Funds doubled for middle of the road policies aimed at keeping the support of motorists

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The funds available for transport over the next three years are to be doubled as part of a "step change" in the Government's policy, the Chancellor announced yesterday.

The funds available for transport over the next three years are to be doubled as part of a "step change" in the Government's policy, the Chancellor announced yesterday.

The cash injection is part of an expected £120bn-£140bn boost for transport over 10 years due to be announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, tomorrow.

The plan is an attempt to tackle congestion on the roads and improve public transport, without infuriating either motorists or environmentalists.

Mr Brown said that while transport was getting £4.89bn in 2000-01, it would receive £6.01bn in 2001-02, £7.36bn in 2002-03 and £9.12bn in 2003-04. That amounted to a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in expenditure, he said.

A Treasury report claimed: "The 10-year plan will deliver reduced congestion on our busiest roads, better and more reliable trains, a renaissancein local public transport, a step improvement in transport in London and will tackle the maintenance backlog on local roads."

The AA said the pledge was "a welcome change from decades of penny-pinching and under-investment that haveall but ruined the UK's transport system. There's no doubt that this represents the most serious attempt to tackle our transport crisis in years," said its policy director, John Dawson.

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, said the announcement was "good news for rail passengers and for the country in the long term". The Association of Train Operating Companies warned, however, that it was not clear if the spending plans would provide "enough additional funding to deliver the bigger, better railway that government and passengers want".

Michael Roberts of the Confederation of British Industry described the package as "pretty encouraging". Mr Roberts said the Chancellor's extra £7.5bn over three years on transport closely echoed what the CBI had told the Chancellor would be affordable.

"This should be the basis for a big transport programme to be announced on Thursday," Mr Roberts said, "but can he continue the extra spending over the next 10 years?"

Vital to the success of the policy was the involvement of the private sector, he said. The CBI calculates that of the £180bn needed over the next decade, some £50bn would have to come from private sources.

Yesterday's package precedes an announcement by Mr Prescott on his transport plans for the next decade.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research last December Mr Prescott promised "the biggest transport package, combining public and private investment, ever seen in Britain, making Britain's transport the rival of any in Europe". The announcement was seen as an attempt to regain the political initiative. While Mr Prescott's White Paper in 1998 on integrated transport was widely welcomed, the Government has since come under fire, both from the motorists' lobby for being too "anti-car" and from environmentalists for not doing enough to cut traffic.

A Transport Bill is only now going through Parliament which will re-regulate buses, strengthen railway regulation and finally establish the Strategic Rail Authority which is still operating in "shadow" form.

It will also require councils to draw up five-year local transport plans, give them new powers to improve bus services and the ability to charge road users for driving in congested areas.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat spokesman on transport, said: "After three years we finally see the colour of the Chancellor's money. However, for the vast majority of people there is no guarantee that public transport will improve or road congestion will reduce this side of the election."

He welcomed the increase in the Rural Transport Fund from £60m to £95m, but he said more was needed to help the "transport poor" in the countryside.

The campaigning group Transport 2000 welcomed the extra spending, but added: "The Chancellor has opened a small drawer in his war chest and it's important the money is now spent wisely on reversing the under-investment in public transport."