George Osborne takes first step on road to privatising Britain's highways

 

The Government risks angering trades unions with plans to commercialise the running and repair of Britain's core roads network, a move likely to lead to full privatisation.

The Department for Transport is considering allowing the Highways Agency, which runs the UK's 4,300 miles of motorways and trunk roads, to raise its own cash rather than just rely on the public purse, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

David Cameron and George Osborne have been pushing for full privatisation for the past year, but cracks in the coalition, as well as a technical concern that this still wouldn't get the agency's liabilities off the Government's balance sheet, have made that option untenable in the short term. Instead, the Highways Agency would be modelled on Network Rail, which raises money in the financial markets and competes for money-spinning advisory work internationally, but is ultimately backed by, and responsible to, the DfT.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will announce this option of revamping the Highways Agency in a roads Green Paper this summer. Officials believe the Highways Agency must be commercialised to raise the billions of pounds, over and above its £4bn budget, needed to get Britain's most important roads up to scratch.

Industry sources said that this would be the first step to privatising roads that bear the strain of one-third of all traffic mileage undertaken in the UK.

Although something of a short-term compromise, the news will not be popular among union members. The Public and Commercial Services Union has warned that privatisation would lead to job cuts. It also argued that privatisation and out-sourcing vital repair and maintenance work to profit-making companies does "not make economic sense".

A DfT spokeswoman said: "The future of our road network is a serious and important issue and it is right that we take the time to look at all the options thoroughly in order inform the debate. This will enable us to provide a solution which is in the best interests of motorists and the country as a whole."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Project Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities & Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Testing Manager

£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

£17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ope...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash