England to get massive transport investment

Government pledges more integrated policies to cut congestion, pollution, road deaths

UK deputy prime minister John Prescott today outlined the largest investment programme in England's transport infrastructure for over a century. He predicted that planned spending of UK£180bn (euros 288bn) over ten years would deliver significant cuts in air pollution and road deaths and an absolute decrease in congestion by 2010. Environmental groups criticised the government for accepting that total private car numbers would continue to increase and planning to build more new roads.

Emergence of the transport plan, which applies to England alone, apart from national rail investment, follows yesterday's comprehensive governmental spending review (ENDS Daily 19 July). This included a pledge to increase state spending in transport by 20% in real terms in each of the next three years. The government said today that the extra money would enable it to meet targets for boosting public transport and reducing environmental impacts set two years ago (ENDS Daily 21 July 1998).

Environmental highlights include a pledge to achieve an absolute reduction in congestion by 2010 and a cut in transport-related carbon dioxide emissions of 5.6m tonnes of carbon. The latter is within a projected range for transport set out earlier this year in a draft climate strategy (ENDS Daily 9 March). The government stressed today that further savings should still be achievable.

The plan pledges to reduce noise nuisance, for example by fitting lower-noise surfaces to 60% of major roads. It also aims to improve air quality by meeting national targets for a range of air pollutants (ENDS Daily 19 January), and to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in road accidents by 40% by 2010.

A massive burst of investment in public transport is key to the government's strategy. Some UK£60bn is to be spent on improving the national rail network, plus UK£59bn for local transport and UK£21bn for national roads. Associated targets are for a doubling in passenger light rail use in England by 2010, an 80% increase in rail freight, a 50% increase in British passenger rail use by 50% and a 10% increase in bus use.

Other elements include new heavy lorry lanes on congested major roads, more bus priority schemes in urban areas, extension of fuel duty rebates to more community transport services, greater use of informatics to make the road network "smarter" and to build an extensive, real-time public transport information service. The plan delays decisions on whether to favour specific congestion charges over general increases in motor fuel prices, pending the results of studies.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 40 30 00, and Transport 2010.

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