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PRESCOTT REVEALS TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER DETAILS

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The publication of the government's white paper on transport is to be delayed until after the comprehensive spendin...
The publication of the government's white paper on transport is to be delayed until after the comprehensive spending review and will be less 'anti-car' than previously thought, reports The Independent (p1).

Environment secretary John Prescott has revealed that the paper will propose congestion charging and charges for car parking in out-of-town supermarkets and offices in towns to curb car use.

But it will also propose some 'car-friendly' measures such as a motorists' charter guaranteeing standards of road maintenance by local authorities, the Highways Agency and the DVLA.

There are also proposals for a new regulatory organisation, provisionally called Ofroad, with the power to reduce roadworks and remove obstructions.

Mr Prescott aims to fend off accusations of attacking moths on the school run by proposing safer routes to schools, with investment to restore school bus services. Other plans include cutting business rates for rural garages in a bid to reduce the cost of petrol in the countryside.

Supermarkets may have reduced charges for operating park-and-ride schemes and increasing home deliveries. By delaying the white paper until after the comprehensive spending review, Mr Prescott will be able to unveil extra investment in roads and public transport partly financed by the new charges.

It is also believed that the deputy prime minister has secured an agreement with the chancellor, Gordon Brown, that money raised from the noew motoring charges will be earmarked for improvements in public transport.

'I have to fight for the principle that we can get involved in price mechanisms, in cogestion charging, in pricing parking,' said Mr Prescott. 'I think the time has come for that and what most people say they want, for it is that money should go to the benefit of transport... There is no argument about the principle.'

'People are saying they are prepared to look at some charges, but they want to be assured that the money is going to go into transport. I am absolutely at one with them. The white paper will be about that very issue.'

And the paper's editorial (section 2, p3) praises Mr Prescott for his proposals, saying the decision to delay the white paper is a good one.

It continues: 'The decision that transport should join health and education as a spending priority for the next three years is welcome and shows the that the government realises that the transport infrastructure has knock-on effects well beyond the speed with which we can travel from A to B.'

It says the government's approach of promoting a series of different measures rather than a grand sweeping corporate plan is sensible, and concludes that Mr Prescott's thoughts are on the right lines and that he deserves support.

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