Fleet News

Spellar urges fleets to join road debate

TRANSPORT Minister John Spellar has issued an open invitation to fleet decision-makers to play a more direct role in influencing future debate on how the country can tackle its growing congestion problems.

He said it was the Government's responsibility to facilitate travel, not stop it, and added that fleets were at the sharp end of the fight for road space and need to help develop ways to ease congestion.

Spellar praised the lengthy track record of the fleet industry in leading the way with new green initiatives, in particular the move to fuel efficient, low carbon dioxide emission cars and alternative fuels which have delivered financial benefits to corporate bottom lines and helped the environment.

'The fleet market is playing a key role in supporting the introduction of cleaner fuelled vehicles and that support is vital. Half the new cars on the road are fleet cars, so if you as a sector demand cleaner cars, manufacturers have to listen and respond,' he said.

Spellar insists Government plans to combat congestion will deliver similar benefits, improving fleet efficiency because drivers will waste less time in traffic jams and be able to perform their jobs more effectively, and wants to see greater fleet involvement in the UK transport debate.

'It is important you engage in the wider transport debate on our ability and need to travel. We want you to be engaged today and in the national debate on how we progress in the future,' he told delegates at the Fleet News Facing the Future conference.

Congestion charging is at the forefront of fleet decision-makers' minds, with its launch in the capital just months away, and Spellar confirmed that the Government was monitoring the development of charging schemes despite delegating the authority to introduce them to local authorities.

There is clearly no love lost between Spellar and Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, the pioneer of the most sophisticated congestion charging scheme in the country, although Spellar conceded that the Government has 'handed control over to the local authority and it is up to them how they wish to proceed.'

He added: 'But they do need to achieve public acceptance and compliance for the system to work. It is in no-one's interest for the scheme to dissolve in chaos.'

He also assured fleet decision-makers that research was being carried out to make sure fleets did not have to invest in technology to comply with several different charging systems in different UK cities.

Instead, while different cities may levy different levels of congestion charge, Spellar said the technology to implement the scheme must be compatible throughout the country.

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