Five finalists have been unveiled for the second largest economics prize in the world – the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize 2017, which this year focuses on highways.
The competitors aim to solve the challenge of ‘making roads better, safer and more reliable in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment’.
The ERP system in downtown Singapore
Shortlisted finalists include a recent graduate from UCL; an Australian start-up firm; a former lawyer; an economist and her husband (AA president Edmund King); and a major multinational engineering firm.
Many pitches feature a form of pay as you drive, while one argues that ‘no-one should be forced to use road pricing, but investment will grow’.
They include a gradual process of increasing investment that starts with the intelligent upgrading of existing user charging systems; winning support for road pricing by offering all drivers at least 3,000 free tradable road miles each year and cutting fuel duty; a gradual transfer to a new system of road pricing that starts small with a trial scheme; a voluntary switch to pricing in return for a cut in fuel duty; and a mileage-based road tax.
The founder of the Prize, Next CEO Lord Wolfson, said: ‘As the political parties put together their programmes for government, they would do well to turn their attention to the plight facing users of Britain's road network.’
The judges also recognised two entries with ‘Lightbulb Awards’ for originality. These went to a Harvard professor who argues that we should ‘let technological change solve the policy problem’ and a research associate from the University of the West of England who proposes harnessing energy from highways.
The competition received over 120 entries from seven countries including the UK, US, Australia, Finland, Romania, Turkey and India.
The finalists will now refine their submissions in the second round of the competition before the final in July.