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Groups call for congestion charge

15 July 09 20:02 GMT

Congestion charging, paying for parking at work and a version of London's Oyster card were among measures being called for to improve Welsh transport.

An alliance of 20 organisations called for the initiatives instead of more road building.

The Sustainable Transport Cymru coalition said politicians needed to commit more money to greener travel.

It came as Deputy First Minister Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones unveiled a five-year national transport plan.

He rejected plans for a proposed M4 relief road around Newport and an access road to Cardiff Airport.

Ahead of Mr Jones's announcement, the coalition had called for a policy shift away from road building to fund a "bold package" of measures to help tackle climate change.

Among initiatives they wanted ministers to consider were Smart Cards - "multimodal ticketing" for bus and rail travel, similar to London's Oyster cards - congestion charging in major towns and cities and parking controls, such as charging staff to park in workplaces.

They also said better information about train and bus timetables, more road space given over to cycle and bus lanes, more secure bike parking and showers and lockers in workplaces would encourage more people to leave their cars at home.

Lee Waters, chair of Sustainable Transport Cymru, said they hoped ministers would "put their money where their mouth is" to improve sustainable transport.

"We're fed up of strategies promising greener transport when half the transport budget is tied up in road schemes," he said.

"If we are serious about tackling climate change and creating a healthier Wales, we urgently need a bold shift in transport policy. Projects which cut car use should be given priority."

He said false perceptions and a lack of information about sustainable travel were the main reasons he believed many people travelled by car.

"In a town or city centre it is often quicker to travel by bus or bike but because people think it's easier to jump in their car, they do. It's habit."

He said the coalition was set up to ensure politicians and "decision makers" realised it was not just environmentalists who wanted to invest in greener transport.

It includes sustainable transport group Sustrans, Passenger Focus, the British Medical Association(BMA) and Bus Users UK Cymru.

However, the RAC Foundation said in most cases "people drive not because they want to, but because they have to".

"Four out of five of us live in a household with a car, and over the past decade and a half car ownership amongst lower income families and the elderly has increased greatly," a spokesman said.

"It is the policies of governments which have eroded local services and meant people are forced to go further and further a field to reach the shops, schools and employment that used to be on their doorstep."

Meanwhile, campaigners were using the launch of the assembly government's transport plan to call for plans for an M4 motorway relief road to be scrapped.

'Damaging road'

The six-lane toll road, estimated to cost between £800m and £1bn, was proposed to be built through the "environmentally important" and "highly-protected" Gwent Levels, south of Newport.

Neil Crumpton, of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the "expensive, unnecessary and damaging road" would create more traffic.

Sources told BBC Wales in April that soaring costs and a budget squeeze meant the M4 relief road plan was unlikely to go ahead.

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