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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
'We all want better transport'

Virgin train
Railfuture is calling for more new and faster trains

Road congestion charges and the long-awaited Crossrail project linking the east and west of London received most attention in the 10-year plan unveiled by the government on Tuesday.

BBC News Online spoke to four groups with a vested interest to see what they thought of the government's transport strategy.

Independent Transport Commission

The Independent Transport Commission researches the economic, social and environmental aspects of travel and recommends possible solutions to transport problems.

Road traffic is like a cancerous growth waiting for surgery...We have to take control of vehicles on our roads
Peter Lawrence, president of Railfuture

Terence Bendixson, the think tank's secretary, says variable road charging in congested areas will get more cars off the road at peak times.

"Our research clearly shows that road congestion will get worse. Especially around Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester which have been neglected."

He believes pay-as-you-go charges on all roads are a very promising proposition for the future: "We're talking about charges that would be high when the road is busy and low when it's free-flowing or empty.

"They would also vary according the type of vehicle used. Schemes should start in the biggest cities and the suburbs."

But Mr Bendixson says that whatever is done has to be customer friendly: "Car users need to be able to work around charges they cannot afford and use public transport where it's practicable for them to do so.

"It's not a question of taking people off the roads but fitting the traffic to the roads. It's about getting people to use their roads at less busy times."

Railfuture

Railfuture campaigns for better rail services for both passengers and freight, with a focus on getting people off the roads and onto trains.

Congestion charge signs
Will congestion charging spread out across the UK?

The group's president Peter Lawrence says the key factor is greater investment and an innovative strategy: "We've had 50 years of under investment. There's such a lot of work that still needs to be done. We should be seeing expansion."

Railfuture wants to see a train route between Cambridge and Oxford that would link East Anglia with large parts of England, Wales and Scotland, and a fast service between the north and the south.

"More money has to be put in the short term because road traffic is like a cancerous growth waiting for surgery. Something has to be done about it. We have to take control of vehicles on our roads," said Mr Lawrence.

"The government is concentrating on getting punctuality improved and value for money. In some areas they are reducing the number of trains available.

"We should be planning 20 or 30 years ahead, not ten years. Like the continent we need more vision for the future. There's a demand for rail and the perception it's unreliable is wrong. We have to build opportunities for people to travel by rail."

Road Users' Alliance

The aim of the Road Users' Alliance (RUA) is to secure more funding for Britain's road network and its director, Tim Green, says roads have been neglected by the government: "Cars are essential to get to work or go shopping.

A lot of motorists will believe the money is available and they must be treated as a customer paying for a service
Tim Green, director Road Users' Alliance

"Public transport is a tiny part of meeting travel needs. We've been in denial of that for many years. Our motorway network is one of the worst in Europe. We rank lowest apart from Greece and Ireland."

Mr Green says the RUA does not oppose road congestion charging but believes it must be fair, reasonable and not just another tax.

"The funds generated around road congestion should be devoted to improving road capacity on trunk roads and roundabouts, and completing dual carriageways.

"A lot of motorists will believe the money is available and they must be treated as a customer paying for a service. If the government does that I believe the motorist will pay more," he says.

Mr Green adds that pumping more money into public transport to help the environment is not the answer: "Between 80% and 90% of journeys will be made by car because it's cheaper and more convenient.

"Cars in towns produce up to double the amount of carbon dioxide emissions sitting in traffic than they do on the open road. If you don't ease road congestion there will be more pollution damaging the environment."

Transport 2000

Environmental group Transport 2000 represents the views of more than 40 affiliated organisations.

The organisation seeks to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars and more use of public transport, walking and cycling.

Boys cycling
The groups want to see more people get on their bikes

Transport 2000 is in favour of nationwide road charging, and says it is "cautiously optimistic" about the direction likely to be taken by the government.

Director Stephen Joseph, said: "We are hoping for at least an amber light for a more environmentally and people friendly transport policy.

"But the real proof will come in whether the government is prepared to call a halt to damaging and ultimately futile road building schemes.

"It has plans for widening motorways, has suggested a new toll road beside the M6 and currently holds the fate of the Blackdown Hills in Somerset, where a destructive dual carriageway is proposed, in its hands."

He said the now deputy prime minister John Prescott had promised an integrated transport system in 1998, but it had never materialised.

"Warm words are welcome but no longer enough: we must see real improvements on the ground."


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