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Monday, January 26, 1998 Published at 06:46 GMT


Prescott promises to tackle road jams
image: [ Going nowhere: congestion costs businesses £19bn a year ]
Going nowhere: congestion costs businesses £19bn a year

UK Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has promised businesses that he will tackle the stagnation on the nation's roads.

Traffic jams are costing firms about £19bn each year, according to the Confederation of British Industry's publication, CBI News.

[ image: Prescott:
Prescott: "We have to change the way we live."
Writing in the same issue, Mr Prescott warns that the country "will quite literally choke to death" if congestion is not tackled.

Although he gives few details, he says his Transport White Paper, expected early this year, "will be the most radical contribution to meeting Britain's transport needs in a generation".

In his article he writes: "You will not expect me to pre-empt what is going to be in it, but I can tell you we all have to change the way we live.

"Part of the change means less dependence on road transport. Without action now we would face increasing congestion on the streets of all our major towns and cities."

Mr Prescott does not offer his own assessment of the economic impact of congestion on businesses but he accepts that there are severe losses caused by the hampering of the free flow of goods and people.

"The CBI's own figures show how much money is lost every year because of congestion on the roads," he says.

To relieve pressure on Britain's highways, he suggest encouraging greater use of the rail network. He admits that this will require improvements in the services on offer.

"I am keeping a close eye on how rail operators are performing and what they are charging," he writes.

"If the rail companies step over the mark, or do not come up to scratch, I will want to know why."

[ image: Adair Turner: wants pay-per-drive]
Adair Turner: wants pay-per-drive
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has an "overriding goal of winning more passenger and freight on to rail", he says.

But the Director General of the CBI, Adair Turner, puts forward a different strategy within the same newsletter.

Implying that the dominance of cars and trucks in UK transport is unlikely to change, he suggest that it is time to start charging users for each mile they drive.

"Road pricing to fund much-needed investment is an idea whose time may have come," he says.

The CBI has often called for an extra £2.5bn a year for 10 years to be injected into transport.

Mr Adair adds: "The actions we need to take may be unpalatable at first for some but the option of doing nothing would be much worse in the future."

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Internet Links

Confederation of British Industry

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Lex Report on Motoring 1998

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