Labour blamed for transport failure
RISING traffic congestion, poor railways and environmental damage inflicted by air travel are getting worse because of a continued lack of government action, research has found.
A book by two leading transport experts claims Labour policy has failed completely in the 10 years since the UK Government launched its landmark White Paper 'A New Deal for Transport'.
Traffic congestion has increased dramatically since John Prescott declared in 1997 that he would have "failed in five years time if there are not more journeys made by public transport and fewer by car".
Dr Iain Docherty of Glasgow University and Professor Jon Shaw of Plymouth University have found traffic has grown by 15% overall in Britain between 1996 and 2006 and by 27% on the motorways.
Their book Traffic Jam: 10 Years Of "Sustainable" Transport In The UK noted that 200 kilometres of new roads are still being built per year despite Labour's pledge to make new road building "a measure of the last resort".
New starts on road building projects are now outstripping those being completed, while the total number of kilometres driven by all vehicles registered in Britain has increased from 441 billion to 506 billion in the past 10 years.
Shaw said: "Ten years on the problems are still there and they have got worse, because Labour has dodged making major decisions to address the key issues. They have failed to achieve their own objective, which was to move the us away from dependence on the car and use more sustainable public transport."
They criticised the Government's aviation policy claiming an increasing number of international and domestic flights had resulted in carbon emissions rising from 43 million tonnes in 1998 to 46 million today.
"The Government is not willing to curb the increase in flights," said Shaw pointing to hints that ministers intend to go-ahead with a third runway at Heathrow and plans to extend London Stansted and Birmingham airport.
He added that building an extra runway at Glasgow or Edinburgh would exacerbate the problem by increasing the number of flights.
The Government's attempt to promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging walking and cycling has also failed. In 1997 the number of deliberate trips made by an individual on foot stood at an average of 292. That figure has fallen to 249.
The use of cycles has been in decline since the 1970s with only 2% of trips now taken by bicycle.
The authors said there was a huge potential to ease the pressure on roads and public transport by walking or cycling given that 70% of journeys in Britain were under five miles and 41% were under two miles.
Although the amount of Government subsidy in railways had risen from 34% of rail receipts in 1998 to 51% now, Shaw said that there was still under-investment in carriage capacity.
The Hatfield crash of 2000 that resulted in the deaths of four passengers and injured a further 70 had exposed serious underlying flaws with the rail system that had eaten into Government money,Shaw said. In the aftermath of the crash, Railtrack embarked on a programme of rail checks.
Shaw said: "There has not been enough investment into capacity. The investment has been into broken systems instead."
The bus system in most of Britain was still "poor" in comparison with the rest of Europe. The exception was in London where investment in bendy buses and the introduction of congestion charges had succeeded in increasing bus use.
Bus journeys in London had risen by 62% in London compared with just 1% in Scotland.
Promises to build 25 new tram systems in Britain's cities had not been fulfilled. By 2004 only two new schemes had opened in Nottingham and Newcastle.
The authors pointed out that Alistair Darling had vetoed schemes in England when he was transport secretary yet there was a new tram system being built in his constituency in Edinburgh.
Docherty said: "It is 10 years since the landmark White Paper 'A New Deal For Transport' which said that, for a long time we have been pursuing the wrong kinds of transport policies and that we should start to make them more sustainable – to use cars less, to walk more and to use the train more.
"Our detailed analysis of Labour's transport policies shows that they have been a big disappointment, at best a missed opportunity. It's a shame because the Government came in with the right intentions but have done very little to promote meaningful change.
"Westminster's policy has failed with politicians there unwilling to take the bold decisions that are needed in order to tackle things like climate change and congestion."
Labour's broken transport promises include:
1. UK traffic is up 15% despite Labour pledge to cut road use.
2. Promises to encourage walking and cycling have not been fulfilled.
3. Pledge to increase public transport use hit by lack of investment in carriage capacity.
4. Promise for 25 new tram systems not met. Only two new schemes opened.
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