DfT plan to raise direct revenue from roads is bad enough but libertarian think-tank urges Gov’t to motorise roads even further. A ‘free market roads’ report has been published by the Institute of Economic Affairs and is co-written by Dr Richard Wellings, the IEA’s Head of Transport).

He said, “Denationalising the network would ensure British motorists had better roads to drive on.” He has also said cyclists are “low-value”, don’t pay for roads and “delay traffic” and calls them “road tax dodgers”.

He claims that cyclists should only be allowed on bike paths only as, “roads are for motor vehicles. Maybe cyclists should pay to use cycle lanes – can’t see why taxpayers should be forced to subsidise them.” He seems to forget that roads are paid for by everybody out off all general taxation.

“A free market [in roads] would mean ending the state control and ownership of roads.

“Decisions regarding the deployment of speed cameras would be the responsibility of private road owners. These individuals would have to consider customer preferences for both speed and safety. Thus private road owners would probably focus on the wants of motorists rather than the demands of the road safety lobby. There [would be] no necessary role for government in the provision of speed limits or to ensure that motorists are registered, insured and trained.”

In the current report Dr Wellings said road privatisation would be opposed by many but that, “voter-taxpayers will appreciate lower taxes, whereas voter-drivers will appreciate shorter commuting or journey times and lower-cost fuel. It’s likely that rights of way for pedestrians, bicycles and horses would be preserved without charge, even though they would impose costs on road owners and motorists.”

The de-nationalisation of roads would be a reversal of 110 years of national stewardship.

In 1903, the Roads Improvements Association – an organisation created in 1886 by CTC and the forerunner to British Cycling – successfully lobbied the Government of the day to, in effect, nationalise the roads of Great Britain. Prior to this, roads were the responsibility of hundreds of local authorities, with an appalling disparity in quality of road upkeep from parish to parish, region to region.

The creation of a central highway authority was brought about thanks to the dogged insistence of a cycling official, Williams Rees Jeffreys. In 1900 he was elected a member of the Council of the Cyclists’ Touring Club and by 1901 was CTC’s representative on the Council of the Roads Improvement Association. He wanted the RIA to push for a “a Central Highway Authority and a State grant for highway purposes.”

In the 1940s, British Prime Minister Lloyd George said William Rees Jeffreys was “the greatest authority on roads in the United Kingdom and one of the greatest in the whole world.” Rees Jeffreys became the first secretary of the Roads Board, founded in 1910. This was the first central authority for roads in Great Britain since the Romans. The Roads Board later became part of the newly-formed Ministry of Transport, which has now become the Department for Transport.

Recommended reading:

Will too much localism lead to a return to “foundrous highways”? – http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/will-too-much-localism-lead-to-a-return-to-foundrous-highways/

Nationalise the m6 Toll Road, says West Midlands Transport Chief – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/nationalise-the-m6-toll-road-says-218397

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