AA Populus Panel

Should the Government sell off the roads?

82% of AA members would oppose tolls if roads were sold off

3 June 2010

Selling off the UK's roads to help cut the country's huge budget deficit is supported by or would not be opposed by 69% of AA members according to an AA/Populus* poll of 18,964.

But, turn these stretches of motorways and major roads into tolled highways and the mood turns completely negative.

If the new owner of the roads was allowed to charge tolls then 82% would be opposed, 58% 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%). Third choice was cutting housing benefit which was 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. 82% 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."

Regional differences

Members in the North East, Wales and Yorkshire & Humberside were most likely to be strongly opposed to tolls (63%).

Respondents in London, the South and N Ireland were least likely to strongly oppose tolls.

AA members in Wales were most likely to strongly oppose a sell-off even without tolls (21%).

86% of AA members in Scotland were opposed to tolls as opposed to 82% nationally.

Respondents in London and N Ireland were most likely to support the sale of roads even with tolls.

Older respondents were generally more likely to be strongly opposed to tolls.

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3 June 2010

* AA/Populus poll of 18,964 in September 2009.