Left wing think tank in bad idea non-shocker

Latest stupid idea that probably failed to set the world alight; voucherising the entire trunk road network. Not privatisation, but instead just giving every citizen in the country an equal share of the nation’s A-road and Motorways and imposing compulsory satellite tracking on every vehicle in the country.

Leaving aside my natural dislike of satellite tracking, you just know it will be abused to ‘help fight terrorism’ or some such bullshit, and my deep seated hatred of road pricing this is a quite ludicrously bad idea. Here is a short list of my problems in question form;

  • How are 61 million individual share holders supposed to agree on anything?
  • On which note, what happens when the South East works out they can out-vote the rest of the nation and vote to spend all the money on the M-25.  Or closing down the entire Welsh road network to save a few quid? (Not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s probably not what the authors intended)
  • Isn’t it really very unfair on the babies born the day after the cut off point that they don’t own their own chunk of the road network?
  • How do you define ‘citizen’ anyway?

I could go on but frankly it’s an exceptionally stupid idea and will only end in more surveillance, less liberty and more tax. All in all exactly what you’d expect from a think tank headed up by an ex-Fabian Labour peer with a history of supporting biometric ID cards and the EDS-NHS IT fiasco.

That said the report did have one interesting part; Road Tax raises something like £5.2 billion while the Highways Agency only costs ~£4 billion. Throw in Transport Scotland for motorways north of the border (another £0.6 billion) and you end up with the net cost of roads after tax. Or in this case the net profit, £0.6 billion, not a vast amount compared to the deficit but still a nice little earner for the Treasury.

Now to be fair that doesn’t include local authority road spending, but then it doesn’t include the vast sums from fuel duty, so let us root around to find them. The Local Government Association consolidated accounts says total spend on ‘Highways, Road and Transport Services’ in England was a shade under £8.5 billion. Wales about £300 million and Scotland about £1billion. So let’s be really generous and say £10 billion for local roads.

At this point it gets interesting, finding out how much the government gouge out in fuel duty is very hard. Almost as if the government had something to hide… The only exact figures knocking around are the 2004-2005 ones which produce the colossal sum of £23.3 billion. For a more modern, if admittedly less precise figure, the HMRC ready-reckoner gives a figure of something like £28 billion for 2010-2011.

So there you have it, motorists are being gouged to the tune of at least £14 billion a year in order for train users to be heavily subsided and shielded from the true cost of their Victorian relics. A handy fact next time a cycling train user tries to claim the vast cost of rail subsidies aren’t that bad as roads are subsidised as well. Or is that just a problem I have?

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