Lower fare rises as Tories bridge capital gridlock

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Three new river crossings, lower Tube fare rises and a commitment to clear the backlog of investment on the London Underground by 2008 are the main pledges in transport strategy for London published yesterday.

The document, the first attempt by the Government since the Tories came to power in 1979 to set out a plan for London's transport needs, rejects the need for a overall transport authority for the capital but promises an "integrated transport strategy".

The strategy contains few new plans apart from the three river crossings for which no timetable is set out. These will be a tunnel or a bridge at Blackwall to relieve the congestion on the existing twin tunnels; a rail tunnel connecting the North London and North Kent lines, allowing development of an outer circle rail route; and a road/rail crossing between Beckton in East London and Thamesmead. No money has been earmarked for any of the plans.

Announcing the strategy, Steven Norris, the minister for transport in London, said that people needed to be encouraged onto public transport. "Fare rises will be substantially lower than in recent years when they have tended to be 2 or 3 per cent above the rate of inflation," he said. However, he did not commit himself on precise levels.

Peter Ford, chairman of London Transport, welcomed the document but said that catching up the backlog of investment by 2008 "was too slow".

Glenda Jackson, Labour's spokeswoman on transport in London, said that the strategy was at odds with the cuts being imposed on investment on London Transport. "Actions speak larger than glossy documents."

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