Future For Travel: Prescott unveils his transport `vision'

Minister pledges pounds 80bn to be invested in improving road, rail and bus services across the nation over the next decade
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The Independent Online
JOHN PRESCOTT yesterday unveiled his "vision" of transport over the next decade and promised investment of "at least" pounds 80bn.

In a major policy speech, the Deputy Prime Minister trumpeted his success in winning the approval of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, for "additional" public money to be pumped into transport. But there was no figure for extra money and much of the pounds 80bn is "old money" relating to projects that have already been announced. They include the pounds 3bn Channel Tunnel high- speed rail link and part of Railtrack's pounds 27bn investment over 10 years.

Some of the money will come from the private sector, with the rest from road tolls, work place parking fees and revenue raised from tax increases on fuel. The rest could come from private-public partnerships, such as the one planned by the Government for the part-privatisation of National Air Traffic Systems.

Mr Prescott wants it to be known that, as far as transport is concerned, Tony Blair and Mr Brown have agreed to look beyond the normal three yearly financial cycle.

Speaking after a weekend of speculation about Mr Pres-cott's future role as transport supremo, the Deputy Prime Minister added that Transport minister, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, would be working out the detail of the plan.

But Mr Prescott said: "I will be around, shaping the policy, guiding it and seeing it through. So, see you in 10 years' time."

Lord Macdonald said: "He (Mr Prescott) is very much in charge. It's his strategy and I feel privileged to be in a position to put that strategy in place."

Two definite announcements were made by Mr Prescott. He said he was giving the go-ahead to a pounds 100m extension of the Tyne and Wear metro. He also revealed he would be giving pounds 750m to local councils for bypass, bus priority and integrated transport schemes. More details will be announced on Wednesday.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "I make no apology for saying that we must invest in our road network. The car and the lorry will remain essential to the movement of people and freight in the UK."

Mr Prescott also said that he would reflect on advice from the Commission for Integrated Transport that there should not be a national road traffic reduction target. He said that among things he would like to see introduced over the next 10 years were:

"Transport Direct" - a national one-call telephone service giving information on all transport modes;

A single ticket, covering all forms of transport;

Renewal of all bus and train fleets;

Safer rail stations, track and signalling renewal on some major rail routes;

More light rail schemes;

Satellite position tracking to give passengers at bus stops an indication of when their bus will arrive.

Mr Prescott said between pounds 70bn and pounds 80bn was needed to deliver his long- term vision - but added that even that might not be enough.

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