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Roadbuilding falls out of favour with Tories

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers this week signalled an uncertain future for road builders if the Conservatives win the next election by backing transport projects that cut car use.

Villiers has long been a champion of high speed rail links and said any new Conservative government would prioritise transport schemes that demonstrate a sustainable agenda.

“You will not be surprised that I will not be able to give you a detailed breakdown of any transport budget,” she told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

“But our priorities will be carbon emissions reductions. At the moment it is virtually impossible to have those schemes that will drive down carbon approved.

“We would reorganise the Department for Transport’s priorities.”

Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary

“We would reorganise the Department for Transport’s priorities. Schemes that reduce car use are not scored highly because such schemes will reduce the amount of fuel duty coming into the Exchequer. We would turn this around.”

In speech to the conference floor Villiers reiterated her promise to build a high speed rail line to the north, first made at last year’s conference.

“Don’t be fooled by Labour’s stumbling efforts to follow our lead, she said. “Their proposals don’t yet limp past Birmingham.

“We are the party that is committed to bringing high speed rail to the north of England. We will keep the promise we have made,” she said.

Crossrail scrutiny

But Villiers was less clear cut over Crossrail. She told one fringe meeting she that she “totally appreciated” the benefits of Crossrail but that its £15.9bn budget would be scrutinised.

“We have said that we will work hard to ensure value for money across government spending. There will be no exceptions to that,” she said.

Villiers also repeated the promise not to implement a national road pricing scheme, but she said individual schemes could work to fund particular projects.

“We will work hard to ensure value for money across government spending.”

Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary

“We do feel that congestion charging could be something we could use with lorries as they pay nothing for the damage they do to our roads. But this would not be a stalking horse for a national scheme.

“Local schemes could use future toll revenue to relieve local problems such as by building a new road or bridge, and we would look at this favourably,” she said.

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