Friday, 5 April 2013

News briefs - Australia, Germany, UK

Australia - Transurban CEO calls for network road pricing and hangs onto Pocahontas 895

AAP reports that Transurban CEO, Lindsay Maxsted, told the company AGM last year that 

"The time is quickly coming where we must face concepts such as distance-based tolls, peak-hour pricing or demand pricing... We must utilise our existing networks better."

the states could not ''build our way out of congestion forever'' and needed to look at different pricing models for roadways.

He said that there could also be off peak discounts, but existing concessions meant Transurban could only charge one price all day long.  He insisted Transurban was not motivated to renegotiate these, but that future concessions should include the flexibility for peak and off peak pricing.

This is a welcome step, and besides being obvious, it demonstrates that private road owners are incentivised by the market to increase yields at peak times, and utilisation off peak, which would benefit them and off peak users (and peak users if congestion is avoided).  

However, New South Wales Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, responded saying there wouldn't be a "congestion tax" or "time of day tolling", which frankly is a missed opportunity.  Curiously an online poll on the Sydney Morning Herald website suggested 42% would support higher peak time tolls.  A figure which astonishes me, as I wouldn't expect people to support this without expecting more reliable trips or reductions in off peak tolls.

On the beleagured Pocahontas 895 toll road he said Transurban will hang onto the asset, but seek to renegotiate with its lenders:

"That's the most likely outcome: a full reconstruction with those lenders, and we may well be the ongoing owners of that asset," he said  "The fact is that because of the poor performance of the asset, there's not a lot of people out there that run the asset, and in terms of our expertise, we're still probably the logical owner of it but not at the price paid those many years ago."

Germany - attitudes to urban congestion charging

I already reported on how some German states have been considering urban congestion charging as a revenue raising proposition.  An article in The Local points out some more details of what was being considered and responses to it:

- It talks of a single charge of EURO 6.10 per day (US$7.85);
- Green Party says it is "badly needed" to pay to maintain and modernise transport infrastructure;
- Federal commissioner for tourism Ernst Hinsken, of the conservative Christian Social Union (part of the ruling Federal coalition), warned against "defrauding commuters and tourists" arguing it would unfairly punish commuters facing increasing fuel prices;
- HDE, a retail business association, claimed it would make downtown city centres less attractive, by penalising those who visit them for shopping.

Still a fair way to go in Germany before this goes further.

UK - Local transport chief calls for nationalisation of private toll road

According to the Birmingham Mail, Centro (the public body responsible for planning and contracting public transport services in the West Midlands) Chief Executive Geoff Inskip has called for the UK Government to nationalise the M6 toll road.  He said it was "madness" that the parallel untolled publicly owned M6 is "choc a bloc" with congestion, but that high prices on the toll road meant it was underutilised.  Midland Expressway (the company that owns the road) responded by saying it had a "long term view" of the investment.

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