Government think-tank warns of gridlock danger on Britain's roads

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The Independent Online
CONGESTION ON the busiest parts of Britain's motorways will more than double within a decade, even if ministers' policies on tolls are applied to their fullest extent, according to a government-appointed think tank yesterday.

The Commission for Integrated Transport calculated that the amount of time lost by motorists trapped in jams in such areas would increase by 127 per cent. But it warned that if local authorities refuse to take up any of the powers given to them under the Transport Bill congestion would increase by 268 per cent. Nationally, delays would rise by around two- thirds over 1996 levels in the next 10 years, the commission said.

Professor David Begg, chair of the commission, said the amount of traffic would grow by 35 per cent if the Bill's provisions were ignored, but would still rise by 20 per cent even if the plans were applied with vigour.

The commission said the provisions of the Bill, confirmed in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, had attracted the backing of the motor industry.

Nick Reilly, chairman and managing director of Vauxhall, said there was a clear need for the kind of action envisaged by the Government. He said the proposals for charges on motorists entering city centres and extra fees for people who park at work "may well be the best way forward".

Sir Trevor Chinn, of the motor industry company Lex Services and vice- chairman of the commission, said the measures were not "anti-car" and most people in the industry realised that.

Professor Begg said the commission's report was the most extensive study of congestion conducted in Britain and it showed that some areas, particularly London, could see a "dramatic" fall in congestion if the policies were adopted. Congestion in the capital could fall by as much as 42 per cent, with other cities and towns benefiting from a 19 per cent decline.

He said such improvements depended on a combination of measures such as increased investment in rail, partnerships between bus operators and local authorities, and widespread use of "congestion charging".

Professor Begg added: "Without an integrated transport programme parts of our cities and motorways already suffering from congestion would simply grind to a halt."