Own the road

Direct investing may be all the rage, but so far it has been restricted primarily to institutional investors. If a UK political think-tank has its way, it’s time for the likes of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to step aside – and make way for Mr and Mrs Average.

In its recently published Roads to Recovery report, the London-based Social Market Foundation (SMF) says the answer to road congestion in the UK is to “mutualise the strategic road network”. Under this plan, “every citizen in the country would be issued with an equal tradable share in the trunk road and motorway network for nothing”.

This, the think-tank believes, would help to make widespread road charging palatable –as would the abolition of road tax. The report claims that road charging would result in the average driver paying “significantly less” than they currently do in tax; and that heavy road users would pay more but save on “the huge time and fuel costs of congestion”. And then there’s that tradable share, which the SMF has calculated – according to “normal price earnings ratios” – would be worth about £1,500 (€1,700; $2,290) on the open market.

Some may have thought that overly hubristic toll road plans proved there’s no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to ownership of roads. It may be apt to reconsider that opinion.