Government abandons integrated transport goals, argues green campaigners

Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000 and many local campaign groups are furious that the government this afternoon gave the go-ahead for a £5.5bn package of road widening measures, yet offered little new for public transport schemes and cycle/pedestrian initiatives (although, as a smokescreen, cycling made it into the first paragraph of the transport secretary's speech to parliament this afternoon).
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The roads lobby was delighted, but campaigners from Transport 2000 and other environmentally-friendly orgs, said Alistair Darling's £2bn road building plans were at the expense of rail projects and other green transport measures, in direct opposition to the integrated transport plans the government was elected on.

The roads programme, criticised for its effects on the environment, includes the upgrading of both trunk and local roads across the country. Chief among the announcements was the outcome of five Government Multi-Modal Studies, set up to consider solutions to congestion and safety problems on trunk roads.

Stephen Joseph, Transport 2000 Director, said: “We are set for nothing less than a road-building binge and will see another nail hammered into the coffin of sustainable transport. The schemes are a major departure from the integrated transport the Government promised. These schemes will damage sensitive countryside and lead to more traffic. They might buy a couple of years of relief from congestion but in the long term will make no difference. Quite simply, road building doesn’t work.”

However, local transport projects were also mentioned by the transport secretary this afternoon. And, in fact, cycling made it into the first paragraph of his speech to parliament!

Darling, pictured above, said:

“Today’s major package of transport improvements will bring real benefits. From the major motorways which are the nation’s arteries to the local bus and cycle routes many of us rely on, we are seeing real progress being made – tackling congestion, improving safety and reliability and increasing the quality of life.

“We are committed to putting right decades of under-investment. Nationally, by improving the strategic road network – widening parts of the M6 and M1 – and accelerating the work on the West Coast Main Line, we are transforming major transport corridors in the country to bring real benefits for decades to come. Locally, by providing the funds for councils to deliver the vital transport improvements that local people want.

In amongst all the tunk road schemes, which gobble up the bulk of the £5.5bn, there was also news of 5500 local road safety and traffic calming schemes, including 900 projects involving new lighting or CCTV and around 900 safe routes to school schemes; over 1000 km of cycle tracks and lanes and over 1750 new cycle parking facilities, such as stands and lockers.

There will also be up to 200 km of new footpaths, footway improvements or pedestrianisation schemes and around 3500 new or improved road crossings.

There will be improved pedestrian and cyclist access in Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Walsall, Warrington, Norwich and Wokingham.

£550 000 has been set aside for 14 pilot schemes that promote the development of personalised travel planning schemes to help people to make more environmentally friendly travel choices.

Total allocations for this year to local authorities to spend on major schemes, smaller local schemes and maintenance is £1.6 billion.

However, not all of the cash is new cash. Much of it is recycled news.

In 2000, local authorities in England (outside London) were given indicative funding allocations for integrated transport and maintenance measures for each year to 2005/06. Today's announcement provides authorities with firm allocations for 2003/04 and explains how the £1.6bn package (which also includes funding for major schemes) will be spent.

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