Roads to growth?


                 This week’s commuters’ survey should not have come as a huge surprise. There have been many studies of transport patterns before, and all have shown that outside London most people travel by car. Bus and train take less than 10% of the average market unless you are talking about rush hour travellers into the capital city.

                    The same is true of goods. Trains take well under 10% of the freight, with trucks hauling the main loads. I have even seen pictures of  railway  engines and carriages on trucks to get them to where they need to be. Road transport has the flexibility and pricing to win most of the market for most forms of travel.

                   In order to promote the growth that the government wants we need more transport capacity of all kinds. We need more broadband capacity so more data can travel and people stay at home or in the office more often. We need  more commuter train capacity. It would be good if rail freight could expand and offer more price competitive packages to more potential users. It will need to raise efficiency to  do that. Above all we need more road capacity to handle all the extra journeys the growth will generate.

                 We are also going to need urgently much more electricity generating capacity. More than ten years have been wasted in pursuit of the great debate on nuclear, the development of windfarms and in discussion of how much power we actually need. Meanwhile the EU regulations are about to close down our coal stations and old age will pension off many of our nuclear stations. We need more power generation just to stand still, let alone to handle growth in industrial activity.

                  We could do with more water reservoir capacity to service the ever growing populations of London and the south, and to help irrigate crops when we do have long dry spells as we have from time to time over many years. More gas storage is being put in, but that too is necessary to get us through the occasional cold winter like the last two.

                   Government need not pay for all this. It may need to pump prime projects, or pay for part of their costs in remote areas, but the bulk of this expense can be paid for out of private finance with user charges. New roads can be built on the M6 tollway model. Electricity, water and communications already pay their way from prices.

                    Government is needed to do two things. The first is to grant the permissions and licenses needed – to sort out planning permissions and approvals promptly. In some cases it needs to hold a competition and to regulate prices where it is alloiwng a local monopoly. The second is to regulate the banks in such a way that they can add more utility lending to their balance sheets to help pay for these large projects. Growth certainly needs these investments. Just keeping the lights on is quite a challenge, given the current inadequacy of the UK’s overstretched infrastructure.


  1. Stuart Fairney
    June 4, 2011

    Government isn’t needed for any of this, not even the planning permissions if they hadn’t restricted it in the first place. But you are right, we need more power stations (coal or nuclear), more roads and more reservoirs.

    Who will wager with me the number that are actually completed when Mr Cameron again seeks a mandate?

    1. Iain
      June 4, 2011

      ” But you are right, we need more power stations (coal or nuclear), more roads and more reservoirs.”

      Only in the sense of the narrow arguments that the political establishment present us with. Why do we need these new roads, rail, reservoirs , houses etc? Are we drinking more water, driving two cars at once? A great deal of this ‘demand’ is demand created by our political classes engineered population growth .

      We have to build 100,000 houses just to house immigrants, some 50% of our housing build.

      50% of the increase in road miles driven is , you’ve guessed it, the result of immigration driven population growth.

      So half of all the conceting over of England need not happen at all if our politicians pulled their finger out and called a halt to immigration.

      One of the causes dear to our political class hearts is global warming, and they are expecting us to wear hair shirts for their cause. It should be noted that as a country we put out 600 million tons of CO2, that works out as 10 tons per person, meanwhile our politicians have allowed 20 million tons of CO2 output walk across our borders in the form of immigration, and in the projected population increase their immigration policy is going to add 100 million tons of CO2 output. So not only is our political class expecting us to make cuts in our CO2 output, but to cut to accommodate their population increase policy.

      1. Alan Wheatley
        June 5, 2011

        I agree with the excellent and relevant points you make.

      2. Bazman
        June 5, 2011

        A large number of these immigrants are here as cheap labour to increase the profits of business and to be cheap labour for the middle classes. Not to give the consumer lower prices as some may argue. Who and how do you intend to replace this?

        1. Winston Smith
          June 6, 2011

          Move some of he 5m on out of work benefits into low paid work?

      3. Stuart Fairney
        June 6, 2011

        “Why do we need these new roads, rail, reservoirs , houses etc? Are we drinking more water, driving two cars at once”

        As wealth increases, so does consumption so more dishwashers, garden sprinklers, car washes etc. Ditto cars, sure people don’t drive two at once but they may drive more often to take advantage of increased leisure oportunities and wealthier people tend to have cars rather than use the bus etc. Same story with power, bigger TV’s, computers, i-pods, electric powered cars and these damnable games consols all increase demand for electricity.

