The Government yesterday shied away from controversy in its long- awaited Green Paper on transport by avoiding firm decisions on most of the thorny questions raised by last year's transport debate.
In what is a very anodyne response to that debate which was initiated by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Brian Mawhinney, the aim seems to have been to avoid any hostages to fortune in the forthcoming election hustings. The Paper was immediately condemned as a damp squib by environmentalists and the roads lobby alike.
Issues like road pricing, taxing staff car parks, privatising the roads, and restricting private car use in town centres are largely ignored, and there are few suggestions on how to cope with ever-increasing traffic. But in one of the few measures likely to attract controversy, the Government has left the door open for councils to charge road users in congested areas.
While the Government is committed to road tolling on motorways and busy inter-urban 'A' roads, there is only one short paragraph on the subject which emphasises that new legislation would be required, ensuring nothing can be done before an election.
On charging or taxing employees who use staff car parks, the Paper says the Government is "prepared to explore the area further" but at the moment is "not persuaded of the case for seeking enabling legislation".
In one of the few sections welcomed by environmentalists, the Government is to ensure councils have a greater say in the trunk road network; they will be able to put forward objections before plans are drawn up rather than afterwards.
At a briefing yesterday, Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, who has been forced in Cabinet arguments to tone down the Paper lest it appear anti-motorist, said the report contained "many nuggets" but was unable to list any apart from the decision to set up a national telephone enquiry bureau for train services.
Edmund King, campaigns manager for the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), said: "It's paralysis by analysis. This report could have been written by an undergraduate. It contains virtually no policy."
n 'Transport, the Way Forward', HMSO, 138pp, pounds 15 70
Road going nowhere, page 15
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