'Jambusting' £280m package set for road and rail

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The Independent Online

Jambuster measures to relieve congestion on road and Tube links were announced by the Government today in a £280 million transport improvement package.

The biggest slice - £65 million - will go to London Underground to overcome a spate of safety problems which have shut down escalators and to improve train frequency.

A further £30 million is going to the £100 million plan to extend the Docklands Light Railway to the comparatively-isolated London City Airport to the east of the capital.

The Government is also spending £20 million to tackle 80 safety and congestion hotspots on the trunk road network.

There is also start-up money to bring four new improvement schemes into the Government's roads programme, while six other schemes are being accelerated with a £25 million cash injection.

A further £5 million will go towards 20 new bus schemes in rural areas and local authorities will receive £30 million to spend on schemes for child safety and on establishing safe routes to schools.

Outlining the package today, Minister of Transport Lord Macdonald said it was "a major boost towards providing modern, integrated, transport systems".

The Conservatives dismissed the money being made available as "risible", while environmental group Transport 2000 said the sum was "a pittance".

But Lord Macdonald stressed that the money announced today would generate a total of more than £850 million to modernise transport infrastructure.

He said the £280 million was a "down payment" on the 10-year investment plan for transport to be announced by the Government this summer.

Lord Macdonald also rejected suggestions that the Government was now far more pro-roads and was involved in a U-turn on transport policy.

But Transport 2000 said: "This is very much the new face of the Government on transport policy - some support for public transport masking a downward slide into road building."

The British Road Federation said it was pleased that room in the roads programme had been found for four more schemes - upgrading the A74 north of Carlisle; the Thorney bypass on the A47 in Cambridgeshire; and the dualling of two sections of the A11 in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The Government is also setting aside £14 million to enable pensioners in England and Wales to obtain, for free, bus passes that entitle them to concessionary travel. In some areas these passes currently cost £5.

A further £16 million is being spent on new motorway gantry signs warning drivers of congestion ahead.