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'Get motorists moving'

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The government is considering a plan to allow private companies to take over the running of some major roads and motorways in England.

The president of the AA, Edmund King, told the Today programme's John Humphrys that "we definitely need new investment" because roads will be crucial to economic recovery.

But he said that there will be concerns over new ownership and many drivers will raise eyebrows at comparing running of roads to the water industry considering that water bills "went up by 42%".

Matthew Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk and former chief of staff to George Osborne, said that the comparison to water bills is a good one because the water industry is a utility just as roads are because people and businesses need to drive.

"We have a chronic need to get more infrastructure," he added, pointing out that "nobody is talking about tolls on existing roads".

Mr Hancock went on to say that the plan is about "leveraging investment, not about selling off the roads". It is "important to the economy but also to the millions of people stuck in traffic".

But he disputed the contention that using a proportion of the Vehicle Excise Duty to give to companies that run the roads would divert government money away from spending on other services.

But Edmund King said "motorists are already paying £45bn in various taxes, with only £9bn being spent on the roads" and, while the Highways Agency could be run more efficiently, new ownership of the roads is not needed as it may increase costs in the future.


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