Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 4 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding 25
Volume 4 Number 1
JS: There isn't enough money around to pay for
these projects from the public purse, so countries all
around the world are looking at alternative mechanisms.
For example, in the United Kingdom at the
moment, everyone is taking a very hard look at the
roads -- there are pretty much no toll roads in the
United Kingdom. There is a lot of revenue coming
from roads, which comes from fuel duty and vehicle
license duty, but that is not hypothecated to transport
-- it just goes into the national coffers. One of the
problems facing the British Government is that fuel
duty is only going to go in one direction, and at some
point it is genuinely going to fall off a cliff.
National road pricing will come in in the United
Kingdom at some point in the future, and at some point
beyond that they will privatise the trunk road network.
One observation I would make about Australia
is that, as you continue to build more toll roads,
national road pricing becomes messier to implement
because of what was there before. But generally,
we're going to see more user charging across all of
the infrastructure sectors.
MB: A congestion tax has worked in London.
Can you see that morphing into England-wide or
Britain-wide transport pricing?
JS: Congestion charging is a very tough political
sell. It was done in London with a very strong mayor,
it failed in Manchester recently, and, interestingly, it
hasn't really rolled out anywhere else in the world. I
think that national road pricing, if sold on the back of
replacing fuel duty -- which in effect is a pay-as-you-
go-tax anyway -- would be possible.
One of the interesting things in the United
Kingdom is that politicians are very wary of saying that
they want to introduce national road pricing or some
kind of road pricing, and then have to wait two or
three years to implement it while they put everything
in place. One of the things that is likely to happen is
that they will make some structural changes to the way
the highway agencies and road agencies operate, such
that when they make that dif cult political decision,
they can implement it very quickly.
MB: Lindsay, Transurban's Chief Executive, Scott
Charlton, has previously called for a more full debate
on road pricing. Where do you think it'll head?
LM: User-pays has to be an integral part of how we
move through this backlog of infrastructure projects.
Everyone's saying the funding cannot possibly all
come from the Government's balance sheet.
If user-pays is to work, it will only be on highly
utilised assets. Congested roads in our largest cities
fall within that category of assets; that's certainly
Transurban's view. We need to get there. We
understand the political limitations and that you have
to educate the public along the way. There have been
many cases in which politicians have tried to toll
roads that were once free to use. The experience in
the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world
is that this does not work; rather, the public has to see
that there is value for money in what's being delivered
and Dr Kerry
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