Britain has an infrastructure shortfall and a cash shortage; the £23 billion transport budget is already being cut. This is despite the fact that infrastructure is one of the most productive parts of government expenditure and could help propel Britain out of the recession. A new policy is needed that frees up transport provision:
- The short term focus should be value for money, not grand projects. This would mean lengthening trains rather than high speed rail, moving from road building to using the hard shoulder and considering airport expansion on the basis of existing infrastructure not new build.
- Users need to pay the real environmental and economic cost of their transport, through user charges. Public support could be generated by abolishing fixed charges such as car tax and air passenger duty and ring-fencing the revenue generated from the charges. British drivers currently pay over £45 billion every year in the various motoring taxes and less than a fifth of this is invested back in the road network.
- Too much transport policy is a discussion about whether cars, trains or planes are “good”. This results in irrational decisions. For example road travel constitutes over 90 per cent of all journeys, compared to less than 7 per cent for rail. Yet in 2006-07 the UK invested £5 billion in rail and only £4.8 billion in roads.
- Instead we need an “any time, any place, any way” approach to transport policy. Money could be saved by abolishing the separate regulators and bodies (such as the Office of Rail Regulation, Civil Aviation Authority and Highways Agency). Politicians should set environmental and financial constraints and allow consumers and companies to decide whether to fly, drive or bike.