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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WOULD YOU LIKE THE GOVERNMENT TO SPEND £30 BILLION ON YOU?

On Radio Scotland's phone in today Gary's main question was about whether we should spend £30 billion on a high speed train network. This was hung on a Heathrow councillor who says the government should pay for this rather than letting the allegedly 2 million people round about here more aircraft - she did not propose that the 2 million have any special role in paying for it.

About 2/3rds of the way through Gary said that there was a shortage of people phoning in saying we shouldn't spend this money so I did.

I mentioned that rail already gets 70% of the transport budget with 3% of travel & that not one of those who had said they would like the government to pay for their train use had said what extra taxes they personally were willing to pay. Gary asked me what transport I would like to spend more on considering that we can't build more roads. I said we can build more roads.

In this particular case I agree with the implicit BBC assumption that government should be spending money on something since transport infrastructure is one of the very few state expenditures which seem to provide more economic benefit than they cost. It is obvious that if the BBC do a programme asking people to ring in to say that they want government to give them more money then they will get more people saying yes. Equally if they ever did a programme asking people if they want less taxes, though they never do that, they would get an even larger majority saying yes. All parties seem to be currently engaged in an auction of promises to do both.

Comments:
transport infrastructure is one of the very few state expenditures which seem to provide more economic benefit than they cost.

Exactly. And if we could fund this with Land Value Tax, so much the better - the people who benefit most would pay most towards it, and still have a net, risk free profit (if the infrastructure doesn't add value, then there'd be no extra LVT!)

Land Value Tax, as applied to airports, is of course charging fees/taxes for every aircraft movement.
 
I assume there would have to be some bond or other method of calculating how much land values will go up when there are good roads to it. This was one method I suggested to pay for the Scottish Tunnels.
 
'I mentioned that rail already gets 70% of the transport budget with 3% of travel & that not one of those who had said they would like the government to pay for their train use had said what extra taxes they personally were willing to pay.'

Can we have your source for these stats please?
 
I used the figure 1st on an article here http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2006/07/bullet-train-from-glasgow-to-edinburgh.html
which used Scotish Office statistics of the total number of rail journeys being 65.3 million
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/00184-39.asp
& of the total number of road vehicle kilometres being 43.2 billion
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/00184-30.asp

I believe I made the 3% estimate from assuming the average train journey of about 30 km & an average of 1.5 people per vehicle. That is a back of the envelope calculation but I would be surprised if the final figure is much over 4% or under 2%.
 
And the source for the budget figure?
 
"the public transport share will grow to 70% of the total transport spend by 2005-06" since buses are private this is cose for railways.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/transport/stfwp-08.asp
 
See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/transport/stfwp-05.asp which is the introduction to the 2004 Transport White Paper you quote above.

It would seem that 'public transport' in the context of this report (which 70% of the budget is
devoted to) includes buses, canals, the maritime and air networks and the Scottish trunk roads.
 
The section you quote is entitled "Delivering our Vision" not delivering 70% of our vision. It therefore refers to the entire "vision" of which, it is clearly stated, 70% goes on public transport. This will include some subsidy for a few bus routes & indeed canals but clearly the overwhelming bulk of subsidied public transport is trains.
 
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