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HAIN CALLS FOR BETTER WAYS TO TACKLE WELSH TRASNSPORT NEEDS

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Welsh transport minister Peter Hain has called for all those who plan, run, use and live with our transport systems...
Welsh transport minister Peter Hain has called for all those who plan, run, use and live with our transport systems to help him identify the opportunities for and the obstacles to the development and implementation of integrated transport policies in Wales.

Speaking at an Institution of Highways and Transportation seminar in Cardiff, Mr Hain said: 'Good communications are essential for a strong economy and are central to our quality of life. Our aim must be, therefore, to ensure that people and goods are moved around in a clean, safe and efficient transport system which is designed to meet the needs of the travelling public and business community while ensuring that the environment is not damaged, and, if possible, is enhanced.

'The transport system we have inherited is too fragmented, insular an inflexible with each different mode reluctant to integrate timetables and services with other modes of transport. The needs and requirements of the travelling public and business community should be paramount. They, after all, are the reasons for the services being there in the first place, yet too often their needs - our needs - have been ignored by transport operators.

'It is time to introduce efficient, integrated and relevant services which clearly address the needs and requirements of those who actually use and pay for transport systems and offer people a genuine alternative to the door-to-door flexibility of the car. We need easier and more reliable connections for passengers and freight, safer and more accessible interchange facilities, with bus, rail and taxi facilities located closer together.

'We need to make the best use of technology and to ensure the easy availability of information about routes, services, pricing and tickets. We need more and better integration of transport and land-use planning.'

Mr Hain made it clear that the government is not anti-car and that he wants to explore every mode of transport, striking a balance to get the best out of every aspect of the transport infrastructure.

'I cannot pre-empt the consultation exercise but it seems likely that we will need a combination of 'carrots an sticks'. There will obviously be a role of some sort for fiscal policy, pricing and regulation. Maybe there is a case for restraining use of cars, vans and lorries in some circumstances. There may be practical measures we can take to encourage less environmentally damaging forms of freight transport, perhaps by changing and improving the government's freight grants scheme. It may be that we could develop new funding mechanisms or income streams and use them to improve the quality of public transport.

'The coming of the assembly makes it even more vital to examine links of all kinds between north and south Wales, while our commitment to the development of north-west and south-west Wales requires an appraisal of the overall transport needs of those areas.

'We are determined to change the way the transport system operates, although weaccept that changing attitudes and working practices will not be easy for the service providers. We recognise that it will require a major sea change in thinking and planning which will not happen overnight.'

Mr Hain is establishing a Welsh transport advisory group. It will meet for the first time next month. There will also be a Welsh transport conference on 8 December. He will also publish a separate Welsh Transport Policy Statement next year.

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