Roads: a utility in need of a strategy
British roads are under-supplied and irrationally priced. Estimates of the rate of economic return to investment are high. There is no mechanism for consumer protection and current attempts to record and publish the level of service are inadequate. This will persist until there is fundamental reform of the governance and--possibly--ownership of the major road network. The paper argues that the UK regulated utility model offers valuable insights. Other candidates are discussed for reform of corporate governance, accountability, charging, and funding. A reformed charging regime designed to deal with road congestion and other externalities would also help with the carbon emission problem. The paper discusses the division between: central government; new bodies to 'own' and regulate the assets; and local authorities. Even in the absence of direct user charging in the short term, there is a case for change to enhance the accountability of the national roads infrastructure provider to its customers. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.
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