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HUGE CASH BID TO TACKLE ROAD CHAOS

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A multi-billion package of measures to tackle Britain's crippling transport crisis will be unveiled in July, as the...
A multi-billion package of measures to tackle Britain's crippling transport crisis will be unveiled in July, as the government attempts to head off public anger amid accusations it has failed to deliver on election pledges, reported The Observer (p1).

It also carried a feature (p12) examing the problems and comparing Britain's experience and policies with those in other countries.

Treasury officials have been told to open their coffers to fund 'revolutionary' plans to unblock the roads, overhaul rail services and improve public transport.

Chancellor Gordon Brown and John Prescott have ordered officials to produce plans for the strategy, which will cost up to£10bn.

Projects that will be given top priority include: double-decker trains for commuters, with every traveller guaranteed a seat; more money for the west coast mainline to speed up journeys between London, Manchester and Glasgow; new high-speed routes into cities, with buses and trams being given dedicated lanes; light rail schemes to take pressure off congested roads; a task force to tackle congestion hotspots, such as the M25 orbital route round London and the M6 midlands corridor; new bypasses around towns hit by heavy traffic; national fares concession scheme so pensioners get cheap public transport; and 'super interchanges' where people can move easily from motorways to rail and buses.

Government sources said the new money would be tied to results, with every plan given an inflexible deadline. Figures prepared for the DETR reveal that two-thirds of Londoners travel to work by public transport, but outside London two-thirds of people use their cars.

Officials said that showed that key Labour supporters wanted road congestion to be tackled. Officals refused to be drawn on how much money would be spent, but there is speculation it could be as much as£10bn of extra funding in the first three years. Further big increases will also be agreed as part of the government's 10-year strategy on transport.

News of the cash injection comes as the annual local authority road maintenance survey reveals that more than three in four councils believe the under-funding of road maintenance threatens safety.

More than£50m has been paid in compensation to people injured in road accidents or who have had their vehicles damaged. Many councils say they can afford to resurface roads only every 78 years, rather than the 20 years suggested by safety campaigners.

Meanwhile, Labour is spending less on public transport than the previous Conservative government, according to research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, reported The Sunday Times (p30).

Another report, by Chantrey Vellacott DFK, a firm of City accountants, says the government is also spending a lower proportion of national income on education.

The Yorkshire Post (p7) reports that the Local Government Association welcomed the spending plans.

A spokesman for the group, said: 'If this is genuinely new money it is very welcome. We have been lobbying the government very hard to sort our Britain's desperate transport system.

'Local authorities must be fully involved in the whole process of how the money is spent and where the money is spent.'

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