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Give spare Network Rail cash to roads, says freight lobby

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RAIL CASH should be switched to roads budgets because Network Rail is underspending on the railway network, freight operators said on Tuesday.

The Freight Transport Association wants the £850M left over from this year's rail budget to get the Highways Agency's Targeted Programme of Improvements back on track.

Major schemes, such as the A303 Stonehenge tunnel and A3 Hindhead tunnel, have been delayed following Chancellor Gordon Brown's comprehensive spending review last July.

'Recent developments in government policy have made clear the government's utter indifference to the continued erosion of our effi ciency by rising road congestion, ' said John Allan, president of the Freight Transport Association and chief executive of logistics firm Exel.

'Delays in improving the motorway network are costing UK industry and consumers billions of pounds and billions of man hours each year, ' he said.

'If the efficiency savings made by Network Rail were invested in roads then it would double the roads budget for this year, ' he said.

Network Rail is heading for an underspend this year because it has delayed projects and cut costs (NCE 3 February).

The Rail Regulator says that any underspend at the end of the fi ve year period will return to the Treasury.

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