Cameron wants to semi-privatise motorways and trunk roads because his government (and the one one before) ignored the deterioration of major roads.

Approximately £33 billion pours into the Treasury's coffers from car taxation and fuel duty but during 2010-2011 the Department of Transport's budget was only £12.8bn.   Of this sum £3.2bn went to the Highways Agency for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network in England. This compares to £3.4bn spent on the railways, £2.7bn spent via Transport for London and £2.6bn spent through local authorities. The DoT is facing a real terms cut of 15% by 2014-15 so these figures will, quite possibly, be reduced in the coming years.

Why are England's roads so unsuitable for today's road users? The figures show that approximately 35% of the total income is reinvested in road structure and while European countries such as Spain have built a magnificent road infrastructure in recent years (albeit with EU money), the UK government has done nothing - with the exception of the M6 Toll.

No privatisation in the last 30 years has been much of a success.  Taxpayers' money subsidises the rail network more than it did prior to privatisation and service has gradually deteriorated while prices have regularly increased. Water companies make huge profits but the charge to consumers has increased by around 50%.

Companies will be permitted to develop a road structure and introduce toll charges on any new road.

David Cameron is desperate for money. He refuses to recognise that recent and present unnecessary wars are wasting billions each year - not to mention the cost of Trident and DfID's budget to rise by 35% in real terms by 2015.  Just a few policies which incur questionable expenditure.

Semi-privatising the English road structure by offering long leases to private companies is a dangerous proposal. Will the people accept more of their country's assets falling into foreign hands? Are the British too relaxed about foreign ownership of prestige assets? In comparison to many other western countries we are unusual in our acceptance of selling parts of these islands to anyone who is willing to offer a reasonable price.

I'm not totally against road privatisation, such as the M6 Toll, but a wholesale long term lease is very different.  It could be impossible to reclaim the roads without having to entertain another semi-privatisation plan to do so.

If the government considered getting rid of vehicle excise duty and replaced it with tolls, that may be acceptable to the average vehicle owner. But that's not David Cameron's intention. He intends to keep VED and allow private companies to share that income for the purpose of maintaining and improving the road infrastructure. I foresee private companies speedily building extra lanes/roads to use as toll roads and neglecting the maintenance of present roads. It's said there will be a watchdog, but no watchdog in the UK could be called efficient.

Would Scotland consider semi or fully privatising the major road infrastructure?  We do need to improve it, of that there is no doubt, but because major improvements have been on-going for several years our roads are far superior to some of those in England. Transport links are part of the heart of a strong economy, along with the manufacture of quality products and a well educated population. It is my hope that Scotland will never suffer from short-sighted politicians such as the coalition, because once a part of an infrastructure goes out of public hands, it is then outwith the control of the people. Scottish politicians realise that's not a good move - hence Scottish Water is still a public utility company. Let's hope our roads stay that way too for a very long time.



RMcGeddon said...

Road pricing must have authorisation from the EU as transport is an EU competence.
I suppose the elite now require zil lanes like in previous totalitarian regimes.
Aberdeen , 40 yrs the 'oil capital of Europe' has the roads from hell.
A trip to Dyce airport is a nightmare of crumbling old roads and bridges, heavy traffic and delays.

JRB said...

…because major improvements have been on-going for several years our roads are far superior to some of those in England.
That comment may be true for the central belt, but is woefully short of the mark for Highland roads.

The A9 holds the unenviable title of being the most dangerous road in Scotland. Recently introduced stretches of three lane road have had to be closed, simply because they were killing too many motorists.
For as long as I can remember consecutive governments have repeatedly promised to make substantial improvements to the A9. None has.

The A96 has a similarly poor safety record, and the road has topped the polls to find the most unpopular road in Scotland on more than one occasion.
As a major arterial route with heavy commercial traffic serving the oil capital, Aberdeen, with the Highland capital, Inverness, the A96 at it’s widest is no wider than Princess Street in Edinburgh.

