Union says no new roads from road pricing

01 December 2006

Although primarily a ‘business’ review, today's Eddington Review shows just how much concerns about transport have changed. When it was set up in 2005, the government was under pressure from the CBI for not building enough roads. Now the emphasis is on climate change and the need to cut pollution from transport - a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Transport – excluding aviation - accounts for 25% of all UK emissions.

The Review focusses on congestion as a threat to the economy. The CBI figures congestion costs British business £20bn a year and business has been increasingly vocal in demanding action. Predictably, Eddington’s main response is to call for road pricing.

Research shows that road-building does not solve congestion. A 2002 Government study of the M25 said delays for drivers would continue to increase even if it was widened to 14 lanes - because widened roads attract more development alongside them. Studies of the Newbury by-pass show traffic within Newbury has returned to pre-bypass levels. On the other hand, the London congestion charge has cut traffic and congestion whilst raising funding for alternatives. The Treasury is likely to use the Eddington Report to introduce road pricing.

ASLEF will support road pricing if revenues raised are ploughed back into the rail industry – but not if it is used to fund new roads.

The Report comes out against a new high speed rail line but in favour of upgrades to existing rail lines. It stresses Eddington’s belief in better links between and within cities – which could mean a review of light rail schemes which the government refused to back last year.

ASLEF obviously supports improving existing rail lines, expanding the railways and creating more trams. The governments says it agrees – but it goes along with increased rail fares and service cuts. We need major increases in rail capacity to offer an alternative to aviation – but feel there should also be consideration of extra track, station rebuilds and a new north-south freight line using disused rail lines.

The report offers considerable support for expanded airports, which seems to conflict with the government’s concern over pollution and its insistence that all transport should pay their full carbon costs. However, it should be remembered that Sir Rod Eddington is an Australian businessman perhaps best known as CEO of British Airways from 2000 to 2005.

Eddington also seems to complain about transport planning procedures and appears to favour cutting them – which ASLEF opposes completely.


(Thanks to Stephen Joseph and Transport 2000 for research material)

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