Over three quarters of AA members in an AA Populus* poll of almost 19,000 would back the £85 - 100 billion sale of the UK's motorways and trunk roads to help reduce the government's financial deficit but only if tolls are ruled out.
The deal would not be backed if the new owner of the roads was allowed to charge tolls with 82% opposed to this, 58% of whom were strongly opposed. The proposal to sell the strategic road network was first mooted in a report by MN Rothschild last summer but received relatively short shrift then but the new coalition government appears to be breathing new life into the possibility as it seeks to cut Britain's deficit.
AA members were clear that they would only support the sale if the "buyer of the road was paid by the government to maintain the roads and was only able to make money through efficient operations, not through introducing toll charges".
The same AA Populus poll asked members to select their preferred options on how to resolve the UK's budget deficit. Top choice was higher income taxes on the most wealthy (supported by 58%) followed by action on immigration (supported by 37%) and third choice was cutting housing benefit (supported by 34%).
Edmund King, AA President said:
"AA members see some merit in extracting the cash value of the UK's roads to help the economy but they also know they have paid for them many times over through their taxes and are clearly adamant they will not pay for them again through tolls.
"Drivers will also be wary of government reneging on their promise. The toll on the Dartford Crossing was meant to be dropped when the bridge was paid for, yet this has not been done and now the crossing is up for sale. Eighty two per cent of motorists are opposed to any sale if the buyer was able to make money through the introduction of tolls.
"Our members know there are tough spending cuts on the horizon but they are not ready to pay tolls to help with the cuts."
*AA Populus poll 1 to 7 September 2009 responded to by 18,964