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Transport policy and investment

Letter from Westminster - 2 August 2004

Sitting in a queue of traffic isn't good at the best of times, but on a hot summer's day it can be intolerable. Crowded trains aren't much fun either.

To an extent, we're victims of our own success, as the longest period of sustained economic growth for 200 years is a major cause of the continuing pressure on our transport network. Individuals' choices also contribute, so we all need to think very carefully about how we travel around our city. But it's also clear that successive governments, Conservative and Labour, have failed to spend enough on a consistent basis to maintain transport infrastructure.

Problems that have grown up over many decades will not be overcome quickly, but we are making progress. Where necessary, we are increasing road capacity and improving junctions to keep traffic moving and make our roads safer. Bus reliability is being addressed through priority measures - like Bristol South's Showcase 76/77 Route - and the railways are being overhauled, with 850 miles of track being replaced this year.

However, there is a lot more to do. Without sustained and increased investment nothing can be achieved, so Labour is boosting the amount of money going into transport by about 50%. Substantially more is going towards solving Bristol's transport problems than when we came to power. The Tories, on the other hand, are committed to cuts equivalent to the amount spent on concessionary bus travel for pensioners and disabled people. As long as this remains the case, whatever they say about transport will lack credibility.

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