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Railwatch 079 - April 1999

Railwatch - The choker on public transport

In Britain, Transport Minister John Reid has said that if cities want to introduce light rail they will have to raise the revenue from charging road users for the congestion they cause and by taxing car parking at work.

After agreeing £67million in council spending credits to the Nottingham scheme, he said: "We will not be in a position to support similar light rail schemes in this way for the foreseeable future."

Cities like Bristol and Leeds plan some form of congestion charging and light rail but it looks as if they will be along time coming.

London has to wait for its assembly and mayor before any plans can even be laid.

By contrast, the Germans got themselves organised in 1971. Part of the national petrol tax revenues fund urban public transport sytems.

Since 1992, the federal government pays up to 90% of the cost with regional and local government providing the rest.

In France, all French transport regions with more than 20,000 people have had the right to impose a tax to fund public transport. Often this involves a payroll tax on employers who are also allowed to pay half the cost of travel cards for the workers. In Britain the Treasury does its best to sabotage every such scheme.

In Switzerland, Austria and Italy, time saved by public transport users is an important factor in the cost-benefit analysis of projects. In Britain it is specifically excluded. Only car drivers' time has been deemed important!

Things are changing as slowly as a London bus trying to carve its way through a car-jammed street.

The Government has however just reissued Planning Policy Guidance notes 11 and 12 reminding planners that cars and lorries are not the only mode of transport. Many need the reminder!

PPG13 will be reissued in the summer. Let's hope for a clear message that we don't have to suffer traffic congestion and pollution too much longer.

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