Cameron considers plans to privatise road network

Grant Prior 12 years ago
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David Cameron is considering plans to privatise parts of the road network.

The move comes as the Prime Minister looks to speed-up private investment into the UK’s infrastructure and open the door for more toll roads.

He will compare the move with the privatisation of the water industry by Margaret Thatcher.

In a major speech today Cameron is expected to say: “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?

“We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network – from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors.

“That’s why I have asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the national roads system and to report progress to me in the Autumn.”

Cameron ruled out the use of tolls on existing roads but is due to say: “Road tolling is one option – but we are only considering this for new, not existing, capacity. For example, we’re looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part funded through tolling.”

The Prime minister will call for the cash to “widen pinch points, add lanes to motorways by using the hard shoulder to increase capacity and dual overcrowded A-roads.”

The speech has been welcomed by construction experts.

Institution of Civil Engineers Director General, Nick Baveystock, said:“It is encouraging to see further evidence of Government’s commitment to infrastructure forming a central plank of the plan for growth and some decisive steps to secure long term, targeted investment not only for important infrastructure projects, but for networks as a whole.

“Our national road network is a valuable and essential asset that relies on continued investment to function.

“Government is right to investigate more radical funding models and consider how infrastructure investment might be better managed.

“This will be extremely important in ensuring potential investors get a predictable rate of return and we welcome Government’s imagination and ambition in tackling this.”

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “The Government has shown considerable commitment to improving the UK’s essential infrastructure, recognising that in doing so it will help kickstart recovery in the economy”

“We believe that this feasibility study offers the chance for sensible consideration of the options for private sector funding of road improvements.

“However experience from other sectors has shown that such major changes can lead to delays in the delivery of work programmes.

“We would have concerns about the impact on the roads network should there be any hiatus in activity as new models are implemented”

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