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Saturday, July 25, 1998 Published at 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK


Roads expert warns of motorway jams

Prof. Mackey says this could be the scene in the future

The government has defended its traffic plans after a top transport adviser warned that the proposals will not be strong enough to avoid major jams in 10 years.

Professor Peter Mackey, of Leeds University, fears that under the plans unveiled last week in the Transport White Paper, motorways and trunk roads, and the roads that feed them, will be blocked within 10 to 15 years.

[ image:  ]
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said the government plans had not done enough to reduce the use of cars. He said the rate of traffic growth on motorways had been higher than that of all traffic.

"The prospects for traffic growth on the motorway network, for enhanced congestion and for really serious problems in 10 to 15 years, previewed by the government's own national road traffic forecast, remain in my view."

He said freight deliveries and business traffic, the "life blood" of the economy, would be damaged if car use went unchecked.

Discouraging car use

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Secretary John Prescott published plans on Monday that included proposals to tax work-place parking and introduce charges on using city roads.

The prime minister vetoed attacks on out of town supermarket parking and discouraged his ministers from looking at national road pricing schemes.

Transport Minister Gavin Strang said the government's emphasis was on improving public transport but admitted people could not be forced to leave their cars at home.

[ image: Roads feeding motorways could be blocked]
Roads feeding motorways could be blocked
"We want people to choose public transport. But it will always be a question of choice."

Professor Mackey said the proposals might help slow an increase in families buying second cars but he was sceptical about the long-term effect of the plans.

Despite petrol rises of 6% a year and possible motorway tolls, he said the document did not contain many measures to moderate the historic growth in urban traffic.

In this scenario the government would then be forced into more radical measures to cut car use or choose another costly and controversial road building programme.

Strang defends plans

Mr Strang said the government was seeking to get more freight moved by rail and had more than doubled the grant for this.

But he conceded that if transport policies were left unchanged, traffic was forecast to grow by more than one-third over the next 20 years, with motorway traffic increasing faster.

He stressed the government was doubling the money being made available for rural bus services, with an extra £150m.

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