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EDITIONS
Monday, 7 October, 2002, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Call to end 'war on motorists'
Benefits of rail privatisation are coming through, said Collins

A new Tory government would "call off Labour's war on the motorist," the party's transport spokesman has pledged.


Transport is the greatest failure and the most serious indictment of this government

Tim Collins
Tim Collins also defended the privatisation of the rail system and promised a "detailed" package of proposals for public transport by the end of the year.

In his speech to his party's conference in Bournemouth, Mr Collins said Prime Minister Tony Blair had used just two sentences to address the problems facing transport during his party conference speech last week.

He said: "Transport is the greatest failure and the most serious indictment of this government.

"We are the nation of Stephenson and Brunel, the land which invented tarmac and the jet engine, the people who brought the world its first iron bridges and railways.

Virtue

"Yet Britain today is grinding to a halt."

Mr Collins said the Tories regard individual choice as "a virtue not a vice and using the car is not always a sin".

He said: "We know that for millions of our fellow citizens - rural residents in areas from Cornwall to Cumbria and across Scotland and Wales, for the elderly, the disabled, and many commuters into our big cities - the car isn't a luxury.

"The car isn't a frivolity. It's about time that their government realised that for them the car is an absolute necessity."

On the railways, he said the benefits of privatisation were starting to come through.

Proof

He said: "We can point to the new trains and better customer service which are now at last coming through.

"And if you want proof that privatising the train companies was right, note that more than five years into a Labour government they have no plans at all to reverse it."

He said railways had seen "the first sustained increases in half a century in both freight and passenger traffic by rail".

And he claimed some services - notably that which brought many delegates to Bournemouth - would never have happened if passengers had been left "in the curled sandwich era of British Rail".

But he admitted: "Nor can we pretend that every aspect of rail privatisation was a success, that Railtrack worked remotely as we had hoped, or that all our 1990s changes have won popular support."

Vow

He said the Tories would "call off Labour's war on the motorist", opposing congestion charging and reviewing the use of speed cameras, ensuring they are used "to make our roads safer - not as just another mechanism to milk the motorist yet again".

He vowed that the Conservatives would also look to;

  • Improve access to transport for the disabled
  • Consider legislation to restrict or ban strikes on the London Underground unless a no-strike agreement can be forged
  • Introduce "cleaner, greener" motor engines
  • Review the case for seatbelts in all school buses
  • Make it easier for communities to get speed limits changed on dangerous roads

Mr Collins said the Tories were sceptical about plans for more airport runways which would "demolish homes and green fields all over our country".

And he backed leader Iain Duncan Smith's call for reform of the party, saying: "We won't regain public support just by waiting for the swing of the pendulum."


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