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Jacobs and Volterra Team Unveiled as Finalist for the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize

A radical change in how roads are funded and paid for is one of five submissions shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize, the most significant prize in the field of global economics, only seconded to the Nobel Prize. 

The 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize called for ideas to bring more investment and a better deal for road users in the U.K. as part of the big shift to digital technology, new forms of power and self-driving vehicles. The question posed: "How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?”.

The Volterra and Jacobs’ entry, led by Paul Buchanan of Volterra Partners, sets out how present fuel and vehicle excise duties could be replaced by a road user charging system that results in faster journeys, guaranteed journey times, less congestion and pollution.

The proposed new system would offer motorists choices of routes and prices depending on time of day, expected levels of congestion, type of vehicle used (to take account of its pollution impacts) and provide a guaranteed journey time and price.  Any delays on the journey would lead to either a partial or full refund or potentially a compensation payment. In addition motorists making regular trips could actually be paid either not to travel or to do so at less busy times.

The submission suggests money raised from the scheme is hypothecated to maintain and enhance the transport network and, to establish a community fund which will be available to communities most impacted by road traffic to mitigate and offset its impact.

Paul Buchanan, partner at Volterra and the submission’s principal author said: “Economists have argued for road pricing for a long time, but this is the first time a comprehensive package has been put forward that clearly shows how motorists and communities will benefit from a radical overhaul in how we use and pay for our road network.” 

The founder of the Prize, Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise, said: “The creativity and enthusiasm demonstrated by the entrants to the 2017 Prize has been inspiring. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to enter and our team of expert judges. I look forward to the final in July.”

Jacobs’ John Siraut added: “We believe we have come up with an innovative solution that is fair to road users and is beneficial for both the economy and the environment. Our idea delivers better, safer, more reliable roads, is flexible and can accommodate disruptive technology such as Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.”  

The prize was founded by Lord Wolfson of Aspley, and is run in partnership with the think tank Policy Exchange. This year’s prize was directed by former Transport and Downing Street Special Adviser, Julian Glover. The 2017 prize received over 120 entries from 7 countries including the U.K., U.S., Australia, Finland, Romania, Turkey and India.  The five shortlisted entries are now working to refine their proposals and re-submit a secondary study. 


 Please click on the image above to view interview with Jacobs’ John Siraut and Volterra’s Paul Buchanan  

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