A FAIR DEAL FOR THE MOTORIST
No lease-off to tolling
interests Our roads have been paid for many
times over by taxpayers
to tolling interests
Our roads have been paid for many times over by taxpayers
HIGHWAYS AGENCY CONSULTATION
STOP ANY HIVE-OFF
THE HIGHWAYS AGENCY WON’T BE LEVYING ITS OWN TOLLS – BUT THERE IS A LOOPHOLE WHERE IT COULD LEASE-OFF ROADS TO TOLLING COMPANIES ON LONG CONTRACTS. PROPER SAFEGUARDS ARE NEEDED.
Click for original article from 2012 on government thinking and toll issues.
On 29 October 2013, a consultation on the Highways Agency was launched
· The HA is to be made into a state-owned company, and
· A supervisory body/watchdog will be appointed.
The consultation closed on 20 December.
The previous government backed down after 1.8 million people signed a petition against road pricing. The current government is on a bit of a charm offensive as it wishes to get re-elected in 2015.
Although it assures us that existing major routes in England (‘the SRN’, run by the HA) will not be privatised or tolled short-term, it also accepted ‘the Cook Report’ proposing that they be run by a company with commercial freedom to sweat assets.
It now proposes to take steps in that direction by setting up the HA as such a state-owned company.
To hold it to account for the driving public, it is interesting that the government sees as possibilities a railways body (the Office of Rail Regulation or Passenger Focus) or its own Motorists’ Forum – which curiously represents groups that make money out of drivers, such as insurance companies. Some of its appointees have actually lobbied the government to bring in road pricing as a means of making money out of drivers, and one anti-car group has even supported workplace parking charges and opposed reducing fuel taxes!
None are exactly qualified to safeguard the interest of drivers.
Drivers already pay around a massive £50 billion a year in taxes – there is no case for increasing this burden through tolls.
Proper safeguards are needed. The government must act to ensure that any new company should not have powers to lease-off our roads to road tolling interests.
For more information about the consultation
or by post to: Roads Reform Consultation, DFT Zone 3/23, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR.
(You can also copy your thoughts to your own MP)
FOOTNOTE – The loophole
The consultation document “Transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company” assures that this is “not privatisation” and uses the words “can’t transfer or sell” [roads] but that does not rule out a lease-off or subcontracting. In fact ‘Highways Agency Ltd’ will have “as much freedom as possible” commercially in line with ‘the Cook Report’, which coincidentally proposed full commercial perks for its directors!
Note the very specific wording (page 18), which does not rule out leasing-off:
“...we are not giving the company any powers to introduce its own tolls or other charges on road users.”
This does not provide the necessary safeguards.
FOOTNOTE – A strange coincidence
Prof Stephen Glaister is Director of the RAC Foundation (a group represented on the government’s Motoring Forum) and a leading promoter of road pricing. His background is mainly in rail and he is also a special adviser to rail body, the Office of Rail Regulation.
The possible organisations identified to safeguard the interest of drivers, the Office of Rail Regulation and Passenger Focus, have no experience in this area. Why should the government even be suggesting such bodies?
Drivers need a truly independent body, like the Alliance of British Drivers, to stand up for their interests.