» Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Road Pricing

Asked if the petition on the Prime Minister’s web site had any effects on the draft Local Transport Bill which would be published today, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the issue had been dealt with at the time. What the petition clearly revealed was the strength of feeling, but that strength of feeling was not a substitute for Government policy. If nothing was done, then congestion would just increase as a problem by a range of up to 25%. We had to have a policy. What the petition underlined was the need to bottom out the policy in terms of getting experience and that precisely was what the pilot schemes were about. The PMOS said that today was about much more than just the issue of road pricing; it was about having a diverse transport policy which reflected local conditions in local areas.

Asked if consultation exercises, such as with Trident, could have led to a shift in Government policy, the PMOS said in each area the consultation exercises lead to changes in the sense of being sensitised to public opinion, but equally in the end, Government had to make decisions. That was the difference between the journalists’ world and that of the PMOS. The journalists could comment whilst not making a decision, but in Government decisions had to be made.

Put to the PMOS that Government could change its mind, the PMOS said that then there would be consequences of changing one’s mind and in terms of transport, what that meant was something else that the public didn’t like, which was congestion. Therefore, it was not a question of a free hit, rather, there were consequences to the decisions.

Asked further about the congestion stats, and if nothing had changed as a result of the Downing Street petition, the PMOS told journalists that in terms of road pricing, the policy was as we had said at the time, which was that we would carry out pilot schemes. What that did not mean was that there was a commitment to go ahead, but rather that we would learn the lessons from those pilot schemes. The Future of Transport White Paper 2004 predicted increases in traffic levels across all roads in England above 2000 levels of 25% by 2010, 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2025. In the absence of further action, congestion could increase by 25%by 2015, and 80% of that congestion would be in urban areas.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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