Transport economics expert calls for consistency

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Portrait of a bridge by Les Chatfield }

The University’s Professor Roger Vickerman has called for greater consistency in how the UK regulates its various transport modes.

Speaking at a discussion on transport regulation, organised on 9 February by the Institute for Government in partnership with the City of London Corporation, Professor Vickerman argued that it was important to strike the right balance between user payments and public contributions.

This would be easier to achieve, he said, if there were consistent regulatory policies across road, rail and air transport.

Posing the question ‘who should pay for transport?’, Professor Vickerman pointed out that, in the UK, the general presumption has been that as the user – passenger or freight shipper – derives the direct benefit, the user should pay a significant contribution to the cost of the service.

This differs from the public service obligation view in most other European countries, where the State pays a larger share of the cost and fares are kept lower, he said.

Analysing each transport mode in turn, Professor Vickerman said that the evidence suggested that, in the case of roads, a toll-based system using standardised electronic charging – rather than the ‘rag-bag of different systems currently in use’ – would enable a more consistent approach to be taken to all modes.

Roger Vickerman is Professor of European Economics and Dean for Europe.