Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News Shorts & Other Busyness

Private Roads Go Ahead

Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pg. 6.

IN August the Government finally gave the go ahead for the construction of ‘shadow’ toll roads in Britain. Construction companies will pay for and build roads and will then be paid by government according to the number of vehicles using the road.

The first four schemes are the M1-A1 Yorkshire link road bypassing Leeds; the widening of the A1 between Alconbury and Peterborough; bypasses and widening along the A419/A417 trunk road between Swindon and Gloucester; and the A69 Haltwhistle bypass.

John Watts, the transport minister responsible, called the scheme “an important step in creating a private sector road operating industry”.

All four ventures are expected to cost £380 million. Andrew Pharaoh of the British Road Federation commented: “The Government are buying roads on hire purchase.”

The Government has also affirmed its commitment to 'straight' motorway tolls within the next four years. Technology currently being investigated to facilitate charging motorists, includes satellite tracking, microwave beacons and smart cards.

Companies grouped into 29 consortia are being considered to install and operate the technology programme and they represent interests from Europe, the Far East and North America. GEC-Marconi, IBM and Texas Instruments are understood to be among the major players.

However, it would appear that the Government will face major opposition from the all-party parliamentary transport select committee, who have dismissed the plans as simply leading to traffic diversions onto local roads, as drivers attempt to avoid the tolls. The Committee advocate an increase in fuel duty as the most feasible way of financing motorway improvements.

In response to the select committee's fears, transport industry representatives believe that the suggested 1.5p per mile toll (£1.70 for a car to travel from London to Bristol) is not excessive and will prevent the feared diversion of motorists onto smaller, local roads.

In Portugal, at the beginning of September, riot police were sent in to quell angry road-users protesting against increases in road tolls.

Meanwhile, The Lords' Committee on the European Communities is backing a European Commission recommendation to increase the weight of lorries allowed on British roads from the present 38 tonnes on five axles to 44 tonnes on six axles.

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