Monday, 4 August 2014

For Whom The Road Tolls

From The Metro:

A British businessman who has grown tired of council works closing off a road near his home has built his own detour, and is now charging motorists £2 each to use it.

Mike Watts, 62, was forced to drive around a section of the A431 between Bath and Bristol because a landslide had closed the road in February. Council works were due to carry on until the end of the year.

Not wanting to wait that long, Watts employed his own crew of road workers and built a 365m-long bypass in the field next to the closed-off section.

He spent £150,000 of his own money, so has now set up a toll booth and is charging cars £2 to drive along his road (and £1 for motorbikes). Regular users can bulk-buy 12 passes for £10.

Motorists can avoid the toll, of course, but it means having to make a ten-mile detour, so most are happy to pay the money.

Fair enough, people are happy to pay £2 to take the five-mile route (99% of which is on public road and 1% which is on his private road and pay £2 for the 1%) rather than the fifteen-mile route over free public roads.

But why does he get all £2 of it?

In theory, the council could demand a £2 toll for using the public stretch between the next junction and the private bit; maybe the saving is not worth £4 and so he and the council have each other over barrel, split the difference and get £1 each.


Kj said...

He just converted a big chunk of a field to a road, that'd qualify for some planning gains taxes one way or the other. I see he is hoping for retrospective planning permission, bit of a gamble that...

Mark Wadsworth said...

Kj, well let's hope he gets it, too late now. The road is in place and clearly it is a better world with it than without.

The council would be advised to demand a large chunk of the £2 for the reasons explained. The man has spent his money, and even if he only gets 10p per car in future that is better than nothing.

Anonyman said...

Did he own the field? Or is purchasing the land what most of the £150k was spent on?

Also I though you didn't like road pricing Mark?

Bayard said...

"In theory, the council could demand a £2 toll for using the public stretch"

Er, no, because then it wouldn't be a public road. They would have to close the road to the public before they could demand a toll on it.

Anonyman said...

Oh and I know this is not relevant to this topic but this little guardian debate is relevant to you and LVT

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon, yes he did own the field, it appears he spent £150k on having the strip of tarmac laid.

As to 'road pricing' it's great in principle, but it has its own problems, and in practice we have an excellent tried and tested, rough and ready form of pricing called 'fuel duty', which has lots of other merits.

B, OK, they could just close the public road, full stop. Where does that leave our rent seeker? Then they can tell him they'll re-open the road if he pays them £x.

Anon, yes I did read it, it is relevant but her take is the usual leftie drivel.

As per usual the answer is 'LVT' and I left a comment saying as much.

Bayard said...

"OK, they could just close the public road, full stop."

Of course they could, but what's in it for them, apart from a load of hassle? In theory, a council could close any stretch of public road and charge tolls on it, but none of them ever do, so there must be some good reason why not.

Anonyman said...

I prefer congestion charging tbh

Also the reason I linked to the guardian blog is for the comment section. Someone referenced the KAALVTN blog and it was "dismissed" by a poster called Epinoa who claimed that you are wrong because you've never lived in Taiwan. I thought you'd want to reply or something.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon, yes, in theory, congestion charging or road pricing is very good, it's just a bit difficult to optimise in practice.

And no, I have never lived in Taiwan. If some twat thinks that by pointing this out he wins the argument then he is a twat indeed.

I can't be bothered replying to twats.