Tax drive to boost public transport use

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The Independent Online
DRIVING to work in towns and cities could become a highly taxed privilege under a leaked White Paper by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, to force more commuters onto public transport.

Draft extracts of the government's plans, seen by The Independent, propose that drivers will face congestion charges for bringing their cars into urban areas at peak times.

Businesses will also face a new charge for providing parking spaces for their employees, allowing councils to raise money to invest in improvements to public transport. The White Paper also proposes parking charges for out-of-town supermarkets in an attempt to reverse the trend away from local stores, requiring more car journeys.

The charges are certain to bring howls of protest from motoring organisations and families who need their cars for shopping or work. But Mr Prescott is convinced that he's onto a winner if the new charges can be coupled with clear improvements in rail and bus transport and they can be sold to the public as part of a "green" agenda.

"Our aim will be to ensure that public expenditure on transport is firmly directed to meeting our priorities for integrated transport policy objectives.

"The revenues raised from local congestion charging schemes and charges on private non-residential parking will provide additional investment for public transport and other measures improve transport," says the draft.

The White Paper does not spell out the details, but it could hit MPs who can park under the Palace of Westminster.

Downing Street said yesterday the White Paper was not complete and the leaked documents marked "restricted" were part of an early draft.

They include a gap in the Government's plans for the London Underground which Mr Prescott has pledged will remain publicly controlled while bringing in pounds 7billion in private investment.

The drafts says that the privatised transport operators for trains and busses "want to work with government to implement the new policy. We share with them the aim of increasing the use of existing transport that is safe, environmentally-friendly and meets the needs of their customers.

"We expect operators to ensure that their services are provided in a way that supports this integrated transport policy."

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