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PRESCOTT PROBES LOCAL TRANSPORT POLICIES

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Key aspects of councils'transport policies are being scrutinised in the consultation on the governmentÕs drive for ...
Key aspects of councils'transport policies are being scrutinised in the consultation on the governmentÕs drive for an integrated transport policy.

The policy is outlined in the paper Developing an integrated transport policy - an invitation to contribute, published last month by deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Its starting point is that if transport policy remains unchanged, in 20 years' time traffic levels will be between 36% and 57% higher than today.

Among the local government policies examined in the 27 questions posed in the paper are capital spending, local regulations, target setting and the differing needs of urban and rural communities.

Derek Bateman, chairman of the Local Government Association environment and regeneration board, welcomed the document and what it represents. He said: 'An integrated transport system is totally necessary at this point in time because there is no way we are going to be able to double the volume of the road system by 2025 - nor would we want to. Money, land and public opinion are all against it.'

He said the consultation paper was proof that the government had decided to act on a problem which was brushed under the carpet by the previous administration as a 'political hot potato'.

'Both carrot and stick approaches must be used to get people out of their little boxes with four wheels and one person at the wheel,' he said. 'Otherwise regulation will be done purely by congestion in the future, with all the secondary problems of health and inefficiency - the lateness [caused by] people attempting to travel by road.'

Local government, according to Mr Bateman, had produced many creative solutions to problems in their districts over the past 18 years while simultaneously swimming against the tide of central government policy on capital spending.

'What Prescott is doing is bringing issues that have been pressing for a long time completely out into the open. It's a good start, but now he has to be prepared to contemplate the previously unthinkable - fiscal means of regulating people's car use, taxes on roads, that kind of thing.

'In Switzerland they own more cars than we do in this country, but use them 20% less. And why? Because they have a fully integrated transport system that people want to use and which is run by the private sector with close government regulation. They get to keep the freedom a car represents without experiencing all the worst aspects.

'Also, in this country if we are going to make any attempt to meet our carbon dioxide emissions target we are going to have to act, because about one-third of our CO2 is produced by car exhausts.'

Responses to the green paper must be submitted by 14 November.

Copies of Developing an integrated transport policy are available from Ruth Chapman, tel: 0171 271 5631.

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