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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 17:33 GMT
Transport Bill gets moving
Motorway traffic The government wants to reduce traffic jams

Controversial plans to introduce congestion charges on motorists and the part privatisation of the air traffic control system have been published by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Other measures in the deputy prime minister's long-awaited Transport Bill include a Strategic Rail Authority and a requirement that local authorities draw up five-year plans on transport.

John Prescott John Prescott plans to charge motorists for entering city centres
Responding to the bill, the Conservatives said that they would oppose congestion charges, which they say are "wrong in principle".

Mr Prescott stressed the charges are unlikely to be introduced until 2005 at the earliest, partly because the technology is not yet ready.

Under its plans to reduce car congestion, the government will allow local authorities to charge motorists for entering city centres and firms for workplace parking, after consultation with local people.

Setting out the proposals, Mr Prescott said: "Our Transport Bill contains radical measures designed to deliver the safe, modern and high quality transport this country needs and deserves.

"It is the most comprehensive piece of transport legislation for 30 years."

He added: "Pensioners will have the right to half-price bus fares - as a minimum. An estimated three million pensioners will benefit from this measure."

Air traffic control fears

Air traffic control Air traffic control privatisation measures could spark a Commons revolt
Turning to the part-privatisation of the National Air Traffic Services, which is designed to fund investment in the system, Mr Prescott said: "Safety regulation will remain in the public sector, separate from service provisions."

Earlier the former Labour transport minister Gavin Strang, a fierce critic of the plans, said: "It is no accident that no Tory transport minister got round to privatising National Air Traffic Services.

"No country in the world has privatised its air traffic control."

At the same time, the Tories attacked the bill over what they called the "backdoor nationalisation of the railways".

Shadow transport secretary John Redwood said: "The bill has been massively delayed, just like the ever-promised but never delivered improvements in public transport.

"It would be better cancelled, as it will be a further barrier to getting Britain on the move again."

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The end of the line for Britain's railways?

See also:
18 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott: We must act on transport
17 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Selling-off the skies
18 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott defends transport plans
26 Nov 99 |  UK
UK motorists 'worst off in Europe'
23 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Government 'parks' car tolls

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