07 March 2007
Against state roads
Patrick Crozier

This is a follow-on from my posting on the government’s pricing scheme.

I am against state roads (and in favour of private roads) because:

  • I am against state ownership in general
  • I don’t think they are very good

What’s wrong with them?

Jams, Potholes, Pettifogging rules

So, how would private roads solve jams?

Partly by charging.  In the UK we already see this with our one toll motorway, the M6 toll.  As I understand it, the M6 toll is free flowing all day long while the original M6, which runs parallel to it and is free is jammed for most of the day. Partly by building more.

Well, if charging is the solution maybe state roads should charge.

An idea that is currently up for discussion.  The problem is that the state is incompetent.  If it is incompetent when building and running roads there is no particular reason to think it would be any better at charging for them.

But if all roads were private wouldn’t you end up with the chaos of having to pay a toll at every road?

First of all, not all roads will charge.  Some road owners and I am particularly thinking of the owners of roads with shopping malls and other attractions at the end of them will want people to drive down them and so won’t charge.
I think a lot will depend on how roads are privatised.  Ideally, local roads would be assigned to local councils and then the councils would be privatised, hence creating ready-made super-landlords.

But how will people get to work?

Ah, well this is where pricing really helps.  Pricing will lead to fewer vehicles and faster roads.  At this point buses and coaches will enter the market although you’d probably need private buses for this to work properly.  Given that buses can move far more people than cars can there is every reason to think that with private roads more people rather than less will use them.

But I don’t want to travel on some smelly bus.

Buses can be very nice these days.  Who’s to say that in a free market suppliers won’t leap in to provide luxury bus services?

But should we be encouraging roads what with global warming and all?

The assumption being that roads means vehicles, vehicles means CO2 and other pollution.  Pollution meaning global warming.  That may well be true.  In which case the solution is to charge the polluters.  There are ways of doing this.

But if someone owns the road outside your house he could, in theory deny you access.

A good reason to make sure that you have at least some kind of interest in whatever body owns your road.  Again, I think most urban roads will end up being owned by some form of super-landlord.

But how would private roads get built? you are against compulsory purchase after all.

I think there are ways of doing this.
  1. Here’s another example of nice, clean, comfy buses.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  23 March 2007 at 12:13 pm

  2. The major issue I have with private roads is lack of competition. Given that duplication of roads is a daft idea, there is every likelihood there will only ever be one provider of roads to your place of employment.
    Without competition there is no necessity for the owner to cap prices at a reasonable level.
    The only competition comes through alternative technologies, planes and trains at present.
    Frankly it looks like an idea which would cost the motorist more rather than less.
    The owner is want to maximise profit, rather than patronage. It’s not likely that the two will coincide because larger patronage means worse service.

    To me it looks like an example of a monopoly which is likely to allways remain a monopoly, and I’m not convinced a public monopoly is any more evil than a private monopoly.

    If on the other hand you argued for totally open access to bus routes, and rail lines (with appropriate signalling systems and an independent company running the lines), I would agree with you completely.

    Posted by Russell on  11 December 2008 at 08:28 am

  3. Transportation issues are linked to the hip with pollution.

    I’m not sure how private ownership of roads will contribute to better maintenance or less road related pollution.

    Posted by Types of Pollution on  18 January 2009 at 08:25 am

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