Transport: On your bike, say Tories to pupils

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT should encourage more children to walk or cycle to school instead of penalising their parents with high car taxes, the Conservativesurged yesterday.

Gillian Shephard, the shadow Environment and Transport Secretary, called for a comprehensive review of the 1944 Education Act to create workable alternatives to the "school run". Parents could be persuaded to stop ferrying their children to school by car only if they were certain that the alternatives were safe, she said.

Unveiling her party's Transport Policy Forum in the House of Commons, Mrs Shephard claimed that urgent action was needed because the school run added up to 20 per cent to rush-hour traffic jams. However, the solution was not to impose taxes that would hit the poorest parents hardest but, instead, to hand over transport funds from local councils to individual schools.

Among the ideas under consideration by the Conservatives are more dedicated cycle lanes to boost dramatically the numbers of children who get to school under their own steam.

Another major initiative would involve more "crocodile" walking schemes to allow primary pupils to be picked up at home and escorted to school by teachers or supervisors.

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservatives' transport spokesman, said that the 1944 Education Act meant that local council provision of school transport was arbitrary and unfair. "The way pupils travel to school has changed dramatically over the last 50 years and yet the statutory framework remains the outdated Act. Most pupils used to walk or cycle to school," he said.

"Most parents, particularly working women, prefer to drive their children to school and we believe that they should be allowed that choice.

"But we want to give them a real choice in home-to-school transport. We want every school to be able to develop a green transport plan that offers safe, reliable and convenient alternatives to the car." The Conservatives claimed the Budget would tax motorists off the roads and that the haulage industry was set to lose 50,000 jobs because of hikes in duties.

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