Headlines: February 10th, 2006

The English regions are today accused of giving a massive snub to public transport needs after allocating almost three-quarters of their proposed budgets to roads and only 24 per cent to public transport schemes in their wish lists for Government funding for the next decade. The campaign group Transport 2000 highlights two regions – the East Midlands and the South East – which have put forward cases for spending 95 per cent of funding on roads.Transport 2000 says it is shocked at the roads bias and says the blame lies firmly with loose government guidance, which failed to prioritise public transport measures. The group’s accusation is based on advice to the government in Ten Year Regional Transport Plans submitted for the first time this year by regional government bodies.

Since the January 31st deadline for bids transport campaigners have been looking at the balance between roads and public transport schemes in the preferences put forward by the regions. Transport 2000 says there is remarkable variation with the East Midlands and South East opting to allocate only 4 to 5 per cent for public transport schemes the compared to the North West where the public transport figure is 43 per cent and the West Midlands and the South West where it is 39 and 35 per cent respectively.

The group claims that the guidance issued to the Regions failed to instruct them to achieve a balance or to look at wider sustainability issues. Funding for heavy rail projects was excluded altogether from the process.

Transport 2000 Public Transport Campaigner, Meera Rambissoon, said asking the regions for their priorities was a good idea in principle but without proper guidance they had been trying to make a cake without a recipe. “The whole thing has been something of a waste of time and we urge the Government to look very carefully at the quality of the advice that has come from the Regions. Clearly some Regions need to be ‘sent for retraining’ on the importance of public transport,” she added.