Journal Article

Roads: a utility in need of a strategy

Stephen Glaister and John W. Smith

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 25, issue 3, pages 368-390
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/grp028
Roads: a utility in need of a strategy

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  • Economic Development and Growth
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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.

Keywords: roads; regulation; utilities; infrastructure; governance; public expenditure; road pricing; road taxation; H44

Journal Article.  10519 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth ; Public Economics ; Political Economy ; Public Policy

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