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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
'Our alternatives to road-building'
By Margaret Ryan
BBC News Online

Congestion in charging
Congestion charging in London could prove a model
Environmental groups have said there are better solutions to combating traffic congestion than simply building more roads.

The government has just announced a 7bn road-building programme for motorways in England.

Stephen Joseph, director of the pressure group Transport 2000, said: "We are reluctantly prepared to accept some road widening".

But he stressed that charging motorists to use busy roads had to be introduced at the same time as road-widening.

Charging should, with other motoring taxes, aim to keep motoring costs at current levels in real terms, he said.

Otherwise if the cost of driving fell, congestion would only increase.

He also wants to see stalled rail projects restarted.

Viable transport alternatives

And he said there should be more emphasis on schemes to reduce congestion, such as employers promoting car-sharing schemes and home working, and initiatives to encourage people to cycle or take buses for short journeys.

"We want to see the full range of alternatives explored.

Traffic jam
You should start where congestion is worst - in the town centres
Roger Higman, Friends of the Earth

"And we want to see properly enforced speed limits on motorways", he added.

Nick Schoon, spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said his organisation was in favour of a sophisticated form of road charging.

"We want to see the balance redressed between money spent on public transport and road building."

Roger Higman, transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "You should start where congestion is worst - in the town centres, by introducing either charging or by the promotion of public transport".

He said only this would encourage people to use alternative modes of transport to driving.

"Then invest in rail services between towns so people who don't want to drive their cars have a decent alternative," he said.

"This would take the pressure off the motorways and free up roads for those who want to drive."

'Narrow roads instead'

The Green Party has a more radical solution.

It wants the national road building programme to be totally scrapped and the money spent instead on alternative modes of transport.

Spokesman Dr Spencer Fitzgibbon said the solution to traffic gridlock was more likely to be found in taking away road space rather than widening roads.

He highlighted the success of town centre schemes where pedestrianisation and more bus lanes had cut traffic and improved quality of life.

For the Green Party only an overhaul of planning policy can tackle congestion, including localising production and reducing the distance between where people work and live.


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