Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 14:09 UK

Road pricing 'should be assessed'

A traffic jam
The committee looked at road travel among other modes of transport

Road-pricing policies should be re-examined to deal with congestion, and rail reliability monitored, a transport committee report has said.

It examined the Department for Transport (DfT) annual report for 2007. It said local authorities were not keen to apply for road-pricing-scheme funding and the transport department lacked interest in rail punctuality.

The DfT said the government had been early in meeting its targets on "rail reliability and road safety".

And it is said it is "already implementing innovative measures to tackle congestion".

In its report, the committee said it feared a growth in the number of motorists whose vehicles are not registered, taxed or insured.

It said the DfT should identify its "main priorities".

Our record investment in public transport is paying dividends with rail performance consistently improving, bus and tram use increasing and better air quality

Department for Transport

Louise Ellman, who chairs the committee, said there was also a need for the department to be clear in "showing how progress can be measured".

She said there should be an indication of the way in which "environmental and economic targets can be achieved".

On the issue of rail services, the committee's annual report said MPs were concerned that the DfT appeared to have lost interest in rail punctuality and reliability.

The committee warned that a loss of focus in this area could lead to a reversal of progress achieved during the past five years.

It also called for the government to take a decision on high-speed rail.

Lost revenue

The committee recognised that the DfT had made progress in addressing its major objectives, however it said the general picture was disappointing.

It found MPs were "deeply disappointed" by the abandonment of the lorry road-user charging scheme proposed in 2002.

The report found that MPs wanted the scheme to be introduced as soon as possible to ensure foreign hauliers began contributing toward the costs of maintaining the UK road network.

The report details how the evasion rate for vehicle excise duty rose from 3.6% in 2005/06 to 5% in 2006/07.

It is now costs the government some 214m in lost revenue.

The committee said it wanted the government to reinstate targets for reducing the size of this group of "illicit road-users", which were dropped in March 2007.

Train punctuality

Ministers were also urged to safeguard personal data and address the spiralling costs of road schemes.

However, the DfT responded by defending its record.

Where rail travel is concerned, it said: "The punctuality and reliability of our trains remains one of our key priorities.

"Targets for rail have been met over the last few years and we set out further improvements from next year until 2014."

A spokeswoman said: "Our record investment in public transport is paying dividends with rail performance consistently improving, bus and tram use increasing and better air quality".

"We are making better use of the road network, with our measures contributing to 2.4m fewer hours spent in traffic jams per year."

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