You may be a little confused yourself as to how exactly New Labour has managed to go from abandoning almost every road scheme when they came to power over ten years ago to spending the ungodly sum of Â£13bn expanding the roads network. Well, it turns out that it’s all the fault of some quite bonkers economic calculations in the DFT. I strongly recommend you take a look at the article because it’s a really good example of why sometimes you have to stop thinking in terms of numbers and calculations to reach a decision and instead take a look outside the window and breath in. Or even in this case, bother to take a look at the oil price. If they’re right that the Eddington review was based on a 30$ price for a barrel of oil then pretty much all transport policy is suspect and beyond contempt. Here’s a fair example:
How does this work in practice? Look, for example, at the scheme to widen a 56km stretch of the M1 between junctions 30 and 42. The cost to the taxpayer is Â£1.5bn, which sounds like a lot, but the Highways Agency has used the Nata system to claim that, over the next 60 years, the widening is worth no less than Â£4.5bn because of the time it will save travellers. Since this supposed “benefit” to the economy far exceeds the cost, the scheme has been approved.
Just how biased this system can be is set out in the Nata rules that assign lower values to other types of traveller. A minute saved on a cyclist’s travel time, for example, isn’t worth 44p but just 28p. A bus-user’s time is valued at 33p a minute. The implicit assumption is that cyclists and bus-users make less contribution to the economy than car drivers.
But I guess we knew this, and I don’t say this just because I want a bullet train to Edinburgh.