Private firms could take over roads

Major English roads could soon be owned by private firms thanks to David Cameron's plans to increase infrastructure spending.

Mr Cameron has asked Whitehall experts to look at radically shaking up funding and ownership in a bid to get investors to support the network, which needs upgrading.

Potentially an independent regulator could look after road tax spending, attempting to mirror the "great success" that privatisation of the water industry brought.

But there has been opposition from some motoring experts, who say this is a step towards national road pricing, even though the Government had said tolls would not be implemented on existing roads. It is likely that more motorists would need to use ajourney planner so as to avoid any future toll roads.

In an appeal for solutions to take some weight off the cash-strapped state, the Prime Minister is expected to say - ahead of the Chancellor's budget - that taxpayers cannot afford essential road improvements.

The economic recovery is being blocked due to gridlocked roads, Mr Cameron will say, in reference to work already taking place in an effort to ease congestion.

Work in progress has seen hard shoulders being used as fourth motorway lanes, and A-roads becoming dual carriageways.

Maria Eagle, shadow transport secretary, said: "Motorists now seem set to be in the firing line for the next phase of the Tories' ideologically driven rip off culture."

Copyright Press Association 2012