Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
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.
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.
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.
Declaring he wanted to ensure a "renaissance of public transport", he said "the bus must have priority on the road".
New authority makes tracks
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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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