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CORNWALL TESTS PRESCOTT'S TRANSPORT PLANS

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Cornwall is to be used to test an integrated transport system for rural areas as part of John Prescott's plan to te...
Cornwall is to be used to test an integrated transport system for rural areas as part of John Prescott's plan to tempt motorists out of their cars and on to buses, he will announce at a high-level 'bus summit' today.

The Sunday Telegraph (p17) reported that the county has already had success with schemes linking different forms of transport including cars, buses, bicycles and trains. The government is backing an expansion of the schemes which, if successful, could be introduced across Britain.

Mr Prescott will use the bus summit in London to tell local authorities and bus companies that they must do more to make buses more attractive to the public.

A spokesman for Mr Prescott said: 'Councils and bus operators are making progress but we want them to work even harder to make public transport a genuine and comfortable alternative to the car'.

The deputy prime minister will also launch a public awareness

campaign in an attempt to convince motorists that buses are much better than they think.

The government is also struggling to overcome a perceived 'class prejudice' against buses outside London. In the capital more people of all backgrounds are prepared to consider using buses, but in many parts of the country they are still seen as something for the poor and the old.

Cornwall has impressed Mr Prescott with a series of schemes that have imporved bus transport. Councils, bus companies and the government have funded an expansion of the network, introducing more buses where they are needed and linking them to other forms of transport.

The most striking example is the provision of a bus service from Helston, which does not have a railway station, to the mainline station at Redruth 10 miles away. The buses, which are timed to catch the train, have room for bicycles, which can also be put on the train.

Through-ticketing means that only one ticket has to be bought to cover the different forms of transport used on any journey.

Another success has been the introduction of raised bus stops complemented by buses with lower platforms, enabling the disabled and parents with prams to move smoothly on to the bus.

County surveyor Peter Stethridge said the improvements had increased the number of bus journeys by tens of thousands in a largely rural county which had lost many services to towns and cities in recent years.

'It's been a great success', he said. 'And we are keen to build on it. We want it to be a model for the rest of the country.'

The bus summit, chaired by Keith Hill, transport minister for London, and transport minister Lord Macdonald, will include local government, bus operators, union leaders and passengers' representatives, and David Begg, chairman of the Integrated Transport Commission.

But Mr Prescott's transport dream was criticised by Shadow DETR secretary John Redwood as a 'vision of a car-less, bus-ridden world'.

Speaking after a visit to Oxford he said: 'Oxford is the future and it does not work.' He said Mr Prescott's transport policies had turned the city into 'a nightmare for traders and residents alike.

'No one in their right mind goes to Oxford to shop if they can go somewhere else that is easier to get to', he said. 'Banning cars from the city centre has slashed trade to shops and made deliveries difficult.

'Town and city centres find it difficult enough to compete against out-of-town superstores with plenty of parking. Oxford has proved you can throttle a town if you ban the car.'

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