Government approach to sorting out railways and relieving congestion needs rethink, says industry body
Will the UK get a decent transport system under the current government? The Construction Industry Council doesn't think so: Its new report states that the government's transport plans are both unrealistic and misleading.

The study, Integrated Transport and Land Use Planning, warns that there won't be enough funding for the government to deliver promises laid out in its 10-year transport plan. It accuses Blair's government of spending less on transport than the Conservatives did during the 1980s.

CIC is particularly scathing about plans for the railways. It states that too many competing priorities, such as speed, comfort, reliability and maintenance, will prevent the government from reaching its main target of boosting the number of rail passengers by 50% over its 10-year period.

More achievable targets for the railways should be set, the CIC argues, and there should be more partnering between the various transport bodies to ensure an integrated approach.

The CIC believes that central government should give local councils more power to make transport decisions in accordance with what local people want. But it also says that councils need to think more carefully about their transport plans. The report says: "Councils should invest for the long term and not fritter away money on short-term social schemes of little or no lasting value."

The report dismisses bicycle paths as making "no contribution towards reducing congestion or accidents" and says that the money could be better spent elsewhere. It is only slightly more positive about trams. "Modern buses given an unimpeded route are usually a far better alternative, being more flexible and accessible and much, much cheaper," says the report.

Better public transport alone won't improve congestion, according to the CIC. It believes that the DTRL's policy of providing extra road capacity only as a last resort will lead to more congestion. Instead it calls for extra road capacity and a faster system of approval for major new infrastructure projects.

Road tolls would provide some of the funding for more schemes, and would help to ease congestion, according to the report. But the CIC warns against unfair pricing and diverting traffic into areas so far unaffected by congestion.

The CIC believes that the government can reduce car travel by paying more attention to regional planning. By shaping the pattern of development and influencing the location, scale, density, design and mix of land uses the report says that the government can reduce the need for travel.

The government also needs to turn its attention to monitoring according to the CIC. It criticises the Commission for Integrated Transport for not being objective enough in its annual reports on the transport plan, and believes initiatives are not being properly monitored. "Unless meaningful targets are set across the board and progress is monitored and measured, the strategy can't be managed," warns the CIC.