Transport review backs road charging

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The Independent Online

A Treasury-backed review of Britain's transport requirements is expected to call for road charging today to pay for better bus and rail services.

Sir Rod Eddington's study will argue that charging motorists by the mile would raise £28 billion a year and help to cut congestion and harmful carbon emissions, it was reported last night.

According to the BBC, the former chief executive of British Airways will also recommend the expansion of international gateway airports favoured by business travellers, like Heathrow.

He will leave the door open to a new high-speed railway line between London and Scotland, but say it is not a priority, stressing that lots of small schemes like cycle lanes are better than grand, futuristic plans.

Sir Rod, whose remit was to assess the impact of transport decisions on productivity and economic growth, will launch his heavily-leaked study in a presentation to stakeholders this morning.

He is likely to set out the need for additional capacity on roads and railways and at airports, according to recent reports.

One leak suggested that he would blame problems in the transport network on poor management and call for existing traffic systems to be made to work more efficiently.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: "A commitment to road user pricing is welcome but it is not enough.

"Radical improvements in the nation's railways and bus services must also be part of the package.

"To speak of continued expansion at airports like Heathrow is environmental madness. It is not consistent with the findings of the Stern Report.

"I guess that is what happens when you put a former chief executive of British Airways in charge of long-term transport policy."

The Conservatives will use today's publication to accuse the Government of failing to get to grips with Britain's "urgent" transport problems.

The Tories have released their own strategy document setting out their priorities for the system.

The party called for a programme of rapid action to ease pinch points in the system, along with major longer-term projects to make a lasting difference to the traffic infrastructure.

And it said a much stronger green dimension and a more integrated approach to transport planning were needed.

The Conservative Strategy Document - entitled Getting Around: Britain's Great Frustration - sets out an initial foundation for the policies expected in the party's next election manifesto.

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "The Government has clearly failed to follow through on its stated aim of improving our transport system - and for most people travel has become more difficult in the past 10 years.

"We have trains that are getting more and more overcrowded and roads that are getting more and more congested.

"The Government's latest report on transport - the Eddington Report - is the eighth major document they have produced on transport, and yet virtually all the improvements they promised in their ten-year plan for transport have been cancelled or kicked into the long grass.

"Our document sets out a clear direction for future transport strategy in Britain.

"We need short-term and urgent improvements to ease congestion and overcrowding, and then a proper longer-term programme to ensure we have a transport system that is more environmentally-friendly and can meet the needs of a modern economy.

"The truth is that we do need an integrated transport policy - but we're still not getting one."

Today's Tory document called for the development of a less fragmented railway where the track and the trains are run in an integrated way, in order to tackle overcrowding and encourage train use.

It acknowledged that road pricing and tolling were likely to play an increased role in the strategy of any future government.

But it added: "We certainly would not want to see premature moves to an untested national scheme and we believe that congestion charging and road pricing should be used to generate additional transport capacity rather than to price people off the roads altogether."

Areas the Conservative plan says are particular priorities for transport improvements are:

* Transport capacity for commuters into and around the City of London and Canary Wharf;

* Transport provision in the designated growth areas in the South East, such as the Thames Gateway, if the major development plans for those areas go ahead;

* Trans-Pennine links between Liverpool, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire;

* Inadequate capacity on transport links into the West of England.

* Congestion in and around central Birmingham;

* Access to public transport in rural areas.