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Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century (Transport Policy Paper)

September 12, 2008 2:43 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference will today debate radical plans to transform Britain's transport system, as outlined in the policy paper Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century. The paper sets out the party's plans to provide serious investment in public transport without passing the cost on to passengers, while providing a fairer deal for motorists and encouraging freight to be carried by rail and water.

Policies set out in the paper include: Building a national rail network fit for the demands of modern Britain. This includes starting work on a high speed rail network that would slash journey times to the North of England and Scotland.

Creating viable alternatives to cars and reducing carbon emissions. Investment will be provided by a national road pricing scheme for all lorries and a domestic flight surcharge.

Phasing out Vehicle Excise Duty and replacing it with revenue-neutral motorway and trunk road pricing, while making it cheaper to drive in rural areas where there is no public transport alternative.

Increasing the power of local authorities to control bus services.

The full text of the motion is below.

Mover: Norman Baker MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport)

Summation: To be announced

The motion passed at Conference states:

Conference is committed to providing a transport system for the UK which meets the twin challenges of reducing the use of carbon and increasing capacity.

Conference believes the Liberal Democrats should be the champion of the passenger, through measures such as investing in public transport, providing access to information and creating a robust system of passenger representation.

Conference believes that the key principles which should guide transport policy are:

I. Choice: Citizens should be empowered by the transport network and the planning system to choose how often and by which modes they will travel, knowing what effect they will have on the environment.

II. Fairness: All individuals, whether in urban or rural areas, should have equality of opportunity to access transport options and should be charged for using the transport system according to the environmental damage caused by their choices.

III. Freedom: The transport system should enhance the ability for people to make the most of their lives, minimising negative impacts such as lack of access, pollution, and danger to personal safety.

IV. Responsibility: Transport must contribute positively to the UK, allowing all regions to become low-carbon, economically competitive, sustainable communities and contributing to Britain becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. Working together, the nations and regions of the UK can improve vital transport connections across the country.

V. Quality: The transport experience should be comfortable, efficient, reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable.

Conference therefore endorses Policy Paper 85, Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century, as a statement of the party's key policies for creating a vision for a modern, viable and accessible transport system. Conference particularly welcomes:

1. Proposals to build a national rail network fit for the demands of modern Britain, including:

a) Commencing a priority programme for high speed rail immediately, to be rolled out over approximately 15 years, increasing the capacity and capabilities in England, Scotland and Wales of the UK rail network.

b) Committing to full electrification of the network by 2050.

c) Establishing rolling franchises for train operators with regular performance and passenger satisfaction targets, thereby encouraging investment in the rail network and improving standards.

d) Introducing a rolling programme of rail expansion schemes in local areas including opening new lines.

2. Proposals to create a fair and sustainable deal for motorists, including:

a) Introducing revenue-neutral motorway and trunk road pricing within ten years by:

i) In the first parliament creating viable alternatives to cars and reducing carbon emissions by investing in public transport. This investment would be funded through a national road pricing scheme for lorries (including foreign lorries) and a domestic surcharge to Aviation Duty (excluding lifeline flights). As an interim measure, more steeply graduated Vehicle Excise Duty would be introduced for new cars in order to encourage environmental efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions.

ii) In the second phase, reducing fuel duty and abolishing VED in order to introduce road pricing on motorways and trunk roads for all vehicles. This would be introduced across the UK after discussions with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

b) Increasing the graduation of the proposed 'showroom' tax on the purchase of new cars, reducing the cost of low-emission vehicles (bands A and B) by increasing the tax on the highest bands (bands F and G). Under our 'green tax switch' proposals, any additional revenue raised will be used to reduce taxes on income.

c) Creating an independent car parking regulator, protecting motorists through national standards on issues such as appeals procedures and safety.

d) Working with the EU to introduce mandatory average vehicle emissions targets and supporting UK research and development into low-carbon technologies.

3. Proposals to create a sustainable market for aviation, including:

a) Increasing Aviation Duty on domestic flights, excluding lifeline flights.

b) Including aviation in the UK and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emissions inventories, and ensuring that the UK emissions target in the Climate Change Bill includes aviation and shipping.

4. Proposals to create a viable strategic vision for the UK's future transport system, including:

a) Setting up a Future Transport Fund to provide an investment stream for improvements to the public transport system. The Fund would invest in the UK-wide high speed rail network and also provide funding for the nations and regions of the UK to direct to their public transport priorities. The investment stream from the fund would be allocated in agreement with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, reflecting the sources of income for the fund.

b) Substantially amending transport planning criteria to more accurately reflect the impact of different transport options on the environment and society.

c) Creating a Department for the Environment, Energy and Transport to enhance policy coordination.

5. Proposals to support local communities and localised transport, including:

a) Enhancing the powers of Integrated Transport Authorities and local authorities to control local bus matters.

b) Empowering local communities to find innovative solutions to their transport problems, including removing unnecessarily restrictive regulation and providing funding streams for community transport projects.

c) Ensuring all major public service changes take into account accessibility by transport as part of the planning process.

d) Introducing a Rural Transport Access Fund to support innovation in all modes of local transport.

e) Introducing a cycling 'Gold Standard' award for rail and bus stations that meet acceptable facility standards.

f) Using the planning system to reduce the need to travel, designing in low-travel, low carbon living to all new developments.

g) Ensuring that volunteer drivers are not disadvantaged by Treasury regulations concerning the mileage they can charge before tax.

6. Proposals to encourage more sustainable methods of moving freight, including:

a) Ensuring good rail paths on key strategic freight corridors.

b) Facilitating the maximum use of inland and coastal waterways, including reinvigorating the Waterborne Freight Facilities Grant.

c) Encouraging research and development into low-carbon technologies for freight vehicles.