The Department for Transport has vehemently denied that the Highways Agency may be sold off to the private sector.
It has been reported in the Institution of Highways and Transportation’s respected and well connected journal Transportation Professional that the agency would be privatised, using road user charging to provide future funding. The report said that the plan would be attractive to the Government as a way to raise funds.
However, a spokesman for the DfT ruled out such a move.
“We have ruled out a charging programme for existing roads, which are publicly owned and have already been paid for by the taxpayer,” he said.
“We have ruled out charging for existing roads which are publicly owned and have already been paid for by the taxpayer”
Plans for a sell-off of the agency, turning it into a regulated private utility akin to the water industry, were outlined by the RAC Foundation in a report in July, written by Professor Stephen Glaister (NCE 8 July). It called for a ‘pay as you go’ road charging system, which would be compensated for by a cut in other motoring taxes, and could provide funding for a long term strategy to maintain and enhance the road network.
Glaister said that he had received “no reaction one way or another” from the Department for Transport to the report. He said that the report had outlined other possible governance changes, including a greater strategic role for the Highways Agency.
The DfT has said, however, that tolling for new roads was a possibility, with a spokesman confirming: “To tackle congestion in financially constrained times we will ensure we are making the most of our existing roads. For new infrastructure the Government will consider all options for funding including private sector investment and tolling.”