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Byers quits as transport criticism grows


TRANSPORT SECRETARY Stephen Byers resigned on Tuesday just days after a damning report from the cross-party transport select committee condemned the government's transport policies .

The hard-hitting report called for wholesale changes to the government's 10 year transport plan and is understood to have been the final straw for Byers' ministerial career.

Pressure on the Transport Secretary had already been raised last week by damning criticism of his department from the government's own Commission for Integrated Transport, the Construction Industry Council and ex-cabinet minister Peter Mandleson (NCE 23 May).

Transport experts contacted by NCE said that the latest tirade by MPs had made Byers' position untenable, particularly after widespread condemnation of his actions following the Potters Bar rail crash.

However, support for Byers did come this week from rail industry figures who praised his decision to take Railtrack into administration.

Many, including Institution of Civil Engineers President Mark Whitby, also felt that further change and upheaval in the transport department will undermine delivery. 'What we wanted was continuity, ' said Whitby.

Byers resigned two days after publication of the MPs report that called for urgent action to stop transport projects slipping further behind schedule.

It called for the government to set year by year targets to show projects' progress as in the first two years of the plan many projects have slipped behind. This view received widespread support from industry.

It is rumoured that more road schemes will be introduced at the expense of its target for 10 congestion charging schemes.

The government rejected the select committee's criticisms as 'misunderstood' and said its review of the plan was expected in July.

'The plan is not a detailed scheme by scheme blueprint, but a strategic framework. The various delivery agencies are developing plans, milestones and targets, ' a statement said.

The report recommends that the government outlines:

INFOPLUS www. /transport

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