    2. StrongholdBarricades
      June 4, 2011

      I agree with the comments about no government involvement required, but must add that Government could alter certain local issues to make it more likely that things could be sited in areas where employment is required, so that the transport structure can adjust to compensate for this new deployment.

      It is certainly monumentally incongruous to say that people who work in London should be paid more (london weighting). If there was proper competition the levels would be flat and business would decide where it could be sited.

  2. lifelogic
    June 4, 2011

    Everything you say above it simple and true common sense. Virtually no substantial infrastructure has been done for years. Things that have been done have mainly been PR or political stunts often aimed at the largely discredited green religion. We all know that nearly all the state sector is run for the benefit of the (43% over paid) employees. So expenditure on real infrastructure leaves far less for them to spend on themselves and is thus unlikely to ever happen.

    What is needed is proper management the state sector and a sense of direction. But as I have said before the link people through voting, MPs to bureaucrats, civil servants through to front line state sector workers is absurdly badly managed and weak.

    We need all the things you mention above and much more and needed them about 15 years ago. Furthermore we have already paid more than enough taxes for them to have been provided. The taxes were just wasted by Major, Blair and Brown. Now Cameron too who like to waste it on pointless wars, the EU, a bloated incompetent state, Ireland, Greece and the other PIGS and forcing us all to employ 98 year olds.

    What hope it there? Perhaps just best to leave so you do not to pay you share of the debt they have pointlessly build up.

    1. lifelogic
      June 4, 2011

      Reported in the telegraph this morning tenants to loose council housing when house hold income exceeds £100K.

      Another mad suggestion why not the far more sensible and simple “tenants in council houses to pay true market rents where ever they can afford too do so.

      This way it does not provide unfair competition to the private sector and does not encourage tenants to stay for ever more when given a hugely subsidised house.

      1. alan jutson
        June 4, 2011

        Yes, and the profit from market rents would pay for more council houses to be built, unless that is, the stupid right to buy scheme at a lower than market price is still allowed, which was often funded by grandchildren or children of parents who then made a killing selling them at market rates in later years..

        1. Damien
          June 4, 2011


          The current social housing structure of public subsidy has been corrupted by property speculation and by political bias in the allocations policy. This is causing huge resentment as those with larger families leap to the front of the list. The current UK social housing structure is encouraging welfare immigration.

          These housing associations are multi billion corporations subsidised by the taxpayer, monopolies if you like in the field of social housing. Private pension funds will be reluctant to enter the social housing sector until there is a level and fair playing field.

        2. Bazman
          June 4, 2011

          The right to buy is controversial as is was the sale of council houses, but if you remember the state of many of these estates “Nowt to do with me Mate. It’s the councils fault”. Even the most left wing person cannot say they were not improved by private ownership and this ownership was only possible for many by a subsidised price. People were proud to own their own house and often the fist thing they did was buy a new front door to show off their new status.
          The real wrong was the Tory government actually passing legislation specifically preventing councils from using the money from the sale of council houses to build more houses. A major cause of the present day housing shortage. Wonder why they did that?

          1. alan jutson
            June 5, 2011


            “Nowt to do with me mate”

            I can remember when Council house estates were well looked after by The Council, indeed my grandparents lived in a West of London Council house for over 40 years (1924 -1968) until they died. Tennancy rules were strictly enforced, gardens had to be kept clean and tidy, tennents had to look after the Councils property, pay rent in full, and on time, or they were evicted.
            Properties were maintained, painted and decorated (inside and out) at regular intervals by Council workers, roads were resurfaced, drains were cleared each year, trees were lopped every couple of years, roads and paths were swept weekly.

            Councils could use planned maintainance for the whole estate with economy of scale, and the appearance of the whole estate was clean, tidy, well kept and had an architectual uniformity, with communal areas of grass regularly cut.

            I visited the same estate a couple of months ago when in the area (the first time in 30 years) what a contrast to my memories. Wrecked cars in front gardens, fences broken down, graffiti on walls, a whole range of doors and windows of different designs on houses, house brickwork painted a range of odd colours, some houses with stone cladding, barking dogs running free and young kids seemingly out of control.