The A890 from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh has remained closed since December 2011. The stoic locals grin and bear the 140mile detour, but I doubt if anyone south of Pitlochry would accept such a situation.

I could go on.

RMcGeddon said...

Yes, as I thought, it's all part of the EU wide trans national road system and is to cover the cost of things such as the new vehicle tracking and monitoring system throughout 'Europe's road network'..

"transport decisions in the EU are now made by a form of majority voting, the UK government might be outvoted if other countries wanted to pass a Directive, for instance, requiring road pricing for cars or the take-up of particular tracking technology. As membership of the EU does not allow powers transferred to the EU to be taken back, the UK would either have to accept such a decision or leave the EU"


JRB.. I think that road re opened to traffic yesterday. Although still only to slow moving convoys on a railway line ( sic) in between trains. Shocking stuff.
"over £90,000 spent by Highland council to clear the landslide" gushed the STV reporter. That's about a third of Eric Joyce's wages and exes for a year.

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear SR. I was watching something the other night about Norway. There are toll roads there, but they charge only until the road has been paid for; after that it's free. And the state of the roads in that country (which has more severe weather than Scotland) was astounding. Beautiful, smooth surfaces, pretty much unknown in Scotland.

JRB, As I understand it, the government was committed to vast works on the A9 in 2007, but was forced, by opposition parties (in a minority government) to accept that money be used to build the daft tram "network" (joke) in the capital.

It needs to be an urgent priority to do something about these roads you mention. As well as improving the infrastructure, it would put people to work. New Deal FDR style. It's a win win. It was in the 30s; it is now. That Cameron cannot see it is typical of his ilk. That Brown couldn't was indefensible.

Oldrightie said...

"Throughout my lifetime it's been blatantly obvious that the SE of England gets the spoils while the remainder of the UK contributes."

How true that is of everything. Airports being another example. As horrendous as Heathrow is, the ability to put an international hub elsewhere still escapes the London clique. Stansted would make for a replacement to Heathrow, easily, but too many NIMBYS to assuage.

RMcGeddon said...

Our seas aren't safe either...

19th March 2012. Emergency tug withdrawn from service in Western Isles..


20th March 2012. Cargo ship runs aground off Uist..


Michele said...

So the SE of England gets the most funding?? - strange; a friend of mine lives in Dundee, he claims that Edinburgh get most of the funding in Scotland ... I suggested he demands a devolved government to look after their specific needs, but he didn't seem to think that was a good idea.

That's the trouble with these unionists can't see the wood for the trees :) :) :)

Michael Fowke said...

What sort of country doesn't own its own roads?

subrosa said...

I looked for some info about EU involvement RM but couldn't find anything specific.

Aberdeen's problem is purely political. A new bypass could have been built many years ago if various politicians hadn't played fast and loose with the matter.

I agree it's a mess and the main reason I don't use Aberdeen as a shopping centre these days.

subrosa said...

JRB I'm speaking about Perthshire and my experience of driving around bits of Scotland in recent years.

There have been major improvements to the A9, although I agree not nearly enough. The solution is to build it dual carriageway from beginning to end, but I doubt if any politician will support that because the central belt would complain.

The A96 is indeed another death trap and the A890 disgrace to politicians as the problem has been there for years.

However, in comparison with some roads south of the border, we're still better served. That doesn't mean our infrastructure is anywhere near perfect of course.

subrosa said...

Some good points there RM.

subrosa said...

I'm not against major roads being toll roads Tris if we had a system like France, but to add the cost of tolls to all other road taxes is unacceptable.

subrosa said...

Such a pity we don't have politicians of foresight and skill - enough to resolve the problems you mention OR.

subrosa said...

Our seas haven't been safe for years RM. Not since the customs system was redesigned which left them neglected.

subrosa said...

From a UK treasury angle yes, the SE of England gets the highest funding Michele and by a long way. Some say the present infrastructure was built from oil taxes and that wouldn't surprise me.

