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North road charges likely; Drivers could pay for using key routes.

Byline: William Green Political Editor

MOTORISTS could face charges on regional roads and motorways despite a lack of cash for vital regional upgrades, the Government yesterday signalled.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly confirmed pounds 6bn nationally to improve and make better use of England's motorways and key routes but failed to provide cash to upgrade the A1 Western Bypass or dual the A1 through Northumberland.

In a new report, Ms Kelly insisted congestion charging could have a substantial role in cutting traffic with major public transport investment.

The London congestion charge and a time-sensitive scheme in Stockholm, Sweden, were hailed as models that could be used elsewhere in the UK.

The report added that research now under way "should lead the way to developing better systems that could support urban schemes, possibly over a wider area than have been developed to date, as well as informing our thinking on managing motorway capacity".

The news comes after ministers approved a regional development plan stressing the need to consider introducing a future North East congestion charge, which could pay for infrastructure improvements.

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell said successive governments had failed to upgrade the A1, adding: "This Government is no better. I just wish someone would tell us why they will not dual it."

And better public transport must come before any road charge, said the Labour MP.

AA spokesman Paul Watters warned of sparse resources for road projects and claimed regional charging schemes could be introduced in the future.

Ms Kelly announced Tyne and Wear will receive pounds 470,500 to help combat rising congestion between now and 2010, although London is being handed pounds 2.1m.

"This Government better. I just wish someone would tell us why they will not dual it

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS 'ON TRACK'

TRANSPORT bosses have promised the region is on course to meet ambitious targets set out in the region's planning blueprint.

The North East of England plan, published on Tuesday, has effectively given leaders in Tyne and Wear the task of ensuring there is an attractive alternative to increased car use over the next decade.

A growth strategy put together by the Government and the North East Assembly has called for an improvement in public transport standards in order to alleviate increasingly congested roads.

As the Government prepares to announce its decision on a multi-million pound bid for Metro reinvigoration cash, transport bosses at Nexus have promised the region is already well on its way to meeting the targets. Directorgeneral Bernard Garner said: "Metro reaches 25% of Tyne and Wear's population, provides a train through Newcastle every three minutes and an annual season ticket for only pounds 425.

"Cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds would give anything for a network of similar reach, convenience and reliability.

"Let's not take Metro for granted when we talk about modern transport.

"Through our reinvigoration proposals we aim to keep it among the best railways in the UK.

"Buses serve three out of four people in the city region and most are also modern and good-quality, but we need to change the way the network is planned and delivered, working with bus companies and local councils."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2008
Words:528
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