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European dream

Stop the transport cuts NCE is campaigning to underpin transport funding in the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review which sets budgets for the next three years. Support our campaign! To find out more visit the Stop the Cuts area of the NCE website

Will salvation of the UK's transport system come in the form of the Trans-European Transport Network?

As long ago as July 1996 the European Parliament vowed to improve transport links across Europe to bring closer geographic and economic unity.

To this end, the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN) was set up, identifying key roads, railways, waterways, ports and airports carrying the bulk of long distance traffic. Fourteen priority routes were identified to be completed by 2010.

Three of the missing links are in the UK, and two have yet to be built. Both have been identified by NCE's Stop the Transport Cuts campaign.

One is a high speed rail route from the Channel tunnel to the north west and Scotland. It was envisaged that the West Coast Main Line would provide this link. But with current plans to limit WCML speeds to 200km/h this may not count. The London to Scotland high speed rail line as proposed by NCE's campaign is more in keeping with EU aims.

The second gap in the UK's strategic transport network is a road link from the Anglian ports to the west coast ports of Holyhead and Stranraer. This breaks down to a series of projects, including the M6 Toll (built) but also including the 'Stop the Cuts' M74 and M6 upgrades near Glasgow and Carlisle.

The European Parliament is getting frustrated. While Britain is not alone in procrastinating over construction of TEN projects, much greater progress is being made on the continent.

But there is an outside chance this could change. After years of Westminster negativity towards TENs, transport minister Kim Howells is taking a more positive stance, says the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.

CECA met Howells last week to present its submission to this summer's revision of the 10 year transport plan, and conversation moved swiftly to TEN projects.

'We have often complained that the UK government does not have a very positive attitude towards TEN, ' says CECA economic advisor Jim Turner.

'But Kim Howells takes a very European attitude to the development of transport networks.'

Top 10 targets

Crossrail

M1 widening schemes

A406 London North Circular Road improvements

London to Scotland high speed rail

M74 extension

New Mersey Crossing

New Tyne Tunnel

Thameslink 2000

East London Line

A303 widening

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