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Wolfson Economics Prize submission proposes ‘Road Miles’ system to fund infrastructure

A £5bn cycling infrastructure fund has been proposed by the president of the AA, Edmund King, and his wife Deirdre, who is a former economist at the British Road Federation. The plan lies within one of five submissions shortlisted for the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize which is seeking to popularise the concept of "road pricing".

BikeBiz reports that The Wolfson Economics Prize – the second largest in the world after Nobel – will be awarded on Thursday with a prize of £250,000.

Sponsored by Lord Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next plc, and run in partnership with the Policy Exchange think tank, the prize has previously run in 2012 and 2014.

In 2012 it invited proposals on how the Eurozone could be safely dismantled, while the 2014 prize asked the question “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”

The question asked this time around was: "How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?”

Speaking about their submission, Edmund King said: “I think the biggest problem with the road network is congestion, environmental issues, and also the way we pay for it. We need a new, radical system to pay for roads, but also to improve our roads.”

The proposal is built around the concept of Road Miles. “We set up a system where every driver in the UK gets at least 3,000 road miles free – so it’s free access to the road network – but then after that, there is then a small charge.”

Extra income would be generated from a Road Miles Lottery, where prizes would be luxury cars and additional Road Miles; from firms bidding on the naming rights of major roads; and from auctioning off Road Miles for firms to give away in promotions.

They say that financial modelling projects total revenues above current Government revenue by an average of 3.4 per cent per annum over a decade.

The submission also expresses explicit support for cycling campaigners’ call for investment in cycling of at least £10 per person annually, eventually rising to £20.

"Road Miles will provide £4.9 billion over ten years to match this proposal, increasing the amount to £20 after Year 5,” it states.

"Having sat on the Government’s high-level cycling group and after consultation with Chris Boardman and Martin Key from British Cycling, we feel the best way to really kick-start cycling is a ‘contribution fund’.

"This is the approach the Dutch took in the 1970s to accelerate the construction of cycle tracks. The Fund would be made available to local government for the construction of cycling tracks. The fund would contribute up to 70 percent of the costs of construction of cycling tracks in towns, cities and A-roads and up to 50 percent of the construction costs on B-roads.

"The fund is required to enable local government to kick-start the development of cycling infrastructure and cycling networks that give people a real choice of travelling by bicycle."

They add: “Priority will be given to those projects that can demonstrate the greatest propensity for an increase in cycling numbers and a modal shift away from private car use. There is recent evidence that well-designed cycle ways with pots of flowers dividing the lanes from the road can increase house prices by 50% compared to adjacent streets in parts of London.”

The policy document also expresses support for a government cycling target of 10 per cent of trips within 12 years as well as Carlton Reid’s campaign to revive around 300 miles of 1930s-era British cycleways.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

7 comments

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don simon [1160 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Might I suggest a £15.00 tax on every bike purchase over the value of £200.00?

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burtthebike [926 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

An interesting scheme, if only because of the proposal to actually fund cycle provision instead of just talking about it like this government and all its predecessors do.

The reality is of course that this scheme will not be adopted because of the fact that our country is run by drivers for drivers, and any suggestion that they fund infrastructure for cyclists will fly like a lead balloon.

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esayers [47 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes

What if you could earn road miles by cycling, walking, public transport e.g. 1 road mile for every mile cycled, 5 road miles for every mile walked and 0.2 road miles for every mile undertaken by public transport.  You would need all cities to have an affordable cycle hire scheme and pubilc transport system. Although not sure how you would implement a cycling and walking distance covered tracking system, it would have to be optional.

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ConcordeCX [335 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

“I think the biggest problem with the road network is congestion, environmental issues, and also the way we pay for it. We need a new, radical system to pay for roads, but also to improve our roads."

it's not clear to me that the way we pay for roads is a problem at all, let alone on the scale of congestion and environmental issues. His solution for these appears to be: build more roads, and privatise them. Therefore I won't be awarding him the prize.

Reduce the number of motor vehicles on the roads, turn those that remain electric. Problem solved, no need for new roads, less need to repair them, no need for privatisation. Can I have the prize, please?

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steveal50 [11 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

What a nightmare to administer. Imagine the price of the bureaucracy for this.

Here's a simple alternative.

 - Get rid of the Road Fund Licence.

 - Increase fuel duty by an offsetting amount. Those that travel most, buy the most fuel and pay the most tax.

The administration for this is already in place.

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captain_slog [399 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

Same old, same old. The unspoken assumption is that driving as much as you like is the desirable norm. (Win luxury cars!)

The motoring lobby are coming up with ever-more Byzantine ways to try and cling on to the status quo.

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Nuclear Dan [20 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
burtthebike wrote:

An interesting scheme, if only because of the proposal to actually fund cycle provision instead of just talking about it like this government and all its predecessors do.

The reality is of course that this scheme will not be adopted because of the fact that our country is run by drivers for drivers, and any suggestion that they fund infrastructure for cyclists will fly like a lead balloon.

It's this sort of them and us attitude why cycling is taking so long to become mainstream.

45 million people in the UK have a driving license which given that just over 50 million of the population are old enough to drive means that the vast majority of adults in the UK are drivers. You might as well say they UK is run by food eaters for food eaters.

Cars are also used for greater than 80% of passenger miles in the UK. Even in Denmark cars and vans account for more than 75% of passenger miles. Despite cycling accounting for 20% of journeys in Denmark it is still only around 5% of passenger miles.

Cars are the most successful form of transport, they have changed the world, they aren't going anywhere. It would be basically impossible to make a substantial modal shift away from cars. To replicate all those journeys we'd need ~10 times as many buses and trains, and were we to do that with current technology it would probably be less efficient, more congested as well as massively costly.

Improving cycling infrastructure is about quality of life not about replacing a significant proportion of car passenger miles.

As cyclists and car drivers we should be advocating for good road infrastructure for cars to help them make the journeys they are good at with as little disruption as possible while getting them off the transport corridors where other forms of transport are better.