Government unveils £280m transport package

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The Independent Online

A £65 million boost for Tube services, money for new road schemes and cash to tackle congestion hotspots were announced today in a £280 million Government package for transport.

An extension of the Docklands Light Railway in London and money for rural buses, road safety and cleaner lorries and taxis were also included.

"This is a major boost in our drive towards providing modern, integrated transport systems," said Minister of Transport Lord Macdonald.

The biggest chunk of the cash, first outlined in this week's Budget, will go to solving the escalator problems which have recently plagued London Underground, and to improve frequency, through track maintenance and signalling, on the Northern, Central, District and Jubilee lines.

A further £30 million will go to extending the Docklands Light Railway to City Airport in east London.

A total of £20 million will be spent on improving safety and easing congestion at 80 hotspots in England, and England will also get £16 million for new motorway gantry signs warning drivers of congestion ahead.

Local authorities will be given £30 million to spend on schemes for child safety and on establishing safe routes to schools, and £5 million will go to support child road safety education and information.

The Government is also spending £5 million on 20 extra rural bus services and allocating £14 million to enable more pensioners in England and Wales to receive free bus passes, rather than having to pay the £5 charge they face in some areas.

The Government also announced today that it was spending £25 million to accelerate six of 37 road scheme plans in the current programme.

These are the A6 Clapham bypass in Bedfordshire; the A11 Roundham Heath/Attleborough dual carriageway scheme in Norfolk; the A43-M40 to B4031 dual carriageway in Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire; the A66 Stainburn and Great Clifton bypass in Cumbria; the A500 Basford, Hough, Shavington bypass in Cheshire, and the A650 Bingley relief road in West Yorkshire.

In addition the Government is giving £3 million for preparatory work on four new road schemes which are being added to the programme.

These are the upgrade of the A74 north of Carlisle; the Thorney bypass on the A47 in Cambridgeshire; the dual carriageway project on the A11 between Fiveways and Thetford in Suffolk, and another dual carriageway scheme, the Attleborough bypass in Norfolk.

A further £9 million will go to support the powershift programme, which is funded by the Transport Department to establish a proper market for cleaner fuel vehicles.

Lord Macdonald said: "More than two-thirds of this money is going on public transport, together with specific funds to tackle congestion hotspots on roads, improve road safety, extend light railway schemes, provide more rural buses and expand capacity on London Underground."

* The bus pass plan does not entitle every pensioner to free travel but the existing Transport Bill seeks to ensure that all receive concessions of at least 50% off.