Adam Lovejoy writes from London: As the dust settles after David Cameron’s suggestion to privatise the roads in Britain, giving lucrative contracts to private companies to build new motorways and look after the existing ones, apocalyptic scenarios of the type depicted in the Mad Max movies are already emerging.
Imagine a day when all the roads in good old Britain would be toll roads and it would cost you a fortune to get to work or to the supermarket. You think this is a crazy scenario? Think again. Remember when they first started talking about introducing the congestion charge in central London under Red Ken who – fate would have it – is now pitching to become London Mayor again? Then many people were saying that it would never happen, that it was something from the Middle Ages when locals barons and gangs of highway men were taking money from the farmers who were using roads to bring produce to the cities. But it still happened and, to add insult to injury, the charge was increased from £8 to £10.
Did congestion charge sort out congestion in London? No, of course it didn’t. Did it help improve the quality of the roads in the capital? Nope, the roads got even worse. So where has all the money gone then? No one knows.
So now we have Dave The Road Privatiser telling everyone how privatising roads would not only help to make them better – smoother and straighter, with gorgeous markings and road signs – but it would also help the economy to recover. Fancy that, eh? Dave, of course, cunningly overlooks the fact that the way things are going with prices on petrol and diesel there’d soon be practically no vehicles left to use the new wonderful roads of his. Apart from the cars of the super rich that is.
But why stop there, Dave, why just privatise the roads? Why not go for it and privatise the crossings and the pavements as well? Charge every bloody pedestrian for crossing the road and walking down the pavements, first in city centres and then all over the place. To improve the quality of those zebra crossing and the evenness of the panels that make up the pavements. That would boost the economy to no limits.
And then the government could privatise the traffic lights. You know, if you want the green light to show, throw fifty pence into the slot and on you go. But one car at a time, obviously. There’ll be traffic lights every twenty yards down every road and the economy would go through the roof. All that lovely money flowing into the system and some of it reaching the budget.
Lots and lots of things could be privatised. Air for breathing for example. Now that would be a real boost for economic growth. You think I’m kidding. Just you wait till Dave and the gang get really desperate.