Fresh challenge to car tyranny

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The Independent Online
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution - whose damning report on Britain's transport policies shook the Government two years ago - is planning to do it again.

On Friday a working group of the Commission recommended that it should produce a new document after the election to renew pressure for a "fundamental change of culture" from promoting the car to public transport. The plan is expected to be approved by a meeting of all the commissioners next month.

The Government has failed to respond in detail to the original report. Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, privately described it as "a nightmare".

Ministers limited themselves this spring to producing a Green Paper largely devoid of specific proposals which was immediately dismissed as a damp squib by environmentalists.

Few of the report's 110 recommendations - which include cutting the road- building programme in half, doubling the price of petrol by 2005, enforcing tough new standards to control pollution and noise, and increasing investment in public transport - have been implemented.

Sir John Houghton, chairman of the Commission, has praised the Green Paper's "recognition that overcoming the challenge presented by transport will require a fundamentally different and more strategic approach".

Members of the Commission - who include some of Britain's top scientists, industrialists and academics - are torn between frustration at the Government's failure to act and a wish not to undermine John Gummer, the Environment Secretary, and Sir George Young, the Transport Secretary, who they regard as the greenest-ever occupants of their posts.

But they believe a new document could influence the policies of a new government.