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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Darling rules out toll motorways
Traffic jam
The transport secretary says there is no room for new motorways
The new Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has said he intends to reject plans for a network of toll motorways.

Former BBC boss Birt - appointed by Tony Blair to look at transport policy - is understood to have suggested a network of "premium" toll roads to be built alongside existing motorways.

I don't think there is much sympathy for building a whole new network of motorways around the country

Alistair Darling

But Mr Darling said there was not enough room in the UK for significant new road-building.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "Britain isn't big enough for us to be pouring more and more concrete over its green and pleasant land.

'Refocus'

"I haven't yet had a chance to speak to John since I was appointed, but I don't think there is much sympathy for building a whole new network of motorways around the country."
Alistair Darling
Mr Darling: Regarded as a safe pair of hands

Mr Darling denied that he intended to scrap his predecessor John Prescott's 10-Year Plan for Transport, which was attacked last week by the Commons Transport Committee.

The prime minister had asked him to look at the plan and "decide whether we needed to do more in some areas or refocus in others", Mr Darling told the paper.

But he added: "What I am not going to do is tear everything up."

Congestion

In an interview with the Financial Times on Saturday, Mr Darling indicated the he may have to get tough with motorists in a bid to cut traffic congestion.

He said: "It's simply not possible to have more and more traffic on streets designed hundreds of years ago for horses and carts.

"People say you must be anti-car then. That's nonsense. I drive a car.

"We shouldn't be stopping people from doing what they want to, but all car drivers accept there has to be some constraint simply because we can't all drive down one road at the same time."

However, he said his first priority was to improve public transport.

He also stressed the need to get general public acceptance of his plans.

Fear of backlash

Mr Byers insisted last month that he was not prepared to "punish" motorists to cut congestion levels.

He made his opinions clear after the government's 10-year transport plan was heavily criticised by the influential cross-party Commons transport committee.

MPs attacked the government's perceived failure to tackle the issue of traffic congestion for fear of a backlash from motorists.

Mr Byers reinforced his position, saying ministers were not prepared to adopt controversial measures, such as local road charging schemes, until the public transport network had significantly improved.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mike Rutherford, Motorists' Association
"The only thing Darling is saying about cars is anti-car sentiment"
Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa May
"We are getting some mixed messages from the government"

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See also:

01 Jun 02 | UK Politics
29 May 02 | UK Politics
30 May 02 | Middle East
30 May 02 | UK Politics
30 May 02 | UK Politics
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