The Finance Act 1908
The Finance Act 1908 came into action because of a surge in motor vehicle popularity. The amount of cars on the road began to take its toll on the UK’s road surface, which were at the time predominantly built from mud, layers of stone and shoddy gravel.
For two hundred years, turnpike trusts had been scrutinised. The poor didn’t use the roads but were expected to help maintain, pay and abide by the turnpike acts. Tampering or deliberately damaging turnpike polls in the 17th century could be punishable by death.
After the industrial revolution two engineers helped design a smarter system. John Loudon McAdam was responsible for Macadamisation, a process of building a hard surface using broken stones placed in symmetrical, tight patterns and covered with smaller stones.
Thomas Telford was a civil engineer and noted as one of the industries forward thinkers in road, bridge and canal building. He designed numerous infrastructure projects including harbours, tunnels and the infamous “Colossus of Roads” which is now known as the A5 Trunk Road.
McAdam’s method was simpler, yet more effective at protecting roadways. He discovered that massive foundations of rock upon rock were unnecessary, and asserted that native soil alone would support the road and traffic upon it, as long as it was covered by a road crust that would protect the soil underneath from water and wear.
This design led to the bitumen-based binding called Tarmacadam. The tar was modified by adding small amounts of Portland cement, resin, and pitch.
Nottingham’s Radcliffe Road became the first tarmac road in the world.
In 1909, the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act provided grants to local authorities for approved highways works. The Finance Act 1909-10 based vehicle taxation on the horsepower of the vehicle (and so it remained until 1949), and stated that the revenue would be used for road improvements only.