Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 22 March 2012


It is obviously a good idea for governments to spend money on infrastructure when times are tough because the construction works themselves will stimulate the economy and put in place a much needed modern network to help with future growth.

But what do you do when governments have no money to spend on this and indeed the presence of so much government borrowing is a large part of the problem?

The answer of course is to turn to the private sector to make the necessary investment, but they will need to make a return on their investment in terms of annual charges. So we are faced with a dilemma: a government that can't afford to build more roads, railways or other networks, and a private sector that could if allowed to charge for it.

This is not easy to resolve, partly because of our historic and emotional preconceptions. Although, we would not expect the state to own and run our mobile phone network, I don't think anybody would be happy if Serco owned the Parkway and charged us to use it. 

Most people broadly accept that the railways are now in private ownership (where they started off 150 years ago) but roads seem different. Of course many roads used to be toll roads in the eighteenth century, and many countries on the continent make more use of toll roads than we do. I cannot see this being a crowd-pleaser over here!

The good news is nobody is planning on selling off the road network. But in relation to new roads or widening existing roads, a new solution needs to be found. There is an urgent need to repair and upgrade our national road infrastructure and build for the future (albeit it might be for cars powered by sustainably-produced electricity to run on). That is why the Department of Transport has been asked to carry out a feasibility study of new models for the national road system and to report progress in the future. There is nothing green or sustainable about traffic jams and gridlock.

I cannot see much of immediate impact in our neck of the woods, although if private investors could create a new way over the Plym in response to the proposed Sherford development, it might be of some interest. Or what about an eastern link from Ivybridge to the A38, would people pay to use that?

The feasibility study will be complete by the autumn.

posted by Gary @ 09:22