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."
- 2 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...