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Spend to save

Stop the transport cuts

Key decisions on future transport spending are less than a month away. This week business groups stated that they want a £70bn increase over the next 10 years.

NEXT MONTH Chancellor Gordon Brown will decide where spending priorities for the next three years lie. This will lead directly to a revision of the 10 year transport plan by transport secretary Alistair Darling.

Ahead of this announcement, the message this week from business lobby group the CBI is clear - substandard infrastructure is letting down the whole country.

CBI director general Digby Jones argued that the government needs to increase spending significantly above that already committed in transport's 10 year plan. Otherwise it risks undermining the UK's economic development.

Jones called on the government to commit to at least £250bn of sustained public and private investment in UK transport over the next 10 years.

This is £70bn more than that promised in the original 10 year plan and will be needed between 2005 and 2015.

'We are not calling on the government to break the bank, ' said Jones. 'It would be a relatively small price to pay to deliver to the fourth largest economy in the world the transport system it deserves.

'In this globalised market place, competitiveness is everything and transport cannot be excused from the list, ' he added.

'The original 10 year plan was full of promise but four years and £50bn later there remain profound deficiencies in the UK transport system 'The plan has clearly stalled.

Business and the public alike are increasingly frustrated by the lack of improvement. The government cannot make any more mistakes nor permit more delay, ' he added.

CBI's report Transport spending and review of the 10 year plan calls for 'a significant stepchange in investment'. It urges the government to increase annual transport investment by an extra £2.7bn between 2005 and 2008 - the period covered by Brown's spending review.

Longer term, it calls for an additional £21bn between 2008 and 2011 and a further £100bn for 2011-2015, the final four years of the revised 10 year plan.

And the CBI stresses this level of investment is only the minimum required to make acceptable progress: 'Delivering a transport system to rival the best in Europe remains a dim prospect and would cost a great deal more.'

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