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Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK

UK Politics

Prescott unveils back-to-buses policy

Crackdown on car use: John Prescott

By BBC News online's Nick Assinder.

A massive programme to boost public transport and end the nightmare of congestion on Britain's roads has been unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

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In a series of radical measures, he promised investment to encourage the use of buses and trains and to persuade people to abandon their cars.

His long-awaited transport White Paper promised an extra £1.8bn investment over three years for local transport systems.

Councils will for the first time be able to charge motorists for driving into congested areas and for workplace parking.

Motorway tolls will become a reality with pilot projects created to assess their impact and with the cash raised ploughed back into the train and bus networks.

And there will be new moves to provide safe routes for children to walk or cycle to school to end the congestion caused by parents driving them there at peak hours.

John Prescott: "Pro public transport does not mean being anti-car"
Pensioners will also be given a national concessionary fare scheme, guaranteeing them at least half-price bus fares.

But, in a bid to dispel claims the government is too anti-car, Mr Prescott also announced a "new deal for motorists" to hit cowboy wheel clampers and second hand car dealers, and improve information about roadworks and delays.

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He also announced plans for a national public transport information system by the turn of the century which will give timetable information on all transport services by phone, teletext or the internet.

Declaring he wanted to ensure a "renaissance of public transport", he said "the bus must have priority on the road".

New authority makes tracks

John Prescott: "People need better information"
And he announced an extra £300m for the rail industry and the setting up of a new strategic rail authority.

When franchises expire, the authority will be able to begin setting down a national fares structure.

Tougher performance standards will also be enforced under new franchises.

The SRA will also aim to ensure the railways are run as a single network and not a collection of different businesses, and be properly integrated with other forms of transport.

'More taxes'

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His proposals were ridiculed by the Tories for offering nothing new except more taxes, more regulation and extra bureaucracy.

Businessmen claimed the taxes on workplace parking were unfair and environmental groups said the paper was a step "not a leap" in the right direction.

It was also claimed that the deputy prime minister - who is also transport secretary - had been over-ruled by Chancellor Gordon Brown and other ministers.

It was originally believed the White Paper would contain even stiffer penalties on motorists, including bigger taxes on company cars and charges for parking at out of town supermarkets.

Watered down

But earlier this year it emerged that ministers had become worried that the proposals would look too anti-car and that they were likely to be watered down.

John Prescott: "No change is not an option"
Mr Prescott brushed aside the claims in the Commons, telling MPs: "After 20 years in the wilderness, this is the date transport policy bursts into the light of a new dawn.

"This white paper is the start, not the end of the debate. Transport policy is not just a matter for government. The debate needs the involvement of all sections of society.

"No change is frankly not an option. The country wants a better transport system which does not continue to damage our health, industry and environment.

'No improvement'

"Radical change is necessary. This white paper is about that radical change and how to achieve it."

His announcement was met by much laughter from Tories who believe the entire package has been watered down.

Gillian Shephard: "Wasted opportunity"
Opposition spokesman Gillian Shephard said that now the "great day" for the long-promised proposals had come what had been introduced was: "extra taxes for road users, more regulation and more bureaucracy and no improvements for the travelling public."

"If this is the best he can do after 14 months dithering in government and 18 years fulminating on it, then we might as well have been waiting until next Spring," she said.

"This white paper has been leaked, hyped and over sold. It promised action what it is promising is more taxes," she said.

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UK Politics Contents

A-Z of Parliament
Talking Politics
Vote 2001
Relevant Stories

20 Jul 98†|†UK
Challenging car culture

20 Jul 98†|†Education
Prescott targets the school run

20 Jul 98†|†The Economy
A 'stride, not a leap'

19 Jul 98†|†UK Politics
All change for transport says Prescott

22 Jul 98†|†UK Politics
Prescott warns of car crackdown ahead

04 Jun 98†|†UK Politics
'Crunch time' on integrated transport

Internet Links

Department of Transport: Facts about UK transport

Environmental Transport Association's response

Developing an Integrated Transport Policy: consultation paper

The White Paper

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