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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 17:57 GMT
Lib Dems: Transport and environment

Find out more about Liberal Democrat policies on transport and the environment.


RAIL CRISIS

The Liberal Democrats pledge that after months of crisis, they will "make the railways a decent public service, not a public inconvenience."

The party is concerned about Railtrack's conflict between safety and profits and the excessive fragmentation of the railways.

It proposes:

  • Restructuring Railtrack by transferring railway operations into a not-for-profit, public interest company.
  • Reduce the number of franchises and encourage train operators to take responsibility for maintaining tracks
  • Simplify regulation by combining the Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Regulator under a new Sustainable Transport Authority.
  • Increase public control over the railways: STA to prioritise modernisation of the East and West Coast mainline and a new high speed East Coast link between Aberdeen, London and the new Channel Tunnel Rail link
  • Create a single timetabling body within the STA.
  • Make rail travel safer by creating a new railway safety body within the STA and a separate Accident Investigation Board
  • Make rail travel reliable through better integration of all modes of public transport.
  • Make rail travel affordable by introducing greater public control over public investment in the railways.


    PUBLIC TRANSPORT VERSUS THE CAR

    The Liberal Democrats acknowledge many people rely on their car especially in rural areas where the car is often the only means of transport.

    But it says, "it is in everyone's interests to reduce pollution to protect the environment and to provide a viable alternative to the car wherever possible".

    It proposes:

  • Reversing plans for new road building in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Reward motorists who drive less-polluting vehicles [see 'Fuel Duty' below]
  • Promote use of alternative fuels and improve testing of vehicle emissions
  • Reduce freight on roads by doubling the amount carried by railways and through increased use of waterways.
  • Cut congestion with workplace and out-of-town shopping centre parking charges
  • Reduce road traffic by setting tougher targets for local authorities and by improving public transport

    The Liberal Democrats believe Britain's transport system is "expensive, out of date and decaying".

    The party promises to build a "quick, sustainable and integrated transport system throughout the country."

    It proposes:

  • Local authorities fund public transport projects by issuing bonds so that investment comes before tax
  • Free off-peak local travel on public transport to the over 60s and the severely disabled
  • Under 19s in full-time education to travel half price at all times
  • Prioritise investment on re-opening disused railway lines and stations, developing bus routes, cycle paths, trams, light rail systems and walkways, as well as Local Authority sponsored car pooling schemes
  • Create a Rural Transport Regeneration Fund to improve community transport schemes and public transport in rural areas. More dial-a-ride schemes, post buses and school buses.
  • Funded by building fewer by-passes and reducing the eligibility for the fuel duty rebate for commercial tour buses.

    The Liberal Democrats believe London Underground should by run by a public trust, not-for-profit company funded through bonds.


    AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL

    The Liberal Democrats wholly reject any privatisation or part privatisation of National Air Traffic Services. Instead it proposes a not-for-profit public body to protect air safety.


    CLIMATE CHANGE

    The Liberal Democrats believe that half the energy used in the UK is wasted and that they are the greenest of the major parties.

    The party's manifesto does not contain a specific chapter on environmental issues. 'Green Actions' appear throughout the document illustrating the party's belief that an environmental approach should permeate all policy-making.

    The key policies which the party proposes are:

  • Legislate for an Environmental Responsibility Act to encourage good environmental practice by government and businesses
  • Reduce energy consumption and switch to cleaner energy. 10% of UK energy to come from renewable sources by 2010
  • An energy efficiency audit to be completed on all homes before sale, thereby cutting fuel bills and CO2 emissions.
  • Speed up the current 30-year home insulation programme, financed by energy suppliers to insulate homes within 15 years
  • Lower VAT on energy conservation materials to encourage householders and businesses to cut energy use.
  • Improve incentives to use public transport and more fuel efficient vehicles by increasing investment in the rail network. The party recently proposed a 'Rail Miles' scheme, though this isn't in the manifesto
  • Encouraging urban road pricing to pay for urban public transport schemes, and by cutting vehicle excise duty for fuel efficient cars.
  • Improve enforcement of pollution controls through an expanded inspectorate for the Environment Agency and increase penalties which polluters must pay

    The party's headline target is an annual 2% cut in carbon dioxide emissions, achievable through various means including changes to transport use. It will also establish a new target of a 20% reduction by 2010.

    The party also believes that the Climate Change Levy, introduced by Labour, should be replaced by the phasing-in of a carbon tax more precisely targeted on greenhouse gas emissions.


    FUEL DUTY

    The Liberal Democrats have described Labour's cuts in fuel duty since the protests of 2000 as "a bribe to pacify motorists".

    The party believes that cutting fuel duty was not the right response to the protests.

    It proposes:

  • Capping the money the government receives from fuel duty and VAT on fuel
  • Ring-fence the extra tax revenues it has gained from petrol and spend the money on public transport and action to help road hauliers
  • Reduce vehicle excise duty significantly for road hauliers and finance the loss by charging foreign lorries to drive on our roads
  • Reduce vehicle tax for small, fuel-efficient cars and motorbikes and abolish it for the greenest vehicles. Funded by tax increases on the most polluting cars
  • Campaign for motorists to move towards fuel economy, for instance by driving more slowly.


    Other Environmental Policies

  • Introduce a 'Right to Environmental Information' to include local air quality, emissions from local factories and information held by local authorities on genetically modified organisms, GMOs
  • Doorstep recycling collections for every household by the end of the next Parliament
  • Increase the landfill tax and eventually ban most types of waste
  • Establish a Green Tax Commission to ensure environmental taxes will be matched by tax cuts elsewhere
  • Seek an EU moratorium on the commercial growing of GMOs until 2004 to allow for more research on their environmental impact
  • Pilot 'Fishing-Free Zones' to help the recovery of fish stocks
  • Create 'green jobs' by boosting conservation schemes
  • Protect green spaces by creating a new designation of 'Protected Site'
  • Publish a 'Green Budget' assessment of every budget to ensure environmental priorities are at the heart of managing the economy
  • Establish an Animal Protection Commission and end the use of animals in the development and testing of weapons and household goods
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