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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Transport - the way ahead?
Traffic on motorway
Cars are often bumper to bumper on motorways
By transport reporter Tom Symonds

Sorting out transport is one of the government's most intractable problems, because it means taking on the most deeply ingrained attitudes of voters.

A recent MORI poll for the Commission for Integrated Transport makes that clear.

Seventy per cent of those who responded thought it was the job of the government, both nationally and locally, to rid the roads of traffic jams.

John Prescott MP
Transport minister John Prescott: 10-year plan
But less than half could bring themselves to support any of the proposed measures for achieving that goal. It seems drivers want to drive, but they want other drivers not to.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will unveil his 10-year transport plan this week.

His advisors say he is desperate to scotch rumours that he has become a road-building fanatic.

They stress that the plan will contain more money for railways - and Mr Prescott himself is promising enough spending to enable services to prepare for a 50% increase in passengers.

Wider roads

But road-widening is not ruled out, and it is likely that in the next 10 years congested motorways like the M25 and M6 near Birmingham will have new lanes added.

Depending on studies by transport planners, a number of local bypass schemes will also get the green light. And as the diggers move in, it is possible anti-roads protesters will be right behind.

Hard-hitting schemes to tax drivers off the roads will not be a priority.

Traffic jam on motorway
Unending traffic jams make for unhappy motorists
New motorway tolls were being considered, but ministers have confirmed they have been dropped.

Charges for entering congested cities and towns will not be introduced for at least five years, though Ken Livingstone, London's new mayor, is keen to bring them in quicker.

The government's roads manager, the Highways Agency, is developing new, cheap ways to make more use of the roads Britain has.

An experiment to reduce jams by bringing down speed limits on motorways as low as 40mph seems to be working on the M25.

It will now be tried in other parts of the country. Pretty soon motorists may find traffic lights appearing on motorway slip roads to carefully control the number of cars allowed on tot he motorway.

Most of all, the key to improving the state of the roads is to attract drivers out of their cars with better public transport.

Tram in Sheffield
Trams: making a return to Britain's streets
Many do not seem to be prepared to catch buses, which still have a bad image. Instead, the tram is back on Britain's streets.

The government seems increasingly interested in promoting new tram schemes across the country.

Hampshire, Leeds, Bristol and the Midlands could be in line for funding to make it happen - and making it happen will be a watchword for ministers.

They must be all too aware that while 10 years is a lifetime in politics, it is barely no time at all to bring about a sea change on Britain's overcrowded roads and railways.

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | UK Politics
'No motorway tolls for a decade'
13 Jul 00 | UK
More trains running late
18 Jul 00 | CSR
The CSR at a glance
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