19 February 2007
Some thoughts on the government’s road pricing scheme
Patrick Crozier

Apparently someone set up an e-petition on the Downing Street website against the government’s proposed road pricing scheme and, so far, a million people have signed it.

As this is a fairly big transport issue I suppose I ought to say something about it.  However, as it’s a big issue one blog posting isn’t going to be enough.  So, what I think I’ll do is start off with a post outlining my conclusions and then fill in the details with subsequent postings.  Eventually, I hope to be able to put all this up on InstaPatrick and become the definitive answer to anything road-pricey should it come up in the future (safe bet, I suspect, judging by today’s paper).  So, in the full expectation that some if not all of my views will change as we go along: here goes.

  1. I like freedom and free markets.

  2. Private ownership is an integral part of free markets so I am in favour of private ownership

  3. So, I am favourable to the idea of privately-owned roads.

  4. So, a government-implemented road-pricing scheme is very much a second-best option.

  5. Pricing mechanisms are a frequent, though not universal, feature of free markets.  So I am in favour of pricing.  I am certainly against price controls.

  6. The fact that roads can be priced does not necessarily mean that they should be priced.

  7. The market is the best mechanism for determining when roads should and shouldn’t be priced.

  8. Therefore, the best we can hope for is that the government scheme mimics whatever the market would otherwise come up with.

  9. My guess, and I wouldn’t put it any more highly than that, is that major highways should be priced, that congested urban roads should probably be priced and everywhere else definitely shouldn’t be priced.

  10. The market would also have every incentive to invest in new, better and more efficient roads.

  11. So, on that basis I am already not particularly well-disposed to the government’s scheme.

  12. There are other problems.

    1. The scheme is not scheduled to start for many years.  This is an unnecessary delay.
    2. The scheme will either be delayed, over-budget or buggy.  Probably all three.
    3. While it may lead to new and better roads, there’s is every chance that it won’t.
  13. One of the objections to the scheme is that it will increase the over all cost of motoring.  This is almost certainly true.

  14. Another objection to the scheme is that it will help pave the way to the Big Brother state.  I think this is a red herring.

  15. There’s a chance that it might cut congestion.  But it might not.

  16. So, I am probably against it.

  17. The best reason to be in favour of it, is that the grassroots rebellion it inspires could see us leaving the EU.

Update 15/10/07.  See also “Against state roads

  1. Years ago we had the poll tax now it’s the toll tax.

    Posted by Vince on  21 February 2007 at 06:49 pm

  2. You might be interested to know that an e-petition has been launched through the No.10 website, to counterattack the recent furore surrounding this petition.  The aim of which is to get the Prime Minister to “tackle the environmental, economic and health consequences of ever increasing traffic congestion and car usage.” If you want to sign it and show your support for an informed debate to be held on road user charging please visit this website

    Posted by Jenni Pain on  28 February 2007 at 04:27 pm

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