Fleet News

AA hits out at Labour policy

THE AA has challenged the entire foundations of the Government's transport investment policy, claiming that money targeted at the railways would be better spent on the roads.

In a keynote speech, Sir Brian Shaw, chairman of the AA Motoring Policy Committee, questioned the value for money taxpayers will receive from the proposed spending on rail.

'In a revision of the 10-year transport plan spending some £68 billion - well over one-third of transport investment - will now be dedicated to rail. Yet rail accounts for just 7% of the total distance we travel,' he said.

'Much of that money, if it were used elsewhere on our roads and transport system, could give far higher returns in cutting congestion, improving the environment and saving lives.'

He described as an 'anomaly' the billions of pounds the Government is ploughing into rail safety when train accidents are 'thankfully rare', while 40,000 people are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads annually, 'often for want of cheap and simple measures,' such as 'emergency refuge areas'. The Government has pledged to trial the roadside refuge areas on the M42.

Shaw also took the Government to task for spending only one-fifth of the £38 billion raised annually in tax from road users on roads and local transport.

'What motorists receive in return for their money is rutted roads, potholes, broken signs, faded markings and cracked paving,' he said.

In response, Stephen Byers, secretary of state at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, said: 'Improving our road network and ensuring a fair deal for the motorist is one of the issues that I have to deal with.'

He added that he was a 'realist', acknowledging that people choose to use their cars because there is no viable alternative, especially after years of under-investment in the transport infrastructure.

'We need to ensure people have a genuine choice about how they travel,' said Byers.

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