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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Consultation over transport plans
Traffic
The strategy will aim to tackle congestion
Road tolls, less congestion and faster train connections are all on the agenda following the launch of a Scottish Executive consultation on transport.

The National Transport Strategy covers the future of Scotland's network over the next 20 years.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott said road taxes and fuel duty would have to be adjusted to ensure overall costs to motorists did not rise.

A second crossing over the Forth will also form part of the discussions.

The results of the consultation will play an important role in deciding executive spending priorities from 2012 onwards.

Traffic volumes continue to grow so we must continue to provide attractive public transport alternatives
Tavish Scott
Transport Minister

The exercise is intended to lead to a single "comprehensive national statement" of transport aims, from cutting journey times to protecting the environment and boosting the economy.

Mr Scott said: "Transport is about providing real options for people getting to work, children travelling to school and businesses transporting goods.

"Traffic volumes continue to grow so we must continue to provide attractive public transport alternatives for the future.

"That means reducing journey times and integrating routes and public transport choices for passengers."

He added: "I want to take account of the views of all interested parties in drawing up the strategy through this far-reaching public consultation."

'Red herring'

Mr Scott acknowledged that any decision to build another Forth road bridge would make a large hole in the budget.

The consultation document also hints that ministers may drop a pledge to stabilise traffic at 2001 levels by 2021.

The move comes after research showed the target was likely to be missed by a wide margin.

A target to quadruple the use of cycling between 1996 and 2012 is also likely to be scrapped.

TRANSPORT OBJECTIVES
Reducing journey times
Reducing congestion
Promoting economic growth
Promoting social inclusion
Protecting our environment
Developing integration
Improving safety

The Scottish Green Party accused the Liberal Democrats of "utter hypocrisy" over the consultation.

Mark Ballard MSP said: "Despite Lib Dem ministers talking about tackling congestion, on the ground they campaign against congestion charges.

"Ministers have ignored the findings of independent inquiries on massive motorway projects and unbelievably are now even moving to scrap targets to increase cycling."

Mr Ballard also dismissed talk of road-user charging as "a huge red herring" and claimed it would take years to implement.

"We need action now, and talk of road-user charging on a massive scale cannot be allowed to be simply an excuse not to do anything in the short term," he said.

'Modest target'

Friends of the Earth Scotland attacked the traffic target move.

Spokesman Stuart Hay said: "Dropping the modest target for traffic stabilisation would be a disaster for Scotland's environment."

Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, added that it was "pitiful for the executive to complain that the 2021 traffic target is too hard to meet, given that it has done so little about it in the four years since it was set".

The Scottish National Party branded the exercise a waste of time.

Transport spokesman Fergus Ewing said: "The transport minister is over-fond of solving the problems of the future which will be the responsibility of another administration instead of solving the problems of the present."

Alan Mitchell, assistant director of CBI Scotland, said it was vital the executive "focused on the needs of business and the economy" during the consultation.

He added: "Scotland needs a transport strategy that will put in place the policies and the investment needed to give Scotland an efficient transport infrastructure that underpins improved economic growth.

"Survey after survey confirms that transport links are one of the most important factors determining business competitiveness and Scotland's attraction as a business location."


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See the debate behind future transport



SEE ALSO:
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09 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Airport rail link bid put forward
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Transport reforms win MSP backing
29 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Traffic levels reach new record
26 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Transport agency gets green light
16 Jun 04 |  Scotland


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