Here’s why Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ plans are nonsensical

David Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ proposals, which he unveiled today, are nonsensical, writes Sustrans’s Eleanor Besley.

E-mail-sign-up Donate



The prime minister’s plans to encourage private investment in Britain’s road network appear simply be a poorly camouflaged attempt to distract from the restructuring of the health system and the wholesale burning of environmentally protective ‘red tape’.

It also detracts from the wider issue we face when it comes to transport: many of us have no choice but to depend on a resource which is fast becoming less abundant and more expensive.

Distraction or not, today’s proposal from government is nonsensical; here’s why:

Privatisation fails the public:

Many of us who have to use our cars to get from A to B wish there was an alternative – but getting a train can be inconvenient, expensive and unreliable.

The government should be doing more to improve our rail system rather than sealing the fate of the roads to match that of the trains.

A focus on roads exacerbates transport poverty:

By looking at how to shift ownership to generate more road capacity, David Cameron is missing the point – government should be looking at how to help more of us leave the car behind.

Across the UK, transport poverty is a devastating reality for millions. As the certainty of peak oil hits home, more and more of us will be priced out of car ownership and there will not be alternative options in place.

Realigning the debate on road leasing completely fails to consider how government will be helping the British public access alternatives to car travel.

Increasing road capacity generates more traffic:

Evidence shows that building roads generates new traffic and does not alleviate congestion elsewhere.

Transport experts have observed the phenomenon of ‘induced traffic’ (pdf) since 1925 and the most authoritative studies into induced traffic show building road capacity is creating even more traffic than forecasts would have predicted.

Toll roads have not worked so far:

Former transport secretary Philip Hammond signalled an interest in using tolls to pay for future road building schemes, most of which are expected to be halted after the October spending review.

However, this report by the Campaign for Better Transport shows the 27-mile toll motorway has failed to provide any significant congestion relief for the original M6 and the price, which has been increased significantly year on year, is bad value for drivers who use the toll.


See also:

Are sky-high train fares fair? Let the government know what you think 8 Mar 2012

Transport poverty is hitting the headlines – it’s time for fair thinking on fuel 29 Feb 2012

The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge 21 Jan 2012

Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continent 3 Jan 2012

How the Government could keep train fares down 16 Aug 2011


Despite the toll now charging motorists £5 on weekdays, two-and-a-half times the initial cost, the report shows that the operator is losing tens of millions of pound severy year. Meanwhile, M6 congestion is now so bad the government is considering spending another £500m on it to deal with the problems the toll road was supposed to solve.


Sign-up to our weekly email • Donate to Left Foot Forward

24 Responses to “Here’s why Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ plans are nonsensical”

  1. Blarg1987

    I can see what will happen:

    Goverment will seel long lease agreements to private investors, these companies will say we are not interested as the network is not up to scrath.

    Taxes will go up or investment in local road networks will be cut to bring the trunk network up to scratch so long lease agreements can be achieved.

    Public assets will be leased for peanuts at an undervalued price to “encourge private sector investment”.

    Regulating body will be unable to monitor properly and road maintenance will decrease with focus being on profit driven areas i.e. toll road construction etc.

    Private firms will go to goverment saying they can not maintain the existing road network to the existing level and require additional subsidies, goverm,ent will roll over as to not do that would imply failure of policy which will cost goverment political credibility and MP’s future directorships.

    Road network will deteriorate further.

    Political party will say that they have reduced the deficiet by offloading the responsibility onto private companies that have offered better value for money to tax payers, failing to admit that overall the network is costing more to maintain and that revunues are going to offshore tax heavans avoiding tax which was calculated to be paid from treasury reports which were cooked to encourage private sector investment.

    People will shrug their shoulders and carry on.

    This is what happened to all other public utilities and transport so it would be interesting to ask what will the goverment put in place to prevent this happening again?

  2. Tim Beadle

    Here’s why Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ plans are nonsensical | Left Foot Forward

  3. ElaineSco

    Left Foot Forward – Here’s why Cameron’s ‘road privatisation’ plans are nonsensical

  4. Newsbot9

    Arrangements to ensure profit for their buddies buying in will be just dandy for the first few years.

  5. Ruth Cole

    Here's why Cameron's 'road privatisation' plans are nonsensical, from our own @EleanorBesley on @leftfootfwd

Comments are closed.