            Is this the Councils fault, certainly some of it is (non enforcement), but by and large the problems are surely caused by tennents an now some owners.

            This example is how we as a Country have declined in so many ways through liberalism, lack of pride and a reliance that others will provide, no matter what the cost, and yes, the “nowt to do with me mate” attitude.

            I wonder how much further we will sink ?

      2. Bazman
        June 4, 2011

        A lot of money has been wasted by Tory governments on unemployment benefits and by labour on benefits. Lets see how far any government gets by cutting these?
        Interesting to see how they enforce this one. Loose your house or pay more for earning more? A cut in a benefit of the more well off or those who better themselves. Real Tory thinking and straight out of the Soviet Union.
        The well off will not take this one laying down you can count on it, and funny how you write about the wealthy using clever accounting to avoid tax, but seem not to think they will use the same to avoid a rent rise?

      3. Damien
        June 4, 2011


        Council/social housing is a valuable and scarce resource provided by taxpayers to meet those in greatest housing need. It was never envisaged that households earning £100k could live in this subsidised housing.

        Your suggestion is the best I’ve heard that tenants should have periodic reviews or be required in law to report when their income passes the average income threshold.

        In the Telegraph (Watt & Winnett 19/10/10) reported “More than £9 billion of council housing has been transferred to those who may not have qualified for state help on the basis of their own circumstances, figures suggest.
        The annual rent subsidy from taxpayers to those who have inherited the cheap tenancy deals is estimated to be worth more than £300 million.
        A loophole in the rules allows council house tenants to “bequeath” their tenancies when they die. It means that council houses are not just “for life” but also often benefit the offspring of those granted the local authority properties.

      4. davidb
        June 4, 2011

        They should pay a fixed percentage of their income. The poor will pay least and the rich will pay lots or move because its rational. But what about the high illegal earners? Some of those in receipt of parliamentary allowances for instance?

      5. electro-kevin
        June 5, 2011

        £99k pa clearly ain’t wot it used to be if it qualifies you for state housing.

        But on this point: It was a hot mess room topic yesterday that we’d all be better off not working (we all earn relatively good money.) Every one of us had friends and relatives (including me) who don’t work, live on the state, and who have lifestyles our pay cannot match without using credit.

        This is not tabloid hyberbole.

        1. lifelogic
          June 5, 2011

          This is certainly true for many with children – even if you earn say £75K after tax, rent, council tax, NI, travel to work, school dinners, clothes for work, lunch at work and all the extra cost incurred with childcare. And the fact that you have time to do DIY, shop more efficiently, care for your own children and teach them music or sport or something. And you will save on UNI fees too.

          Best not to bother that way (or go abroad) and you will pay no tax and demand pay from the state and so eventually force the government to finally start reducing taxes and giving a relative incentive to work again.
          Cameron clearly will not do until forced too.

          1. Bazman
            June 6, 2011

            Middle class fantasy in which they wind each other up on how easy it is to be poor. How many have actually been on the dole or income support without any end in sight?
            I said pretend you’ve got no money, she just laughed and said oh you’re so funny.
            I said yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here.
            You know the rest…

  3. Mick Anderson
    June 4, 2011

    Unfortunately, when it comes to licencing, Government seems to prefer to wring as much money as possible out of the private sector. Remember the bidding war for the 3G licences for mobile phones? Funny how there were just enough licences to go around – I can’t help wondering what would have happened if the all operators had ganged up and each offered £1, instead of being persuaded to pay billions. It all ends up being paid for by the consumer….

    There should be more rail transport – most local railway stations have a siding that wagons could be parked in. It’s a shame that the supermarkets don’t run a wagon in overnight, then use their fleet of internet order delivery vans to transport from the wagon when they are otherwise returning empty to the store. However, all the distribution depots have been built up around the road network, so it’s never likely to happen.

    As for fuelling cars, it’s a pity that the experiments with hydrogen powered cars has been dropped in favour of these dreadful electric vehicles, especially those hybrids that use diesel to recharge the batteries! I’d like to see an enterprising oil company build a solar powered desalination and thermal decomposition plant to manufacture hydrogen on an African coast – plenty of sun and water there, and far more environmentally friendly than all those terrible chemicals in batteries. A hydrogen car can be as convenient as petrol or diesel to the driver (once the pump network has been put in), and the only emission is water vapour.

