New Year opens with government transport policy seemingly in tatters

As 2002 drew to a close the 10-Year Transport Plan came under more fire as Alistair Darling revealed new figures and development programmes that look certain to promote private transportation rather than the use of public transport.
bpa.JPGOn 11 December the Transport Minister announced a new government road-building programme that will see upwards of L5.5bn ploughed into a wide range of projects across the UK. The announcement was taken by many as a clear u-turn by Labour, who seem to be dropping many of their previously “anti-car” stances. The investment will see sections of the M4 and M5 widened to allow “climbing lanes” for lorries, whilst the A303 and A30 will become dual carriageways after calls from West Country businesses that the area was in need of better links to London. A one-mile tunnel will also be bored through hills near Stonehenge after it was declared that simply cutting through the hills would jeopardise the World Heritage Site – this increases road-works costs in the area by L31m.
Matters were worsened the following week when Alistair Darling admitted that the government’s projected congestion figures had been considerably off target.
Despite the 10-Year Transport Plan pledging to cut road congestion by 5 percent by 2010, the Minister admitted on 17 December that the amount of time lost in traffic was likely to increase by between 11 and 20 percent, though he added that the situation would be much worse without the current schedule of the transport plan. Critics saw the figures as proof that the government are failing across the board on transportation and environmental groups accused the road planning schemes of being a last resort tactic that betrayed the government’s promises.

The Strategic Rail Authority added to the country’s problems when it announced that it wants rail operators to run services on up to 20 percent less government funding. Selected service cut backs and New Year hikes in rail travel costs look unlikely to encourage motorists off the roads, whilst faults with South Central’s latest train carriages has caused yet another set back for one UK rail area.

There was some positive feedback in the two-year review of the transport plan. Train, Bus and light rail use has risen since 2000, when John Prescott drew up the plan, and there has been a 15 percent reduction in deaths and serious injuries caused by car accidents.
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