JUNIOR TRANSPORT Minister Keith Hill last week vowed to speed up planning applications for new urban light rail and guided bus transport schemes.
Hill told MPs on the Commons transport select committee that he was well aware of the 'discontent' over delays. However, he fuelled concerns by saying proposed schemes in Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds and the Manchester Metrolink extension may not be approved until December 2000.
He was unable to tell MPs precisely how the Government planned to solve the backlog of applications but hinted that changes in the system for appraising schemes in local transport plans would be at the core.
Hill also confirmed that funding for future transport schemes could come from a 1% rise in fuel tax that may appear in this year's Budget. This could result in up to £210M revenue for local authority transport plans that would be given wholly to local transport and road improvements, he added.
When pressed by MPs over whether he thought congestion charging should be delayed until improved public transport systems were in place, Hill said that while this was the logical solution, it was now the responsibility of local authorities.