    Finally, if they spent the money they want to waste on HS2 on improving the nations telecommunications, everybody would be able to have glass fibre laid to their home, with enough change to fix the roads properly. Wouldn’t it be better to enable people to work efficiently from home, rather than to spend more resources trying to move a few people about the country slightly more quickly?

  4. Mike Stallard
    June 4, 2011

    By far and away the most important of what you mention are the power stations.
    Castrated by the global warming scare and the Japanese Tsunami scare, it really looks as if we are running fast into a mediaeval world of power cuts when, remember, we cannot cook, entertain ourselves, avoid hypothermia (no coal fires any more), even see in winter or work indoors for six months of the year.
    Meanwhile the Eurocats feast on like a stopper in the bottle of rapidly fermenting ginger beer.

  5. A.Sedgwick
    June 4, 2011

    As usual lots of common sense, clearly you are too grounded for Government; on two specific points – windfarms and planning permission. An excellent programme ended last night on BBC2, Windfarm Wars, which I can recommend thoroughly and congratulate the BBC on doing what they are supposed to do – inform and educate.
    Residents of Denbrook, Devon, objected at great personal financial sacrifice for over 5 years to nine 120m wind turbines being built on the edge of Dartmoor in an unspoiled valley.
    Apart from the amazing determination and fortitude of “Mike” several things stuck out for me:
    1. The blind faith of the developing company officials with the usual climate change mantra, promoted by Government, even when damning prima facie and anecdotal evidence was provided that much smaller turbines affected the health of nearby residents.
    2. The total lack of any evidence that these turbines were actually cost effective in the location. If the case was that good I would have thought the Company would have concentrated on these facts, but they went out of their way to be economical with all information until the High Court intervened about the release of noise readings.
    3. Why did this proposal ever get into the planning system at all with all the conservation rules applying to areas of outstanding beauty? If you want to change the colour of your front door in some places you cannot, but building 400 foot concrete wind turbines next to Dartmoor is OK.
    4. The residents achieved a very minor result thanks to our longwinded planning regulations, which should stay, but they could not beat the climate change mafia.

    1. Mike Stallard
      June 4, 2011

      People who don;t live here or who come in from outside do not care for the flat old fens. To us who come from here, with the traditional web feet, it is the best and most beautiful place on God’s earth.
      So when the wind farms came to Tydd, there was another group started which is still fighting.
      If we do it then, believe me, there are a lot of people fighting this madness.

  6. London Calling
    June 4, 2011

    The deindustrialization of the West to please Greenpeace, WWF and their fellow-travellers? Get a grip and ditch Cameron before he destroys us all. We need cheap energy and lots of it for economic growth. Huhne can go live in a cave if he wants – no, he’s probably got seven caves. Is there no end to this madness?

    1. lifelogic
      June 4, 2011

      Indeed there does seem to be a direct link between people with excessive use of energy/resources/carbon personally and the amount they choose to lecture others about not doing so.

      The “Prince Charles/Al Gore hypocrisy relationship” rule as I think it is often referred to scientifically.

      1. Bazman
        June 5, 2011

        Al Gore is an American and has a wife called Tipper. Prince Charles on the other hand has been driving the same Aston Martin his mother bought him for 38 years and has even had it converted to run on alcohol from waste wine from English vineyards costing £1.10 a litre which is probably more than Nobby and Sid pay for the wine in the offy. He is also looking to fuel the wood chip boilers at Highgrove with unsold Duchy of Cornwall biscuits and his private jets to run on methane captured from his reed bed sewage systems. I am trying to follow HRH’s model example by driving the same Mondeo for the past 8 years and making sure the only cider I drink is English.

  7. Bazman
    June 4, 2011

    I was on the M6 toll road yesterday afternoon (Friday) not many cars on it though very slow and busy just before on the M6. £5.30 for a car. Put a little box trailer on the back and that will cost you £9.60 a quid less than a 44 tonne HGV which is the same price as a van. I did not see one lorry or van. They are having a laugh, but not as funny as three quid for a motorbike.

    1. A.Sedgwick
      June 4, 2011

      Echo your view, on a return trip up the M40/M6 last summer I got caught in the melee around Bham going up. On a fairly busy return I decided take the overpriced toll route – spot the car – it was virtually empty – common sense?

