Category: Public Private PartnershipsLink to article here.
Drivers facing threat of new toll roads
Motorists could face new tolls or pay some of their road tax to private companies who take over the running of the motorway network, under plans being discussed in Whitehall
By James Kirkup, and David Millward
The Daily Telegraph
10:00PM GMT 21 Dec 2012
Reforms that could give private investors control over Britain’s biggest roads will be included in the new policy agenda for the second half of the Coalition due next month, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The private managers of the roads would then be allowed to levy tolls on any new capacity they provide, such as new lanes or bypasses.
Existing roads that are “improved beyond recognition” by private managers could also be considered for charging, sources suggest.
Vehicle Excise Duty could also be reformed so the amount of money motorists pay in tax is linked to the roads they use.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg will next month unveil a “mid-term review” of the Coalition, setting out progress and priorities for the next two years.
The review is expected to signal other plans, including:
• A cap on the costs of personal care for the elderly, expected to be set at £75,000. Means-testing rules will also be relaxed to allow older people to keep more of their savings.
• A new flat-rate state pension of about £140 a week. The reform will see millions of higher earners lose out on future pension entitlement and pay more National Insurance.
• New moves to reduce the cost of child care for parents of children aged between two and four.
Officials at the Treasury and Department for Transport have been conducting a “feasibility study on roads reform”, looking at ways to use private finance to ease congestion and fund expansion of existing motorways.
It is understood ministers have not yet agreed on a single plan for motorway reform, with several options under consideration.
The most radical option discussed would see motorists charged different rates of road tax, depending on which roads they use. Those who use the motorway network would pay more, while those who stick to A-roads would get a discount.
The two-tier road tax scheme would be administered using automatic number plate recognition technology, which is already being used to impose a new levy on foreign-owned lorries using British roads.
However, Whitehall sources said that the two-tier tax option is “almost certain” not to be agreed between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in time for a January announcement.
David Cameron has said he is open to leasing motorways to companies or investment funds, including “sovereign” funds controlled by oil-rich Gulf states.
The leasing plan could mean private investors will spend billions improving and expanding the increasingly congested UK road network, the Prime Minister’s aides believe.
Jim Fitzpatrick, the Labour roads spokesman, accused ministers, of preparing to break its promise and introduce “road-tolling by stealth”.
A Department for Transport spokesman said the promise would be kept, but said ministers are looking at “schemes which would fund significant new capacity through tolling.”
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We face many chronic problems on the road network - congestion, underinvestment and big rises in demand as the population explodes.
"Who would be the winners and losers under a change of regulation and would the already massive amount of tax taken from motorists rise overall?
“Drivers rightly feel they are already been squeezed and any change has to deliver real benefits not just more financial misery.”
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