As for Scotland. You're friend is quite possibly right about Edinburgh, closely followed by Glasgow. Anything with a 'central belt' label has priority because the densest population is there, so keep the masses happy...

Email me his address. I think he needs a wee chat with a fellow Dundonian. :-)

subrosa said...

Exactly Michael. I couldn't find one in Europe that didn't.

RMcGeddon said...

It's a neat trick they're pulling on us right enough SR.
Spend only a small proportion of the road tax on the roads and spend most of the money on bailing out the EU or other such rubbish.
As the roads fall apart put on tolls and create a road for the elite. Charging the toll charges that they themselves clock up to us through their expenses.
When people moan they will then reveal that there's nothing they can do as it's an EU competence and any revenue raised will be used to make the trans european highway the envy of the world. Every vehicle will be tracked from the start of it's journey to the end.
And people who moan are 'little englanders'. Even if they're not English.

cynicalHighlander said...


Happy motoring.

Brian said...

I worked for the Highways Agency for ten years and can honestly say that is probably the most efficient and innovative highway authority in the world - it's developed and is rolling outAsset Support Contracts which provide everything Dave claims to want. Despite, or perhaps because of its efficiency, the HA's budget is being cut to enable roads to be built overseas according to HA Design Manual for Roads and Bridges standards. HMG can always borrow money cheaper than private companies (that's what the Triple A rating means) and so corners must be cut if toll roads are to return profit to investors.
Actually, I reckon the real untold reason behind Dave's plan is to discourage road use to meet the C02 emissions targets. After all, one tends to be reluctant to fork out £5 for a journey that hitherto was paid for out of PAYE taxation.
A further problem with toll-roads is that if the sovereign wealth fund that bought them disagreed with a particular British policy such as trade with Israel or the Falkland Islands, it could close the roads to traffic until its demands were met, by claiming that urgent maintenance was needed or the booths were broken.

subrosa said...

That's another aspect of new toll roads RM, the tracking that they will involve when drivers don't want to queue to pay.

subrosa said...

Wonderful links, thanks CH.

subrosa said...

Brian, why if the HA is so efficient has the road network not been upgraded regularly? Is it because of the C02 business?

Yes, I can see such 'excuses' arising too and nothing the motorist can do about it.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I think we have to appreciate the wider picture.

Yesterday the privatisation of the NHS was pushed through Westminster with only a whimper of protest from an opposition that hadn't a substantive position against it.

Meanwhile we have all the spin on the 50p tax rate, which doesn't bring much in, but nobody knows precisely what that alleged 'little' is, or how much of that 'little' is affected by the ability of the rich to avoid it through tax 'avoidance'? Yet, the same mandarins who argue for its removal because of it's inefficiencies are able, supposedly, to put precise figures of billions in relation to so called benefit fraud. (Figures that bare no relationship to actual figures of convictions and amounts recovered.)

Then we have Cameron's proposal to regionalise public sector employees wages?

If carried through, this will confirm the North South divide as official national policy.

And now the proposal to invite the tycoons of financial shamanism to invest in maintaining the road system?

Is this a joke by a sub-prime government desperate to support the sub-prime capabilities of these financial shamans with real golden egg assets? Because if it is a joke its a bloody poor one. And dangerous in it's ability to turn the 'tape worm economy' we are already struggling with into a real life threatening end game for us, the gullible consumers.

It seems to me the present incumbents in Westminster are closing the circle of tyranny started by Thatcher.

subrosa said...

I wasn't aware the English NHS bill was quietly pushed through yesterday Crinkly. It's a shameful piece of legislation. Last week a similar thing happened here - the first reading of the alcohol tax bill. Useless opposition too and it's all on the back of one report from one middle-rate English university and one from Canada. Neither report is based on actuality but 'research'.

Selling the road system isn't a joke, I don't think.

Related Posts with Thumbnails