      1. lifelogic
        June 5, 2011

        Clearly if one is free and one not it is a silly choice. As the road are their the tolls should be fixed on both to use them equally. Also they should get rid of the tolls on the Dartford bridge as the inefficient and costly tolling itself causes much of the congestion.

        1. Bazman
          June 8, 2011

          Tolls should be fixed on the M6 at the same price, but removed at Dartford as inefficient and costly tolling itself causes much of the congestion? Roads all the same price at the same time then? I think that is what we already have with disc and petrol tax. A penalty applied for larger inefficient vehicles.
          They will go on the A roads then, failing that, the B roads past your house and so will the lorries unless you are in a HGV ban zone which does not stop them in my area if motorway tolls are applied. I’ll beep my horn at your house. 3am OK?

  8. alan jutson
    June 4, 2011


    Thought we had just signed up another agreement with France to link up a giant cable through the channel tunnel so we can suck more in from them !

    This country seems to have forgotten how to stand on its own feet, both from security aspect as well as a need to supply ts citizens and business.

    1. Martyn
      June 5, 2011

      True, and one of the rarely-mentioned planks in the plans of successive governments. The existing cross-channel cable daily powers 3 million UK homes. It is connected to but not synchronised with the EU ‘super-grid’ which extends far across the continent. I have long thought that the absence of sensible plans to replace our soon-to-be-closed by EU diktat coal fired and ageing nuclear power stations is simply because we are to become entirely dependant on the EU for our very survival in provision of electrical power needed to run the county.
      The terrifying implication is that if, at some future point we fall out with the EU our source of power could be simply cut off.

  9. Steve Cox
    June 4, 2011

    The one thing they have been throwing taxpayers money at is the ridiculous idea that wind farms will solve our energy problems. The arguments against wind farms are blindingly obvious and well publicised by the likes of Christopher Booker, so I won’t bother repeating them here. One thing I’ll bet that the government hasn’t taken into consideration in its energy plans (Mr. Huhne clearly has other problems on his mind, ahem!), is the possibility that Britain will become a much less windy place over the coming decades. It’s a nice headline, isn’t it – “Britain Is Running Out Of Wind“? Perhaps the Coalition should appoint a technically educated member as the next Energy Secretary, then we might get a sensible policy and – eventually – lower electricity bills, not to mention less blight on our landscape from these pointless monstrosities.

    See the article here:

    1. lifelogic
      June 4, 2011

      I agree politics and the reality engineering diverge hugely. Government are happy to spend millions discussing this nonsense, subsidising nonsense, distorting the market and on propaganda to try to distort the public’s views of the world.

      When good engineer could tell them (and indeed prove to them) that their policy is mad, unless of course if perhaps the engineer knew that his continued job depended on just telling them what they want to hear.

      Furthermore the policy is still mad if you accept the CO2 hypothesis (which I would contend is a huge exaggeration) it does not work on an actual C02 emissions basis.

  10. Richard1
    June 4, 2011

    We should be very careful about throwing public money at rail – as is being done on the high speed line to Birmingham. Its hugely expensive and is at permanent risk of shut-down whenever the unions choose to hold the public to ransom. At the very least the government should make it a condition of employment on such lines that there is a no-strike agreement and no union recognition.

    1. lifelogic
      June 5, 2011

      Agreed rail rarely makes sense in the small UK (freight or people )when you look at the overall journey door to door and the union problem too.

  11. Caterpillar
    June 4, 2011

    1. Yes the power stations situation does seem a little scary. With discussions on various social bads the concept of using energy seems to have become an evil idea. To do stuff we use energy; the historical progess seems to have been manpower to horsepower to steampower etc., the effects of moving backwards are more forecastable than the effects of moving forwards.

    2. Assuming constant X-M then I guess at the macro level how one interprets (G-T) = (S-I) + const depends on your economic leanings. But I’d go for I being crowded out.

