£180bn transport plan announced by Prescott

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The Independent Online

A £180 billion, 10-year, cash injection for transport has been announced by the Government.

A £180 billion, 10-year, cash injection for transport has been announced by the Government.

The new transport plan includes £60 billion for railways, £59 billion for roads and nearly £26 billion for local transport schemes.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said it would "deliver radical improvement for passengers, motorists, business and for all of us as citizens".

He told the House of Commons that the measures were "new ideas, new powers, new resources - a new approach for a new century".

The Government plans to widen 360 miles of the motorway and trunk road network to ease bottlenecks, and to build 100 new bypasses.

Also planned is a large-scale investment in the upgrade and expansion of the railway network to allow for 50 per cent more passengers to travel, increasing both speed and safety.

Mr Prescott is also introducing a new £7 billion rail modernisation fund which will "lever in" private capital to the rail system.

Ministers also promise to eliminate the considerable backlog in road maintenance by 2010 through a £30 billion programme.

The plan will also fund more modern bus, tram and light rail systems supported by park-and-ride schemes. Rural areas will get increased support for more flexible and innovative services.

There will also be £20 billion for transport schemes in London, excluding roads, which could include a revival of the shelved cross-London rail link project as well as new East Thames river crossings for road and rail.

Of the £179.7 billion package, £56.3 billion will have to come from the private sector. The area most dependent on private money is the railways, where £34.3 billion of private money will be needed.

Mr Prescott told MPs today that "decades of under-investment and the lack of strategic planning had left us with a transport system in crisis".

He added that capital investment by government and the private sector together would be 75% more in real terms than over the last decade.

The new investment will fund:

Around 6,000 new train carriages and trains 80 major trunk road schemes to improve safety and traffic flow at junctions 100 new bypasses on trunk and local roads and 130 other full-scale local road improvement schemes Lower noise surfaces for 60% of trunk roads A 10% increase in bus passenger journeys and an extension of bus priority schemes. Up to 25 light railway schemes in urban areas - doubling the existing number More cycle and walking routes and more 20mph areas.
Mr Prescott conceded that the £180 billion was "not all new money" and among projects included in the plan are already-announced, highly-expensive schemes such as the Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link and the West Coast main line upgrade.

Spending on rail is expected to result in an 80% increase in patronage on main inter-city lines and more frequent services on commuter routes.

On the roads, the Government hopes to reduce congestion by 2010 by around 5% on current levels across England.

Today's plan covers England, Scotland and Wales as far as rail services are concerned, but only England for non-rail schemes.

As expected there are no plans, within the next decade, to introduce motorway tolls, but local authorities will have the power to introduce congestion charging.