|London, 24 July 2000.
For immediate release.
The £180bn over ten years sounds a lot, but only represents between one third and one half of the tax take from motorists over this period - and that's without any of the additional taxes, like tolls and parking taxes, that local authorities are being encouraged to bring in.
It also fails to take into account the massive underinvestment in transport infrastructure by successive governments of both political persuasions. The 100 bypasses and 360 miles of motorway widening that Prescott has promised in TEN YEARS is only a partial restoration of the cuts to the road programme made both by New Labour when it came to office and by Steve Norris when he was in power. Meanwhile, three years have been lost - and many lives due to the perpetuation of accident blackspots that would have been removed by the improved roads. "Some of these people have been waiting for bypasses for 60 years," said the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "Building ten bypasses a year just isn't enough, either for villagers or motorists."
This stop start roads policy is very damaging - only recently the Highways Agency have been selling off properties that they had purchased for road widening schemes. Will they now have to buy them back?
The rail investment is welcome, but again way overdue. Congestion on the rail network is as bad as the roads. Its easy for the Chairman of the Integrated Transport Commission, David Begg, to crow about this money, but it was him who said in 1997 that "Infrastructure of any kind should be a last resort". Clearly, a large portion of the wasted time and effort of the last three years can be placed at Begg's door. He certainly made a shambles of transport in Edinburgh.
What is worrying about this investment is how easily this new money could be diverted to schemes to obstruct and harass motorists going about their business in towns and in the countryside. No doubt there is considerable provision for bus lanes, road narrowing, humps, chicanes and ludicrous speed limits, and it is equally certain that genuine measures to improve road safety by enhancing the skills and attitude of all road users won't get a look in.
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory comments:
"While any increase in spending on roads and rail is welcome, the ABD doubts that this government has any intention of lifting the massive tax burden it places on families and businesses with its ideologically based car-hating policies. A second term Labour government would make life hell for all car drivers in this country, and bribes such as this must be treated with caution."
The ABD says: unless this country's 25 million driving licence holders get a better deal, the government will have a high price of their own to meet - and they will pay it at the ballot box.