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.
Speak for yourself, I want a mixture of hyper maglev trains and teleports. Or a TARDIS, maybe. Never mind, soon here in sunny Edinburgh we will piss millions away on a tram system which will no serve 3/4 of the population, cause massive disruption while being built and slow down the bus and bikes lanes once it is running. I asked what provisions there are to make sure they don’t disrupt the cycle network (such as it is) and they couldn’t tell me, just that ‘they were working closely with groups to make sure it would all be co-ordinated’. I think I’m going to have to return to my levitation studies as the best way to get to work…
I’ve come across this thing of pricing people’s journeys according to how much they earn (here, assuming that people in cars earn more than those on buses) before. It’s outrageous – it quite literally says people who earn more are worth more.
The thirty dollar oil thing, though – if they include fuel tax revenue as a positive in the assessment, as the article suggests, surely more expensive oil is going to *increase* the apparent benefit of a road? The problem is really that it’s included at all – that causing people to use more fuel is seen as a good thing. Complete idiocy.