Antony Oliver challenged us to rethink transport (NCE last week). Over the last 200 years the real cost of transportation has fallen, from investments in improved infrastructure to methods of operation. In the 50 years from 1830, some 16,000km of railways were built by private investors and before that canals and toll roads were also built with commercial funding.
In the UK all transport was nationalised in 1948, and motorways were made possible by the Special Roads Act 1949.
In the 50 years from 1950, 4,000km of motorway were funded by the public sector but no new canals or railways were built.
When Brunel was building the Great Western Railway and costs were exceeding his budget, he did not run to the government to bail him out or subsidise the work.
Over the last 20 years about 80% of all capital investment in transport has been made by the private sector.
Given the right return there is considerable private funding available for transport infrastructure projects.
Where are the resourceful civil engineers to financially manage these private funds, and get out of the stop-go cycle of public funding?
Professor Lewis Lesley, Liverpool L9 8AJ,