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Will you like it?

Last February, NCE asked its readers what the Integrated Transport White Paper should contain. How does the real thing measure up to your wish list?

Priorities: NCE readers ranked train travel as the highest priority, followed by buses, light rail systems, cycling and the car.

John Prescott's White Paper differs significantly in emphasis. The bus - 'a racehorse, not a workhorse' - takes the lead, pushing rail into second place. Metro systems get short shrift, while Prescott's enthusiasm for cycling has been famously parodied in The Sun. As for the car...

Carrots: 'More affordable, accessible, safer, cleaner, regular, better funded public transport,' was NCE readers' number one priority. The rhetoric at least seems to suggest that Prescott agrees.

Many of the suggested ways of achieving public transport's Holy Grail are included in the White Paper (improved travel information, reduced fares for OAPs, through ticketing, etc). There is also likely to be a welcome for the White Paper's pledge for more cycle routes and bigger bike sheds.

However, the raft of fiscal measures suggested to encourage public transport use - from tax credits for companies who move goods by rail to incentives for car sharing, (thereby creating more room on the road for buses), seem largely to have been ignored.

Sticks: Increased parking charges - TICK; congestion charging - TICK; road tolling - TICK. All the big ideas proposed are taken up by the White Paper. The real issue is not what, but when (and where).

Pollution: Traffic fumes are the big evil as far civil engineers are concerned, and while the White Paper sets no targets for the reduction of pollution levels, Prescott has been at pains to suggest that the new Commission for Integrated Transport will be told to view this issue as one of its priorities.

Lifestyle: It is here perhaps that the White Paper will really disappoint engineers. There is little in the document which aims to reduce the need to travel in the first place - such as home working or developing residential, leisure and work areas in greater proximity. Other 'social engineering' proposals such as staggering the opening hours for schools, offices and factories or hitting the company car owner also appear to have been rejected, in the latter case at least until the next Budget.

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