Letter: Transport crisis

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The Independent Culture
Sir: When John Prescott experienced his latest "vision," he was in a tunnel. The wish-list for transport policy (report, 14 December) gives no sign that the Treasury is willing to provide the sums needed.

If there are pinch-points on roads worthy of investment, then there are main railway lines deserving to be four-track throughout. For example, if 140mph tilting trains are not to drive most freight and many local trains off the West Coast route, there will be a need for four tracks all the way from Euston to Crewe. More tracks are urgently needed also on the East Coast main line, and the Great Western route to Bristol should have been electrified years ago.

Congestion charging is needed, but so are highway tolls upon domestic and foreign users, linking axle-loadings (and consequent road surface wear) to payments levied at motorway booths.

If the French can have TGV, why do the malign pundits of the Treasury and the DETR expect the entire country apart from London and Kent to make do with "upgraded," existing main lines? We need new, long-distance railways, some for high-speed passenger trains, others for freight.

The relegation of transport, in the person of the televisual Lord Macdonald, to the Lords is a disgrace. The chauffeur-driven Prime Minister will not show that he is serious about the transport crisis until there is a transport minister with a permanent seat in the Cabinet, a voice in the Commons, and a capacity for extracting greatly increased sums, hypothecated for railways, for years to come from the Treasury.

Professor GEORGE HUXLEY

Church Enstone, Oxfordshire

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