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Louise Batchelor reports
"Package of measures unveiled"
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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"The minister is sensitive to accusations the executive is anti-car"
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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 19:21 GMT
Drivers face urban access charges

M8 west Charges can be levied by councils

Councils are being given powers to charge motorists for driving into Scotland's towns and cities in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion.

Local authorities will also be able to impose fees on owners of business premises who provide private car parks for employees.

The powers are contained in the details of the transport bill which will go through the Scottish Parliament this autumn.

Transport Minister Sarah Boyack said: "Traffic is projected to rise by 50 per cent over the next 30 years.

Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack: "We must act now"

"Traffic jams cost time and money - costs that Scottish business and the wider economy can ill-afford.

"Traffic jams pollute the air we breathe. We must act now before it is too late."

In response, the Tories' transport spokesman Murray Tosh MSP said Ms Boyack had "cleared the way for open-ended toll taxes to be levied on motorists entering our towns and cities".

"She is going out of her way to encourage councils to introduce city entry charges, which will hit hardest at those who can least afford to run a car, those who need to use a car to get to their work, because of poor transport links, and businesses which need to use vehicles for their day-to-day operation."

Transparency promise

Unveiling the details of the bill, she promised that revenue raised from the charges would be protected for local transport purposes and motorists would be able to see where their money was being spent.

"We have reflected carefully on the views of business, local authorities, public transport operators and the general public on the way forward for Scotland's transport system," added Ms Boyack.

Exhaust Pollution "must be tackled"
The executive plans to spend more than 560m on trunk roads. Five new roads will be delivered at a total cost of some 140m.

The bill provides for "Quality Partnerships" with bus companies and local authorities working together to improve services.

The minister warned that if these failed, councils would have the power to regulate services through contracts.

Concession scheme

A basic level of concessionary public transport fares is to be set for pensioners and people with disabilities.

Local authorities will be able to provide a more generous concession than the specified minimum within their area if they wished.

Bus New concessionary fares will come in
The case for a transport authority for the Highlands and Islands is to be examined.

This could take responsibility for Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

The bill also allows for the creation of cross-boundary partnerships to tackle specific problem.

Commuting flows

Ms Boyack said: "I envisage that the first use of these new powers would be to require the public authorities in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh to prepare strategies for managing commuting flows in and out of these two cities.

"The executive will address the specific problems of ensuring accessibility across the Forth Estuary by replacing the existing Joint Bridge Board with a new Joint Board with wider strategic and funding powers to promote public transport, road works and traffic management measures relating to the Forth crossings.

"This new body will take over the responsibilities and staff of the existing Joint Board."

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See also:
03 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Motorway tolls U-turn welcomed
13 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
Labour traffic plans 'highway robbery'
16 Sep 99 |  Scotland
Tories in drive against road tolls
07 Sep 99 |  Scotland
Drivers 'face more toll costs'

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