    3. Transport is hard. Yes planning permisisons and time need to change rapidly, as probably does the tax regime on fuels. But in bringing costs down supply chain managers do have to consider reverse logisitcs, milkrounds, crossdocking etc. It can be a challlenge to get some of these to work away from the road network. But as well as bringing costs down, often a private sector aim (!), government need to be aware of the advantage of transport in breaking monopolies – more fast movement of people can certainly help here – still that would mean I want more high speed trains, more national flights (with quick security – turn up and fly), parking …

    4. Water, again JR seems spot on, resevoirs + long distance pipes.

  12. Robert K
    June 4, 2011

    The only time I have knowingly agreed with Arthur Scargill was his comment that it is insane that we should be sitting huge supplies of untapped and easily accessible coal . Look at Denmark to see how useless wind is. Denmark is home to the world’s largest supplier of wind turbines (Vestas) and the country is carpeted with eyesore windfarms. Yet 75% of its electricity generation comes from…coal. And where does that coal come from? South Africa. So much for this paragon of green energy. The French have got it right with their nuclear programme and we will need to tap into their nuclear output when the lights start going out here. Meantime, we put ourselves at yet another competitive disadvantage to China, which has no qualms about burning the black stuff.

  13. Damien
    June 4, 2011

    JR: There is an ‘eight lane highway’ that runs from one side of London to the other and beyond with virtually no traffic on it. Given our maritime heritage (3000 vessels on the Thames any day during the 18th and 19th C) is it not time to use this spare river capacity to relieve some congestion?.

    TFL working with Thames Clippers now allow travel card reductions on this very popular means of river transport but there are only 12 vessels and this means waiting for long intervals which is putting off those of us who need a more frequent and reliable service.

    The Vanderbilts made their fortune ferrying people across the Hudson and someone is going to make a fortune here if they can address this need.

    1. alan jutson
      June 6, 2011


      Yes we have used the clipper service when staying in London, and an excellent service it is.

      Friend of ours has a power cruiser on which we are fortunate to holiday from time – time, and we have moored in London marina’s on many occassions for days at a time during transit to the sea, so use the clipper service to get around/between sightseeing destinations

      Agree the Thames is an underused resource, but there are speed and wash limits which are imposed by the police and harbour masters. In addition there are police security stop and search checks completed on private boats which enter London from either up or downstream.
      Over the years we have been shadowed, boarded, and checked out a number of times, all done with proffessional good humour, as we had nothing to hide, but clearly a neccessary operation which would need to be expanded should traffic increase.

      On another point, large vessels cannot get under many of London bridges at high tide, the underside of Hammersmith bridge being less than 12 ft above high water level.

  14. Martin
    June 4, 2011

    Interesting piece in the Guardian about cycling

    Re Power Stations – getting even two people to agree on this seems well nigh impossible. Each type has its pros and cons.

    1. lifelogic
      June 5, 2011

      Cycling over 10 times more dangerous to life than a car per mile, cannot carry anything much or children, gives off more C02 than a fuel efficient car (as fuelled by addition intake of food (with all its CO2 input to grow, produce, distribute, freeze, chill and cook).

      And I quite like cycling too – it is not good for C02 though – even if you believe that C02 exaggeration stuff.

      1. Bazman
        June 7, 2011

        The recession can be blamed on the demise of lunchtime drinking. A man I met in a pub swore this was true and showed me a graph he had drawn proving this, with drinking in green crayon and the recession in red. The line coincided when I was made redundant. I gasped in amazement!

  15. forthurst
    June 4, 2011

    As JR pointed out yesterday, Morecomb South will not contribute to the offset of imports or the tax yield to the Treasury because the tax burden imposed by the Chancellor ensures it will not be economic. The Chancellor apparently decided to increase direct taxes on energy production in order to finance a tax reduction on consumers. Today, JR calls for more Toll roads.

    The current tax regime as it relates to energy is designed to destroy the competitiveness of British industry and ensure that we import more of what should be produced here. The planet wil not be ‘saved’ because others will be ‘wrecking’ it elsewhere.

    There needs to be a very urgent re-think on how the government manages its involvement with the climate cult. Loading costs on companies that produce the fossil fuels we need is wrong. Loading costs on companies that turn that energy into electrical energy is wrong. Putting a heavy cost burden on companies that use substantial amounts of energy is wrong. The enormous subsidies required by windpower should come out of general taxation. Wind power does not affect the need for plant to produce either base load or peak load because it is one hundred percent unreliable as an energy source. The energy department should be split and charged now exclusively with keeping the lights on. It is not practical for one department to be responsible for keeping the lights on and turning them off at the same time. A new department should be created (or encorporated within Environment), the department for Saving the Planet (Climate Change Abatement) which will be empowered to waste public money. on subsidising uncommercial energy extraction and subsidising companies and households for ‘investing’ in schemes to save energy use; this should be paid for out of general taxation.

