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Transport debate ignored

COMMISSION FOR Integrated Transport chairman Professor David Begg has criticised the Government for failing to understand its own integrated transport policies.

Begg told the House of Commons transport select committee last week that he would be targeting Government departments other than the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions.

Begg said: 'This is not just about holding the DETR to account. I'm not sure how aware other government departments are of how important the transport debate is. I often feel as if transport people are having the debate within themselves.'

The new Commission was set up to advise and monitor the Government's integrated transport plans. It agreed last Tuesday to publish one report every two months, to review progress of the policies and advise the Government on appropriate action.

But, under heavy questioning from MPs, Begg admitted he is already concerned that the Commission may not have the resources it needs.

Begg told the MPs: 'I'm not satisfied we have sufficient resources. If we cannot carry out the programme then maybe we have to cut. I think we can keep it up for three years. Where there is a will there's a way.'

The Commission has an annual budget of £1.3M and a staff of four civil servants from the DETR. It aims to publish the following:

Local transport plans, November 1999

Road traffic reduction November 1999 & January 2000

Lorry weights and rail freight, March 2000

Integration of transport, May 2000

Public subsidy for the bus industry, May 2000

First annual report, July 2000

Rural transport, November 2000

Green transport plans

Retail and leisure parking, March 2001

Longer term public expenditure priorities for integrated transport, May 2001

Second annual report, July 2001

Begg came under further criticism in his home town of Edinburgh this week.

A source close to the Scottish Parliament project said Begg's transport policies in the Scottish capital were piecemeal, slow to show results and all but invisible to locals. Although Begg had placed much store on bus priority routes in the city, they did not go where people needed them. Begg had simply used transport to 'talk himself up the New Labour ladder', claimed the source.

Secretary of Edinburgh's civic trust the Cockburn Association, Terry Levine, added that plans to introduce congestion charging would 'be about as popular as the council tax' - a significant political failure in Scotland. Levine urged a policy that was more popular and visible to the public. He also called for a more regional vision to integrate city centre transport with that in the suburbs and outlying areas.

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