Livewire - March 21, 2012

Harry Yeadon, who worked on the construction and design of the M6 in 1958.
Harry Yeadon, who worked on the construction and design of the M6 in 1958.
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By Harry Yeadon of Lytham

any proposal to parcel off our motorways and major A-roads on lease to private companies would be ridiculous.

It is the thin end of the wedge for motorists and likely to lead to road pricing. Motorists already pay quite enough in this country – and also suffer because of record fuel prices.

I think it is quite unfair on the motoring public whoever they might be, whether private or commercial operators, to be charged to use roads already financed through tax.

It is quite unreasonable. A form of highway robbery.

There’s the cost of collecting tolls, barriers for the sections concerned, I am completely against it.

I don’t think it’s necessary to involve private operators for a start.

A lot of the maintenance of the motorway system is carried out by contractors anyway. The contracts are let on a long term basis, they set themselves up for competitive tendering, the competition is there to make it economic and value for money. I still think we have one of the best motorway systems in the world. The M6 Midlands toll is privately financed and not very well used, so hasn’t really achieved the objective of taking traffic off the main motorway.

And if commercial operators of motorways or major roads start charging drivers to use new roads or additional lanes motorists who are already being charged a bomb will go back to the urban network and that would be quite wrong.

The motorway was there to take traffic off the unsatisfactory existing road network, and if this is not happening, local highways authorities will have to bear the burden.

We have already seen the impact of piecemeal investment in the rail network thanks to varying operators and policies.

I don’t want to see the investment in our motorways become fragmented – or their maintenance or development start to suffer. The major arguments for the M55 was on the basis of the high accident rate in the Preston and surrounding areas.

Like or loathe motorways they divert traffic from hotspots and troublespots and control the flow of traffic. There will always be some who will not properly use motorways. Including the Government...

Harry Yeadon worked on the design and construction of Britain’s first motorway, the M6, and is former Lancashire county surveyor and bridgemaster. Potential Livewire contributions to