Friday, 8 January 2010

Another reason for having private roads

Richard Wellings writing at the IEA blog presents a new reason for privatising roads, snow. Wellings notes that the current cold snap in the UK has led to widespread disruption on roads all around Britain. Much of the road network has been left untreated as local authorities have struggled to cope and many routes have been blocked by uncleared snow or abandoned vehicles. Is there a solution to this snow induced transport chaos? Wellings says yes, privatise the roads. He writes,
Under current arrangements trunk roads and motorways are managed by the Highways Agency and the rest of the network by local authorities. While their staff undoubtedly work hard to respond to disruption as it happens, the financial incentives for these organisations to resolve this recurring problem in the long term are very weak. Taxpayers fund their activities whether or not they perform well.

By contrast, profit-seeking private road owners – heavily dependent on tolls for their income – would have very strong incentives to keep the roads clear. Nightmare scenarios, such as motorists being stuck overnight in their cars in freezing weather, could do immense damage to the reputation of private road companies and their brand names. Moreover, the possibility of costly insurance claims from accidents caused by poor road conditions would provide a further incentive for owners to ensure their infrastructure was adequately cleared and gritted.

1 comment:

Crampton said...

No sir, I don't buy it.

This is totally a "why do we have blocked roads in non-snowy climates" kinda question. And I'm not sure whether political processes lead to under or over capitalization in such cases.