Page, turn a new leaf, learn about how roads are *really* funded

Through the centre of traffic

Lewis Page is an intelligent bloke. He writes for The Guardian, Prospect and is a staffer on tech site The Register.

An officer in the Royal Navy from 1993 to 2004, he’s siwritten books, such as Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs, a forensic polemic about financial waste in the armed forces.

Page, then, is bright. He isn’t yer typical Daily Fail forum looney.

Which makes it even more worrying that an intelligent, bright journalist, who feels he can write about transport matters, doesn’t appear to know the first thing about how roads are funded.

In a piece for The Register on a traffic light report from the RAC Foundation, Page swallows the RAC Foundation line that congestion isn’t caused by lots and lots of cars but lots and lots of traffic lights:

…the past decade’s push to increase convenience and safety for pedestrians (especially disabled ones), while at the same time an effective UK moratorium on new road construction has crept in, is largely responsible for the escalating road congestion seen by motorists in recent years.

He continues, and reveals his ignorance of how roads are funded:

This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. So far from helping pay for the infrastructure they use (and destroy, and block up), buses are heavily subsidised: cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free. But the roads budget (no more than £15bn annually) is dwarfed by the revenues received by the government from road tax and fuel duty (£46bn as of last year).

Commenters on The Register are pointing out Page’s error about roads funding but the piece remains uncorrected.

So, for Page’s benefit, here are two articles that will bring him up to speed on the topic he’s chosen to dabble in.

History of ‘road tax’ and why it was abolished in 1937.

Why isn’t beer tax used to build better pubs, or tobacco tax used to tart up newsagents?

Those articles are quite long and detailed. If he prefers, Page could watch this short video instead. Bonus: it includes a debunking of the tired and inaccurate £46bn stat.