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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 09:34 GMT
British transport 'worst in Europe'
Traffic jam on the M5 near Bristol, August 2001
25% of main roads are jammed daily for one hour
Britain has the worst transport system in Europe, according to a report commissioned by the government.

The most congested roads, the longest commuting times and some of the highest bus and rail fares can be found in the UK, according to the Commission for Integrated Transport.
Transport woes
25% of main roads jammed for an hour a day
Average daily commute: 46 mins
87% of road journeys by car
Fuel tax highest in Europe
Rail fares third highest in Europe

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers put much of the blame for the state of the railways at the door of Railtrack and previous Conservative Governments.

But he said he accepted this government would be judged on whether it improves the transport system.

Professor David Begg, chairman of the commission, said the report was a "stark demonstration" of 50 years of neglect and under-investment.

He also said the government's 180bn, 10-year plan for restructuring the UK's transport system would only start to bridge the gap.

Mr Byers admitted to the BBC there were major problems with British transport.

But he said he was confident his 10-year plan would overcome them.

'The money is coming through'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The 10-year plan started in April, the money is coming through.

"Most investors can see a clear distinction between the failed privatisation that was Railtrack and the need to develop public private partnerships for our transport system and the money is coming through and people will see a real difference and I will be content as transport secretary to be judged on those improvements."

In the commission's report - the first comprehensive comparison between transport investment in Britain and Europe - British motorists and passengers come out worst on almost every single count.

The roads were easily the most congested - 25% of main roads were jammed for at least an hour a day but less than 10% of the main highways got blocked in Germany and France.

The average daily commuting time was 46 minutes while Italians, for example, got to work in half the time.

Bus 52 in Notting Hill Gate
Only 12% of road journeys are by public transport
The average British family spent 15% of its income on transport - again way out of line with most of its European neighbours.

Britain remained the most car-dominated country in Europe.

Eighty seven per cent of road journeys were by car and only 12% were by public transport.

Fuel tax was also the highest in Europe, and only Denmark and Sweden had higher rail fares.

Tough decisions

The commission was set up in 1999 by John Prescott when he was Secretary of State for Transport, to offer independent advice on the government's long-term transport plans.

It welcomed the 10-year transport plan, published last year, calling it a "long awaited focus on integrated policies and a step change in levels of investment".

Transport woes II
Lowest rail subsidy in Europe
Britons walk less than rest of Europe except Greece
Britons cycle less than half the European average
Coach and bus use in decline

But Prof Begg added: "This report demonstrates what a mountain we have to climb.

"The decisions that we take now as a nation will determine whether we end up with a US-style car culture or a sustainable European multi-model system."

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Progress in improving Britain's ailing network is slow"

Travel woes?
Is UK transport the worst in Europe?
See also:

21 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Report critical of transport services
07 Nov 01 | England
Road toll 'threatens fire cover'
11 Oct 01 | Business
'Free' bus travel to work proposed
25 Nov 01 | Business
More delays at Railtrack
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