Friday, 13 June 2014

Roads and freight: what would the free market do?

A woman in her late twenties has been killed and her newborn baby girl in the same car airlifted to hospital after a collision on the M40, police said.

The crash between the car and a lorry happened at 11:20 BST on the southbound carriageway, just before junction nine.

This one's close to home, and not just literally ...

As a motorcyclist, instinct tells me that lorries can be lethal. As a father of two young children, I worry about just this sort of accident.

A quick Google backs up my feeling that lorries are disproportionately dangerous:
The assessment of official statistics, carried out by the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) for Campaign for Better Transport, showed that the ratio of fatal road accidents involving Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs) compared with those involving other vehicle types has been climbing year on year:
  • On motorways: More than half (52%) of fatal accidents on motorways involve HGVs, despite HGVs only making up 10% of the traffic on motorways
  • On A-roads: HGVs are involved in 1 in 5 fatal crashes on A roads, a ratio that has worsened over the last 5 years
  • On minor roads: An HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic

Can "Campaign for Better Transport" be trusted?

You might expect a libertarian to be sceptical of a group that's against road building and which campaigns to "save our buses". Their patrons include Lord Faulkner (Labour). Their board members fret about "equality and diversity" and "social exclusion". One of them, Alastair Hanton, helped them win "major improvements to the taxation of company cars as benefits in kind" - a tax hike, I suspect. Another board member, Sue Fletcher, boasts "a lifelong career in the charitable and public sectors". Their choice of catch phrases rings alarm bells: "evidence-based policy-making" usually means "policy-based evidence-making".

So no, I don't trust them. And I don't share their concerns about carbon dioxide. But I do share their instinct that lorries are an unsafe an inefficient way to transport freight.

What would the free market do? Would more freight go by rail? Would there be private roads for lorries, and separate ones for cars? Would there be speed-limit-free 'fun roads', for those prepared to take the risk? Would there be roads reserved for motorcycles? Would there be computer-controlled 'safe roads', for everyday family commutes? What would the public demand? What would be economically viable to supply? How would new roads get built without compulsory purchase orders?

As long as the state maintains its grip on roads and railways, we'll never know.

No comments:

Post a Comment