Skip to main content

Main line to Cornwall reopens – and free riders

The main railway line to Devon and Cornwall reopened on 4 April after a two month closure due to the sea wall being washed away at Dawlish. Between Dawlish and Teignmouth, the line runs on the sea wall, built by Brunel in the 1840s. It is an exposed stretch of coast and the route is vulnerable to damage by heavy seas. The speed of the repair was due to heroic efforts by Network Rail’s engineers, who worked day and night in all weathers to get the work finished as quickly as possible.

Now consider this. Supposing that it had been decided there was no money for the work? Land values in Devon and Cornwall would have taken a big hit. People who had bought property, for example, for tourist activities, would have suffered a slump in the number of visitors as overloading of the already-congested main roads deterred people from travelling to the area.

This incident, and the fact that it was dealt with, and promptly, demonstrates that there is no such thing as a historic land value. ALL land value is continually sustained by the presence and activities of the community, above all, through the willingness of the taxpayer to maintain the supporting infrastructure in good order. But without land value taxation, landowners are not paying for the benefits they receive. They – which means all of us who own land – are the ultimate free-riders.