Among the world's major economies, Britain has by far the most congested roads. It is estimated that the delays cost the economy around £20bn per year. The United Kingdom's motorway network is also much smaller than those of comparable countries. A variety of measures provide strong evidence that poor road infrastructure puts UK businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Successive governments have failed to deliver an efficient network. Politics has always taken priority over economics. Vast sums have been squandered on wasteful schemes promoted by special interest groups or driven by an ideological bias in favour of public transport. It is therefore welcome that Prime Minister David Cameron sees a much larger role for the private sector in managing and improving the road network.
A truly privatised road network promises to be much more responsive to the demands of motorists. Profits would depend on toll revenues, which in turn would depend on satisfying customers. Road operators would have very strong incentives to provide safe, reliable and uncongested journeys. Investment in new capacity would reflect consumer demand rather than political ends.