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POWERS IN TRANSPORT BILL SHOULD SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCE CONGESTION, SAYS COMMISSION

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The Commission for Integrated Transport welcomes the inclusion of the Transport Bill in this week's Queen's Speech....
The Commission for Integrated Transport welcomes the inclusion of the Transport Bill in this week's Queen's Speech. The powers it heralds on tackling congestion and on improving public transport provide a clear opportunity to address the problems on our roads.

The commission has evidence, from one of the most extensive studies ever seen in the UK into the potential growth in traffic and its impacts, that congestion can be reduced - substantially in our largest cities - if the tools in the Government's integrated transport strategy are applied effectively.

Commission chair, Professor David Begg, said that this work showed that, if integrated policies were applied, some of the worst congested areas - in particular London - could see a dramatic fall in congestion.

'There are real benefits for places like London where congestion could fall by as much as 42%. Initial findings also show it could fall by up to 19% in other cities and towns.'

This requires a combination of measures, such as increased investment

in rail; enhanced bus quality partnerships; and widespread use by

local authorities in urban areas of congestion charging or workplace

parking levies.

It will not be easy. But without these measures, traffic congestion in the UK could rise by nearly two thirds (65%) over 1996 levels in the next 10 years.

'Whether or not we are successful will depend on central and local government and on business. But the benefits are clear - more efficient public transport, less congestion, and environmental and economic bonuses for our cities.

'Without an integrated transport programme parts of our cities and motorways already suffering from congestion would simply grind to a

halt and there would be serious implications for city life,' said

Professor Begg.

The work by WS Atkins indicates that of the two main impacts of rising traffic levels, it is congestion rather than air quality which is the real problem for the future. We cannot afford to be complacent about pollution, but the increasingly tight regulations on vehicle emissions are progressively paying dividends,' said the Professor.

'We can already look forward to substantial improvements in the longer-term, particularly with reductions of 70% and more in NOx and

particulate emissions.'

These findings are being considered by the Commission as it prepares

its advice to government on how far road traffic targets should be

used by government to drive forward its integrated transport programme.

The commission notes that, without the programme, forecast traffic growth of 35% between 1996 and 2010 will lead to a 65% increase in

congestion. By contrast, the analysis shows that implementing the measures in the programme could minimise future traffic growth and deliver actual reductions in congestion levels.

Professor Begg said: 'While traffic on inter-urban motorways could rise by 38%, we could see - by 2010 - a 7% reduction in traffic in

London. That is a clear reflection of the impact that integrated

transport measures can have on car usage where there readily attractive alternatives become available.

'But we are all going to have to make choices in our own journeys.

There is no perfect solution for everyone. There has to be a real

trade-off between the spectre of rapidly increasing congestion, and the measures that will be needed to bring congestion under control.

It is also clear that the UK is not alone in facing the problems of

rising traffic levels and economic growth. National forecasts in

France show a 93% growth in road traffic between 1996 and 2020 if

existing policies are continued. Even the most ambitious measures to

encourage movement to other forms of transport would not stop a 40%

growth in road traffic. Whilst in the Netherlands a targeted 35% growth in road traffic from 1986 to 2010 is expected to be overshot

by 10%.

Notes

1. These are initial findings arising from work for the commission

by WS Atkins, which is also being used by DETR for work still in

progress leading to government's first report on the issue of a

national traffic reduction target. A full account of the technical

work, including the WS Atkins report, will be made available as soon

as possible.

2. These findings are also guiding the commission on its advice to government on the case for national road traffic targets. This advice

will be finalised next week.

3. The commission for integrated transport was appointed by government in July this year to provide it with independent advice on

the implementation of integrated transport strategy. Its 17 members,

including 4 appointed on an ex officio basis, bring a wide range of

expertise of transport and its impacts. Its chairman is Professor

David Begg, director of the centre for transport policy at the Robert

Gordon University, Aberdeen.

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