Apparently someone set up an e-petition on the Downing Street website against the government’s proposed road pricing scheme and, so far, a million people have signed it.
As this is a fairly big transport issue I suppose I ought to say something about it. However, as it’s a big issue one blog posting isn’t going to be enough. So, what I think I’ll do is start off with a post outlining my conclusions and then fill in the details with subsequent postings. Eventually, I hope to be able to put all this up on InstaPatrick and become the definitive answer to anything road-pricey should it come up in the future (safe bet, I suspect, judging by today’s paper). So, in the full expectation that some if not all of my views will change as we go along: here goes.
- I like freedom and free markets.
- Private ownership is an integral part of free markets so I am in favour of private ownership
- So, I am favourable to the idea of privately-owned roads.
- So, a government-implemented road-pricing scheme is very much a second-best option.
- Pricing mechanisms are a frequent, though not universal, feature of free markets. So I am in favour of pricing. I am certainly against price controls.
- The fact that roads can be priced does not necessarily mean that they should be priced.
- The market is the best mechanism for determining when roads should and shouldn’t be priced.
- Therefore, the best we can hope for is that the government scheme mimics whatever the market would otherwise come up with.
- My guess, and I wouldn’t put it any more highly than that, is that major highways should be priced, that congested urban roads should probably be priced and everywhere else definitely shouldn’t be priced.
- The market would also have every incentive to invest in new, better and more efficient roads.
- So, on that basis I am already not particularly well-disposed to the government’s scheme.
- There are other problems.
- The scheme is not scheduled to start for many years. This is an unnecessary delay.
- The scheme will either be delayed, over-budget or buggy. Probably all three.
- While it may lead to new and better roads, there’s is every chance that it won’t.
- One of the objections to the scheme is that it will increase the over all cost of motoring. This is almost certainly true.
- Another objection to the scheme is that it will help pave the way to the Big Brother state. I think this is a red herring.
- There’s a chance that it might cut congestion. But it might not.
- So, I am probably against it.
- The best reason to be in favour of it, is that the grassroots rebellion it inspires could see us leaving the EU.
Update 15/10/07. See also ”Against state roads”