Lorry-only roads in prospect

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Indy Politics
A national network of lorry routes, which would see private cars banned from key parts of Britain's road system, is being considered by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The news comes on the same day that the Government published options for an integrated transport policy - details of which were inadvertently leaked by Peter Hain, the Welsh Office transport minister.

The plans for the lorry routes were floated after ministers conceded that the Government had failed to strengthen hundreds of bridges to carry 40-ton lorries and pointed out that congestion was adding unnecessary costs to business. Under the proposals, money could be spent to strengthen key bridges - and only allow commercial traffic to use them. It would also see lanes on busy motorways closed to cars in favour of lorries.

Last week, the Commons transport select committee warned that the delayed bridge programme could cause serious hardship to companies. Many local authorities claim that they do not have sufficient funds to carry out the repair work on at least 44,000 crossings.

Ministers have already accepted that in the short-term lanes on some bridges may have to be closed while others face weight restrictions when the new European Union-standard juggernauts are introduced in 1999. The Road Haulage Association welcomed the news. A spokesman for the association said: "Given the problems we have with limited and dwindling road capacity, the priority for our congested road system has to be the movement of goods and services."

Motoring organisations accepted that commercial traffic needed to be considered, but not always at the expense of the private driver. "It needs a strategic approach that is not confined to one aspect of traffic but benefits all road users," said a spokesman for the Royal Automobile Club.

The paper offers no immediate solutions, instead opting for bleak statements and searching questions.

Since the election, ministers have repeated that they wished to get people out of their cars and onto public transport. The document said the car remained "an integral part of modern society" but a better balance between different transport modes was needed. Asking for views on the best way to cope with congestion and pollution, the document said: "We may all have to come to terms with some difficult personal choices."

Letters, page 13