    The M6 motorway is an example of why toll roads are not a good idea. There is no point in building new roads which cause a great deal of disruption to many people’s lives if their use is not optimised and a road whose funding structure deters commercial users and private motorists alike and blights other infrastructure in its vicinity is a very bad idea indeed. The road network is a common resource; if new extensions were paid for out of general taxation, either as one off costs or on ‘mortgages’, we would all benefit from them because we use the road system of this country indirectly every time we go to the shops.

    Hypothecated taxes can be a bad idea if they deter activity which is actually beneficial: the existance of a competitive industrial base is beneficial: it produces taxable income and offsets imports. First of all politicians wanted to kill off industry by allowing neo-Trotskyites to strike it out of existence; now they want Green cultists to assist with the slaughter. The first time round the Europeans laughed at us; now it will be the BRICS. Why do our politicians want us to be a universal source of derision? Will bombing Islamists win us back ‘respect’.

    1. forthurst
      June 4, 2011

      By keeping direct taxes on industry low and and ensuring an efficient low cost transport infrastructure, both ourselves as consumers and taxpayers and industry as wealth creators will have more money left over to finance the favoured schemes of politicians through general taxation, whether it is in pursuit of the latest environmentalist creed (whose followers without exception have no scientific capacity or understanding), filling the country with asylum seekers and (Illegal migrants-ed), handing over our money to foreigners for no particular reason, or bombing the c**p out of countries in the vicinity of Israel.

  16. David John Wilson
    June 4, 2011

    Government involvement is definitely necessary to improve most of the cases that you quote above. For example:
    All planning permision for new houses and major extensions to existing houses should include a consideration of solar energy possibilities.
    Inland container collection and distribution points are needed near major cities connected to ports by rail.
    All weirs on our rivers should be reviewed for the possibility of power generation. Of the 28 weirs on the Thames at least 20 should be cost effective. This should be a requirement on the Environment Agency even if the actual development is put out to private companies.
    The free bus passes issued to pensioners should be usable as senior rail cards allowing the third off rail fares in non peak periods.

  17. BobE
    June 4, 2011

    The problem with goods on trains is “The triple Load problem”
    1. Goods move to the station to load.
    2. Train moves to a general destination.
    3. Good move from the train to the final delivery point.
    1 and 2 require trucks.
    A single truck can do 1,2 & 3 in one go with a fraction of the cost and people.
    Trains are an out of date idea.
    I would convert the tracks to roads and use Hydrogen cars/ lorries.
    Hydrogen can be cracked from sea water using Nuclear power.
    The French have 5 Nuclear stations positioned along the English Channel.

    1. lifelogic
      June 5, 2011

      True trains do not usually work in the UK in the main, for the reasons you state and the union power it given them. If it all went by train I imagine there would be threatened strikes every Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays for ever more.

  18. Gordo
    June 4, 2011

    “We could do with more water reservoir capacity to service the ever growing populations of London and the south”

    Ehm, isn’t there another way of addressing that issue?

  19. David Hearnshaw
    June 4, 2011

    Steve Cox is absolutely correct – it is hard to believe that an eco-nut like Huhne was appointed Energy Secretary, indeed much of what this government is doing defies credibility!

  20. Stephen Gash
    June 4, 2011

    In order to improve transport infrastructure there needs to be a cross-party plan that all parties agree to adhere to, so that projects are seen through to completion in a joine up fashion.

    Joined-up thinking is one thing our adversarial system of politics destroys.

    Once this is achieved then sensible plans for development may start.

    One thing that is glaringly obvious is that in commuter belts double-decker trains must be introduced. Most Western countries have these, but in Britain we have single-deckers that are brought onstream during peak travel then sat idle during slack periods, along with driver and other staff. This will mean lowering platforms and major building overhauls. We can do this provided all parties sign up to it. If we can legislate for foreign aid we can do the same for transport.

    The other thing we need to do is to straighten out roads. Why do we keep following the same bends when roads are widened, for example? Again, we should bite the bullet and when roads are resurfaced they are straightened at the same time. Think of the fual-savings if nothing else. Currently, places like Cornwall mean driving 20 miles to go 10.

  21. waramess
    June 4, 2011

    For once you are just plain wrong. We might need more investment in all these things where they prove to be economically viable, sponsored by the private sector where private finance is available; and most importantly we need less government and less taxes in order to make such investment viable.

