CBI urges government to target 1,000 miles of motorways in England in radical plan to inject cash into road network
Britain’s largest business lobby group has urged the government to privatise motorways and introduce more toll roads in the latest plea from the private sector for radical action on infrastructure.
The Confederation of British Industry wants ministers to privatise the repair and maintenance of more than 1,000 miles of motorway in England, amid estimates of a £10bn funding shortfall at the Highways Agency.
Jonathan Cridland, the director general of the CBI, said the nation’s roads are so drastically underfunded that “levering private sector investment is the only way [to fund] a long-term future for roads”.
“The UK road network is the last piece of infrastructure fully funded by the government,” he said. The CBI’s intervention echoes calls from the RAC Foundation thinktank, which argues that a sell-off could pave the way for charging.
Under Cridland’s plan the Highways Agency will be disbanded and control of England’s motorways will be passed to a new regulator, which would “offer franchises to private providers to run parts of the road network”.
“[The plan envisages] taking the whole of the strategic road network and allocating it on a strategic basis,” he said. “Over time private operators would be able to finance essential upgrades [as well as repairs and maintenance,”
Cridland said the Highways Agency, which manages England’s motorways for the Department for Transport, is “starved” of cash, and it was a “question of when [privatisation of the network] will happen, rather than if”.
As well as privatising the maintenance of the motorways, Cridland advocated an increase in road tolling in order to pay for upgrades. “We need better roads,” he said. “[And] we [the country] no longer have enough money to pay for them.”
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