Transports of Delight

  1. No-one can escape the transport crisis.  Drivers are stuck in traffic jams; children breathe noxious fumes; pedestrians and cyclists are endangered by speeding traffic; buses are caught in congestion; and our railways are in chaos.  Years of Tory neglect led up to this, but Labour have also failed dramatically.  The situation is now far worse than it was in 1997.
  2. Wessex Regionalists maintain that it is necessary to limit the enormous damage caused by road transport, both freight and the personal motor car.  It is estimated that motorised transport in the UK pays less than a third of the cost it causes to the environment and society.  We acknowledge that the car is essential for much of rural Wessex, and have no wish to unfairly penalise those who are not yet served by adequate public transport, but the scale of car use must be actively reduced.  Unlike the present Government, we recognise that applying ‘sticks’ without first investing in ‘carrots’ is not the way forward.  We are committed to substantial public investment in alternatives to the car as a major priority.  Our transport policies can be funded by re-arranging the £180 billion ten-year transport programme which the Government announced in the summer of 2000, £59 billion of which is currently allocated for roads.  Spending money on roads will simply increase traffic.
  3. Vehicle excise duty will be abolished and incorporated into higher levels of fuel duty.  This would link motoring costs more closely to mileage.  Research shows that higher levels of fuel duty would create jobs, be more equitable and better for the environment.
  4. Wessex Regionalists seek the provision of a Wessex-oriented transport system to link our principal towns and cities without having to rely largely on routes directed towards London.  There needs to be special emphasis on providing a satisfactory system of public transport.  Our proposals for expanding (actually, re-instating) the rail network go far beyond what the London-based parties are willing to contemplate.
  5. Development of the rail network will be part of an integrated regional transport plan, ensuring that stations become first rate interchanges with other modes of travel.  There is plenty of scope for delivering an environmentally sound, integrated transport policy including improved rail services, with more freight on rail, and the increased transport of people and goods by sea.  Integration of timetables needs to be backed up by comprehensive through ticketing between bus and train services.  More environmentally-friendly methods of travel, such as walking, cycling and car sharing, must be encouraged.  Bus, coach and train operators must be required to make proper provision for carrying bicycles.  Cycle hire should be available at all staffed stations.  Safe walking and cycling routes to every school in the country would reduce term-time congestion by 30%.  Green transport plans for businesses, universities and hospitals could reduce car commuter trips by 25%.
  6. The break-up and privatisation of the National Bus Company in the late 1980’s was supposed to herald a new era of competition between locally owned and controlled bus operators.  It was said this would ensure that subsidies paid out by councils for socially necessary routes went into the local economy.  In little over a decade, these aims have been largely thwarted as the privatised companies have consolidated into national and international groups, their finances controlled by headquarters usually to be found in Scotland and the north of England.  We favour breaking-up these groups, restoring local control and ensuring that it is not lost again.  Local authorities in areas suffering heavy traffic congestion will have the option of providing free public transport networks, funded from local taxation.
  7. The development of a more decentralised and self-sufficient economy will reduce the need for goods to be transported over long distances by destructive heavy road vehicles, though action still needs to be taken to curb them now.  We also foresee a situation in which people would tend to live closer to their places of work than they do at present, and this would also limit the need to travel.  Moves to encourage people to work at home must be supported.
  8. Until all such measures have been undertaken and evaluated we see no case for new road construction.  In the long term, selective reduction or re-allocation of road space could have a role to play as part of a sustainable transport policy.
  9. Regional government will enable the geographical situation of Wessex – and hence the potential of maritime communications – to be appreciated more readily.  The new infrastructure of recent decades – such as the Severn Bridge and the Channel Tunnel – has tended to eclipse the traditional role of short sea shipping.  We see a continuing role for ferries – with growth potential in some areas where this would not harm the environment – and will resist moves to re-orientate our transport network towards the Channel Tunnel.
  10. Air traffic is the fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  Aviation in the UK enjoys tax exemptions and subsidies estimated at £6.3 billion annually.  It is largely exempt from regulations on noise and air pollution.  To curb the unsustainable growth in air traffic, these privileges must be withdrawn.  We do not rule out the expansion of airports in Wessex to meet demand arising from within the region – where this can be done without harming the local environment – but any expansion needs to be matched by reductions in capacity at the London airports.  Large areas of east Berkshire are exposed to noise from Heathrow and people have suffered enough.  There should be no further expansion of Heathrow.

A regionalist government in Wessex will:

  • seek the replacement of Railtrack PLC by a not-for-profit trust appointed by the devolved administrations in the various nations and regions of Britain and leasing its operational assets from them
  • expand the rail network, starting with a new strategic route from Bournemouth to Bristol making use of the dismantled Somerset & Dorset and Cheddar Valley lines; an alternative Exeter-Plymouth route via Okehampton to by-pass the Dawlish sea wall; and the re-instatement of local branches and intermediate stations wherever this would relieve peak hour road congestion; a link from Southampton and Portsmouth to the Channel Tunnel
  • make transfer from rail to bus ‘seamless’ through proper passenger interchanges
  • make bus companies franchises to avoid monopoly operators and make them accountable
  • review the many damaging road-building and road-widening schemes currently planned and encourage rail freight terminals
  • promote the development of short sea shipping
  • oppose further airport development in the London region.

 Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:

  • campaign for the diversion of funding from roads to public transport
  • support current proposals for upgrading the railway infrastructure, such as gauge enhancements and track re-doubling
  • campaign for the safeguarding of former rail trackbeds for eventual re-use
  • seek weight restrictions on all roads unsuitable for larger lorries.



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