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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK

UK Politics

New transport body sounds safety warning

The Paddington crash brought safety concerns to the fore

A new independent transport commission has pointed to a need for better planning if another rail disaster like the recent crash at Paddington is to be avoided.

The head of the Independent Transport Commission, Richard Simmonds, said the crash showed "the penalty imposed on Britain by the lack of safe, swift and modern transport arteries" and called for proper long-term transport planning.

The ITC, which is looking ahead to the state of Britain's transport systems in 2025, plans to carry out a thorough review of transport policy in time for the next general election with the hope that politicians will pick up some of their policies.

The group has already received cross-party backing, with Conservative leader William Hague and Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Adrian Saunders both attending the group's launch in London.

Planning for the long term

Mr Simmonds demanded government started to think further ahead in planning for transport needs.

"All too often, we are seen as merely reacting to growth of travel by people and goods. We must start to plan properly for the medium and long term," he said.

"It's not as easy as 'predict and provide'. Proper guidance and management are the keys to sensible progress and we should have the guts to take difficult decisions and make proper investment early rather than late."

The commission has been set up under the guidance of Southampton University's transportation research group.

Car - 'a force for good'

Mr Hague did not promise to put the ITC's findings into the next Tory manifesto, but he did say he would look carefully at the group's findings.

He highlighted safety as a key concern and added: "The car is a force for good and has given untold opportunities for more people than any other modern invention.

"But the car must be put in its proper place. Roads have too often dehumanised the urban environment."

He also said that he was "sceptical" of congestion charging for cars saying it was important to ensure that further taxation of the motorist was justified to ensure car users did not feel "persecuted".

For the Liberal Democrats, Adrian Saunders called for the reduction of predicted traffic levels with a view to creating car free city centres.

"We need to reclaim our towns and villages from pollution," he said.

"The government's White Paper on Transport is good but it is only a start. We have to give a greater incentive for people to use public transport."

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