TRANSPORT NEWS: MPs raise fears of surge in demand for rail travel

Measures to cope with a surge in rail travel if national road user charging is introduced must be part of the government's revised transport strategy, according to a report published this week.

The study, commissioned by the all-party parliamentary rail group, predicts that a reduction in traffic of only five per cent due to road pricing could lead to a doubling in demand for public transport.

It argues that the role of public transport within the UK's overall transport strategy will be much greater than was assumed when the ten-year plan was launched in 2000 and says that more certainty about road user charging would attract private investment on the railways.

"The effect of road user charging has been underestimated in transport planning," said Phil Goodwin, professor of transport policy at University College London and author of the report.

The report calls for serious investigation of the effects of road user charging on public transport demand, as well as a longer term transport strategy based around demand management scenarios on roads.

The group's joint chairman, Lawrie Quinn, said: "With some reshaping, a ten-year and longer planning framework remains an essential tool of public policy."

Steve Hounsham of Transport 2000 said that road user charging would displace people onto public transport. "With the railways, we need to keep a grip on costs, which have been spiralling out of all proportion," he said.

What Future for Rail in the Ten- Year Plan for Transport? can be viewed via

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