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Labour woos voters with road and light rail

EIGHT TRUNK roads and three light rail schemes together worth over £1bn were announced by the Government in a pre-election flourish last week.

The road schemes have been added to the Highways Agency's 41-strong Targeted Programme of Improvements. They include the £107M Hindhead A3 improvement with its 1.7km tunnel and the £82M A46 Newark Widmerpool improvement.

The three light rail projects given the green light were in Leeds, Bristol and Hampshire.

But doubts were immediately expressed by transport experts as to whether the schemes - in particular road projects which must still clear planning hurdles - can be delivered within the time frame of the 10 year transport plan (NCE last week).

'I would take this announcement with a little pinch of salt, ' said Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief economist Jim Turner. 'They are not likely to start in the next four years.'

However, it is hoped that the three light rail schemes will be operating by 2006. As revealed in NCE (11 Jan 2000) Government will give nearly £400M towards all three lines of Leeds' £487M Supertram proposal, subject to approval for the use of some 'public open space'.

The Government is also expected to pay £160M towards Bristol's light rail, the cost of which has risen from £120M to £194M. This scheme is subject to the city council gaining parliamentary powers to go ahead.

Hampshire already has the necessary powers to build its £190M South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme for which the Government will now fund a 'significant proportion'.

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