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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 13:18 GMT
UK transport needs 'urgent' help
Traffic jam
The Tories want urgent action to alleviate congestion
The Tories have called for immediate solutions to transport problems, rather than just the long-term plans outlined in a government-backed report.

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling said the report by former BA chairman Sir Rod Eddington did not deliver an integrated strategy.

Instead, the Tories said urgent solutions were needed for congestion, overcrowding and capacity.

They said they favoured road pricing and building more roads.

The Eddington report, published on Friday, called for charging motorists to drive on the nation's road network.

We accept the principle of road pricing in some situations
Chris Grayling
Shadow transport secretary

Such tolls could bring 28bn a year of benefits to bus and rail users.

The government has already indicated it will press ahead with trial road-pricing schemes across England - amid fears congestion could rise by 25% by 2015 in big towns and cities.

Offering an alternative transport plan, the Conservatives said short-term, urgent improvements were needed, with a "proper longer term programme to ensure that we have a transport system that is more environmentally friendly and can meet the needs of a modern economy."

Mr Grayling said travel had "become more difficult in the past ten years" and the government had failed to improve the transport system.

"We have trains that are getting more and more overcrowded, and roads that are getting more and more congested."

Without giving details until the government publishes its five-year spending plan next year, the Conservatives said they were considering the following areas, among other issues:

  • Increasing capacity on roads, including building new roads
  • Increasing use of road tolls and pricing "as options for the future
  • Reorganising the Department for Transport to streamline decision-making
  • Examining urban transit systems and improving cycle networks
  • Increasing school bus usage to ease school-run congestion
  • Addressing congesting in and around Birmingham

The Conservatives' transport document, Getting Around - Britain's Great Frustration, said: "We accept the principle of road pricing in some situations.

"We also accept that we will be inheriting some schemes in development in 2009. We would not enter government with the intention of scrapping such schemes, and it is a possibility that a Conservative government would add to these schemes."

Mr Grayling said there was a need to balance economic considerations - such as the cost of transporting goods - with passenger needs and environmental concerns.

Encouraging people to "make alternative travel choices" was also important.

Using more environmentally friendly cars and fuels was important, including for hauliers.

'Green switch'

The Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, Alistair Carmichael, described the Eddington report as "a businessman's analysis" which looked "a bit thin and outdated in its thinking" following the Stern report into the economic consequences of climate change.

"Support for a road pricing scheme is welcome, but it is not enough to meet the green switch that is required," he said.

Among its proposals were to abolish airport taxes for passengers. Instead it would tax take-offs, with full flights being "rewarded" and half-empty planes being penalised.

The Lib Dems also said they would raise vehicle excise duty on the most polluting cars to 2000, and have lower bands to reward clean cars.


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