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The return of the car?

A story in the London Evening Standard last week revealed that anybody taking their dog on the Underground system could be liable to prosecution under animal cruelty legislation. The heat wave had combined with the Tube's inadequate ventilation system to produce temperatures well over the legal limit for transporting animals.

But it is not only Tube passengers who are getting hot under the collar. Polls suggest that transport is the one area in which the country as a whole believes the Government is getting it wrong.

With the Labour administration still displaying relatively few weak spots, the opposition has seized on the subject with the fervour of a tabloid editor offered a clutch of photos from Posh and Becks' wedding.

Concluding that an all or nothing approach worked well during the Euro election campaign, the Conservatives have decided to place the car at the centre of their new transport policy - there is virtually no talk of integration in their 'fair deal for the motorist'. It is is a far cry from the more balanced approach adopted in their 1996 Transport green paper.

The Tories obviously believe they have hit on a subject with the same emotive political pull for voters as the single currency. But are they right? Does the dissatisfaction with Labour transport policy arise mainly from car drivers feeling persecuted or a more general impatience that the Government has not yet managed to turn words into action on transport integration and improvement?

Whatever the answer, and we must hope it's the second, the Government must realise that with every passing day - and the jams, hold-ups, overcrowding and accidents they bring - the debate will become more polarised between pro-car and anti-car lines and very little will get done as a result. This would be a tragedy - a wasting of the best opportunity to overhaul the transport network in half a century.

Write to your MP, explain that a complex subject like transport provision should have a cross party approach (which it effectively did before the election) and that civil engineers want both action and a balanced approach.

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