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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK

UK Politics

Transport plans 'undermined'

MPs want more money for cycle lanes

Underfunding and a lack of co-operation from Whitehall departments are undermining the government's proposals to create an integrated transport system MPs have warned.

The BBC's Simon Montague reports on a row between district and county council in Abingdon
A report by the Transport Committee also said that although Labour's Transport White Paper contained many good ideas it would be insufficient to tackle the health, environmental, social and economic problems associated with road traffic.

There was "no mechanism" for achieving integrated transport policies and many local authorities were "ill-prepared" to implement the proposals, it warned.

The report added: "Although additional funds are to be provided for transport ... the increase is quite inadequate for the task."

[ image: MPs say levels of tax and transport investment do not add up]
MPs say levels of tax and transport investment do not add up
MPs also raised concerns about a wide range of issues across the transport spectrum.

Their report said that many witnesses who gave evidence to the committee pointed to the gap between the amount of money raised in tax from motorists and amount spent on investment in transport.

"It is a gap which undermines the political acceptability of the taxes," it said.

The MPs also said the government's system for deciding on whether to approve new roads was confused.

"We are concerned that the government is not clear what the role of new roads is; moreover, the new framework for appraising trunk roads is too vague," it said.

The report also expressed concern that Railtrack might not be investing enough in the railways and that improvements in bus industry finances could simply mean more profits for bus companies without bringing any passenger benefits.

MPs 'appalled' by attitudes

There were also harsh words for several government departments which the report accused of "undermining the integrated transport strategy by failing to implement policies consistent with it.

"The Lord Chancellor's Department has failed to assess fully transport needs in its decisions about magistrates courts. The Department of Trade and Industry's competitiveness White Paper proposes relaxing planning controls to allow science parks to be built on green field sites."

The MPs went on: "In view of the very large cost to society of road accidents and of congestion, we were appalled at the reluctance of the police and the Home Office to take road policing, and particularly traffic investment, seriously."

"We received little indication during our inquiry than this was going to change."

The report recommended:

  • Closer co-operation between government departments
  • A change in the way Railtrack receives its income
  • Substantial penalties on Railtrack if it fails to meet performance standards
  • Train companies should only get franchises extended if they offer exceptional passenger and taxpayer benefits
  • Money raised from congestion charging and workplace parking charging should be ploughed back into transport not just for the proposed 10 years, but permanently
  • Future out-of-town or edge-of-town shopping centres which generate large amounts of private car travel should be banned
  • More money for bus and cycle lanes and for speed cameras
  • The government should strive for a 50% reduction in deaths and serious injuries on the roads by 2010
  • Local authorities and the strategic rail authority should be given powers to compel transport operators to integrate services
  • The existing £20 fixed penalty for unauthorised use of a bus lane should be at least doubled.

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