Beware, lobbying ahead

7 Nov

A new lobbying group “The Road Ahead Group” is apparently being set up by various business with interests in freight, and in building and operating roads. They will be lobbying Whitehall but according to the press aim to maintain a low public PR profile. True to their word, they appear to currently have no web presence but we do know that it has been set up by Brian Wadsworth who moved to a lobbying firm after a stint as Director of Strategic Roads, Planning and National Networks’ at the Department for Transport. Other supporters include Midland Expressways (who operate the M6 Toll road), my friends May Gurney and other infrastructure companies. Rather quaintly, one of their lobbying aims is to protect part of the Vehicle Excise Duty revenue for road building. (err, didn’t Winston Churchill get rid of that in 1937?)

In an apparently unconnected announcement in the past 24 hours the RAC Foundation and ARUP have claimed that the UK needs to spend £12.8bn building new roads; they talk about an infrastructure ‘shortfall’, outline 100 ‘urgently needed’ projects and say that current situation is ‘worrying’ and ‘concerning’. One thing they are not concerned about it carbon emission and climate change – the word carbon does not appear and the word ‘climate’ only gets mention in relation to the financial climate. They do however like toll rolls and Public Private Partnerships and by way of good examples they draw attention to the fact that Canada, Spain and the USA have built a lot of roads recently.

Curiously, given that neither Arup nor the RAC Foundation are publicly connected with ‘The Road Ahead Group’, but their report does happen to recommend that road building should be supported by “giving the sector a dedicated revenue stream, based on retained user charges and/or hypothecation of some motoring taxes (e.g. VED).” Incidentally, the RAC Foundation/Arup report is written by a former civil servant at the DfT, where ‘he sponsored the Department’s roles in major projects and transactions’. The doors are clearly still revolving – you can read about bit about revolving doors and lobbying in the UK on Wikipedia.

To sign off, here is an image from the RAC Foundation/Arup report. They don’t mention it by name, but it is this monsterous interchange in Los Angeles – an impressive bit of engineering for sure, but possibly not something any of us will want in our back yard, and indeed LA is going off roads and getting pretty excited about public transit.

Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange (Los Angeles)

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