Toll Roads and Crashed Airships

Today we have a great example of why the private sector succeeds where government fails. It’s hidden at the end of this article.

“The decision to monitor the use of the toll road reflects the current economic climate and how we must ensure we get maximum benefit from the money that we spend.”

Mr Bristol said a decision would be made in early March on whether ARC staff would use the toll road for normal business.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesman said Work and Income staff had been told that if they chose to take a work vehicle through the toll road it would be at their own expense and they had to pay the toll before entering the road tunnel rather than later.

It was expected that staff would continue to use the alternative route through Orewa and Waiwera.

Child, Youth and Family has nominated specific work vehicles that are permitted to use the toll road.

A spokesman said: “This is to ensure social workers are able to access the most efficient route when an urgent situation arises. Pre-paid cards have been purchased.”

Private companies are taking a different view. Transcon Warkworth general manager Ian Ward said the company’s vehicles were cutting “upwards of 20 minutes” off their trips between northern Rodney and Auckland by paying the $4 toll for trucks.

“The money is well spent.”

So the private sector has already done the (rather simple) sums and determined that the time saved by the toll road is worth much more than the minuscule toll.

The public sector either assumes that it is not or will work it out over months.

It’s not like it’s hard.

  • The road saves about 10 min,
  • there are 6×10 min in an hour,
  • For the princely sum of $2 one is getting 10min more useful employee time
  • That means that you are paying for time at $12 an hour

How many WINZ or ARC staff have a salary + vehicle running costs  of less than $12/hr?

I’m guessing none, as that would be a breach of minimum wage laws.

I’m reminded once again of the story of the R100 and R101 airships. I’m amazed that I can’t find a decent reference on the Internet, given the way this project clearly showed the superiority of private sector methods.

The models were called the R100 (private industry) and the R101 (government).Vickers put together the design team and withdrew from the public eye at Crayford in Kent. After making an attempt at inventing hydrogen-powered engines for their airship they determined that it couldn’t be done and opted for gasoline-powered engines. They then proceded to devote their efforts to designing the airship itself. The actual fabrication of the R100 was carried out at Howden in Yorkshire.

In contrast the government facility remained open to public scrutiny. After considering hydrogen-powered engines decided to built deisel-powered engines. Unfortunately the research and development needed to build deisel-powered engines proved to be much later than the government program anticipated. After spending much time and budget trying to create deisel-powered engines they were reluctant to abandon this effort and admit that this effort and public money had been wasted. So they continued to expend too much time and budget on this difficult task. I am indebted to Joe Ruh for correction of a previous version in which I attributed the problems in the building of the R101 to the attempt to build hydrogen-powered engines.

The Vickers team completed its model and after a shakedown flight make some corrections and flew to Montreal and back without incident. The government team rushed completion and started off on the test flight to India. The government airship R101 crashed in France killing all aboard.

Unfortunately that description lacks considerable detail, suffice to say the gap in performance was vastly worse than this description suggests. The government ship refused to stop throwing good money after bad, pursuing several idiotic “innovations” that never worked, simply idiotic cost cutting measures (apparently diesels form railway engines are too heavy for airships…), coming in well over time and over budget.

The R100 was very successful but ironically the disaster of the R101 spelt the end of public support for airships in Britain and it was scrapped.

Update: Found a better source. R100, R101


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