Environmentalists express concern over cash injection for road building

The Government’s 10 year plan for transport was both welcomed and slammed by environmentalists, who say that it will mean that an election promise to cut journeys by car will be broken.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced on 20 July that one-third of the massive £180 billion ten year investment plan would be spent on roads. This is to include 100 new bypasses, 360 miles of trunk road and motorway widening to tackle congestion hotspots and improve safety.

“Britain’s transport problems cannot be solved by spraying money at every possible option. There must be a fall in the number of cars on the road. That’s what the Government promised – but this plan will not deliver. Instead there will be environmentally damaging road schemes around the country, ” Friends of the Earth’s Transport Campaigner, Tony Bosworth said. He stressed that before the General Election Labour had appealed to green voters by condemning schemes such as the planned Salisbury by-pass, which would cut through a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’. “Now, this dreadful idea is back on the agenda. Local people and environmentalists will fight this and similar schemes tooth and nail,” he said.

However, in this case, the environmentalists’ cloud had a silver lining, as Prescott pledged huge sums of money to improve public transport, including: £60 billion for the national rail network with new track, signalling, stations and rolling stock, and £59bn for local transport, including up to 25 new light rail projects in major cities, guided bus schemes, park and ride, priority routes and funding to improve rural transport.

The government has promised to show a 50% increase in passenger use of the railway, with better services and lower prices, a 10% growth in passenger use of buses; resources to enable the Mayor of London to reduce over crowding on the Underground; and lower emissions and better air quality.

“Increases in spending on public transport and local transport schemes are very welcome – and long overdue. Labour inherited a disaster on our trains and buses, a product of eighteen years of Tory neglect of public transport and pandering to the car lobby. This is the biggest increase in rail funding for a generation and could be the start of a rail renaissance, ” Bosworth commented on hearing the plans.

“ The Plan addresses the issues in a realistic and business like way,” said Prescott, presenting the plan. “No thrills, no promises of a rosy, traffic free future, just our best judgements, based on detailed analysis of what the new resources will deliver. It will deliver something positive for everyone – motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, rail and bus users, rural and urban communities, the old, the young and disabled people. It will deliver the integrated transport system this country needs and deserves. A system fit for the new millennium and of which we can be justly proud, ” he said, adding that. £132 billion would be provided by public investment.

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