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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 11/98: Queen Speech  
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Queen Speech Tuesday, 24 November, 1998, 19:26 GMT
Transport caught in a jam
trains
Public transport improvements still stuck in the station
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

The Queen's speech offers little progress in this session of parliament on curbing road congestion and improving public transport.

The Queen's Speech
The Transport White Paper published last July by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott held out high hopes of a radical new approach.

But transport joins the list of government priorities that have had to be relegated to the second division, leaving ministers free to concentrate on reform of the House of Lords.

There are two limited proposals for improving transport, however.

The government plans to bring in legislation to allow the creation of a new Greater London Authority, with a directly elected mayor.

One of the mayor's tasks would be to produce an integrated transport strategy for the capital.

This would include powers to charge motorists for driving into central London, and to require drivers to pay for parking places provided at their place of work.

A consultation paper on both of these is likely to appear within the next few weeks.

The bill to set up the Greater London Authority would concentrate responsibility in a new body, Transport for London.

Action by 2000

That would be directly responsible to the mayor, and would put his or her strategy into action.

The government hopes the mayor and the 25-member assembly will be established during the year 2000.

The White Paper also proposed the creation of a strategic rail authority, to reform the running of the privatised railway companies.

The Queen's speech says a bill to establish the authority will be published only in draft form.

bus
A missed chance to improve bus services
This means that a shadow strategic rail authority will be set up by next spring. But legislation will probably have to wait until next year's Queen's speech.

A third area of concern highlighted in the white paper is the confusion left by bus deregulation.

The speech has nothing to say about steps to improve services to passengers.

Campaigners say its silence on this, and its failure to extend the new powers for London to the rest of the country, are a missed opportunity.

The Transport 2000 campaign said it was "a great shame" that other local authorities would not have the same chance as London to raise money in this way for investment in better transport.

And it described the government's transport proposals as "disappointing".

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