    We start however from a point where we have far too much government and far too much taxation and that, if it continues, will render all else impossible. You are suggesting that the government might itself fulfill some of these roles but that will simply result in the government getting even bigger than it already is.

    There is only one answer to this conundrum: government must do less. The great temptation for politicians to try to fill the shoes of entrepreneurs does not work. They do not have the discipline of risking their own money and their motivations are not always clear, sometimes even to themselves.

    Your recent articles seem to look at ways of raising even more taxation (not necessarily taxes) and increasing government involvment in fostering business development and in infrastructure development.

    This is the problem, not the solution and until the nettle is firmly grasped you can be certain their will be no meaningful growth.

    Reply: On the contrary – I have written several suggesting how to get public spending down without damaging schools, hospitals etc. Much infrastructure should be or is private sector led where you pay for what you use.

    1. waramess
      June 5, 2011

      At some point somebody must say “no more”. It’s no good saying just a little bit more. That would be OK if the cost of government were only 10 percent of GDP but it is not. Someone needs to say”no more”. The government needs to downsize and, notwithstanding the squeeling of the administrators and the executive there must be a quite emphatic response.

      Less government is the answer to this countries problems and, even a little bit more will be another nail in the coffin.

      I am not a libertarian nor a anarchist: I wear no labels but the problem is quite clear. If you are not prepared to oppose more government at every opportunity then this country is dead: no growth, just dead. No good accepting a bit more here and there: oppose it all because it is a creeping sickness, and it is deadly

  22. NB
    June 4, 2011

    Look it up

  23. stred
    June 5, 2011

    Your piece summarises the situation clearly and accurately.

    However, I must disagree about toll roads. Every day on the M25 there is a 5 to 10 mile queue at the Dartford toll. The road is being widened, at great expense, but this just results in wider queues. vast amounts of fuel and time are wasted. The transport control office puts out misleading delay times to annoy motorists, posting 20 minute delays when an hour is true.

    The safety management is a farce. Every 10 minutes a 4wd escorts fuel lorries through the tunnel, causing delays. I can think of nowhere in the world where this is though necessary in a short tunnel. The toll booths themselves cause the most accidents with the 4 lanes going into 16 then 4, it resembles a Formula 1 start.

    This is all because the Treasury has decided to screw as much as possible out of the motorist, despite the tunnel and bridge being relatively modest structures by European standards and having been paid off years ago.

    The French are well and truly sick of their incredibly expensive toll system, where tolls cost twice as much as fuel and cause average speed to drop to 60, although cars cruise at 85, with fuel economy 25% higher.

  24. electro-kevin
    June 5, 2011

    No mention of mass immigration in your article, Mr Redwood ?

    I’ll take all you say with a healthy dose of salt then.

    Reply: I have often argued to a lower rate and argued for repatriation of powers over migration from the EU as a necessary part of renegotiation.

    1. electro-kevin
      June 6, 2011

      Thank you.

      However, no sensible comment on the planning of infrastructure or resources can be made without mention of population levels – your government shows no sign of controlling this issue.

      On this and crime why should I vote Tory again ?

  25. Neil Craig
    June 5, 2011

    Absolutely right about what needs to be done.

    Technically I would question whether either of the 2 things you say government “needs to do” involve actually doing anything. Certainly “to grant the permissions and licenses needed – to sort out planning permissions and approvals promptly” isn’t actually doing anything it is simply not preventing, or at least reducing the amount of preventing of other people doing things. Allowing banks to lend is equally merely not fetting in the way.

    The one thing, in both cases, that government might be considered able to do is to control the power of local monopolies – whether geographical monopolies or the sort of industry domination that allows banks to become “to big to fail” & have to be bailed out by the state. If small banks can fail without bringing down the market then they can and economic reality, rather than government regulation, will prompt them not to go off the deep end.

    On the other hand how good is government today at preventing the formation of monopolies. Perhaps simply having a lower rate of corporation tax for any vusiness that is less than, say, 20% of the market would be more effective at producing a competitive market than all the government regulators.

  26. John D.
    June 10, 2011

    If we’re to get more Freight off the roads, and onto the Rails, I think it may require having a little chat with Network Rail about how much they charge for access to their track (that’s why you’ll have seen them pictures of locomotives + rolling stock on the back of a lorry, rather than being transported on the rails they were designed to run on).

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