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An End of an Era: Maintenance costs undermine Motordom

February 5, 2014

From the BBC:

Dangerous rural roads ‘may need to shut’

Councils in England have warned that parts of the road network could become so unsafe they need to be shut completely.

rural roads


Local authorities don’t have the money (or the willingness to tax their ratepayers) to maintain the road system they’re responsible for (not to mention the impact of “severe weather”) – while senior governments are in the business of building more and bigger roads and bridges to handle ‘congestion’.

As we come to the end of the Motordom era, the readjustment is underway.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2014 1:03 pm

    Click on the picture to see the BBC News item – preceded ever so appropriately by an advert for Land Rover. Just the thing to tackle those crumbling rural roads!

  2. Alex T permalink
    February 5, 2014 2:00 pm

    I think this exposes a big flaw in the toll model which is used today. The initial construction costs are a small part of the full lifespan costs of any road or bridge, yet the way it’s conveyed is that once it’s built it’s free.

    I think people can come to recognize this since it’s not a hard concept. Yet this model is so pervasive I’m guessing there will be some resistance at first. Strap in.

  3. February 5, 2014 2:52 pm

    Stephen, I’d love to pick your brain on this one day, but my understanding of UK local government finances is they’re much more dependent on transfers from higher-ups than local govts here? Council taxes frozen, business rates (does that have an analogy) and transfers from central govt.

    I’m also interested to see that municipal govt (or is regional? Cornwall being a county?) is on the hook for this. In my ‘string of pearls’ model of the world, municipal/local government pays for streets up to the urban edge, and then the region (or ideally a toll) pays for inter-municipal travel.

    Here’s a great tale of toll roads and ‘parish’ property/council taxes from 1850s London

    • February 5, 2014 4:11 pm

      I have been gone from the UK since 1988 and local government finance has changed quite a bit in my absence. Everyone has to pay Council Tax but there are significant transfers from the central government to counties and municipal governments. Business rates are equivalent to our property tax. There must be much better resources on line of this topic than my brain! It seems to me that for this problem to have arisen, central government transfers have been restricted to major roads (motorways and A roads) and restrictions on what local governments can do due to lack of funding have lead to a decline in spending on local road maintenance. Of course, this is very similar to what happens in North America, where there might be pork barrels to plunder for road building but only local taxes to support maintenance – which is therefore mostly neglected.

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