POLITICS: Road Pricing First, Then More Funding

The Birmingham Post (England), September 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

POLITICS: Road Pricing First, Then More Funding


Byline: Political Editor By Jonathan Walker

The West Midlands must agree to introduce road pricing if it wants significant Government funding to improve public transport, Ministers have warned.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said agreeing to congestion charges was "part of the price" the region must pay.

Local authorities have identified pounds 3 billion of transport improvements which they say the region urgently needs, including the refurbishment of New Street station.

Dr Ladyman was speaking at a fringe meeting during Labour's annual conference in Manchester, also attended by Trade Secretary Alistair Darling.

Business and political leaders warned the Ministers that delays putting transport improvements into place were harming the region's progress.

The event, hosted by Black Country Chamber of Commerce, included the launch of a new consultation document called Towards a West Midlands Economic Strategy.

The event was attended by 20 West Midland MPs, including Ministers such as Jacqui Smith (Lab Redditch), the Chief Whip, and Ian Pearson (Lab Dudley South), the Environment Minister.

Dr Ladyman said the West Midlands, through the local authorities, Black Country Consortium and other bodies, had identified almost pounds 3 billion of transport improvements.

But for the region to get even part of that cash, he warned, "road pricing will be part of the price of the West Midlands programme. We can no longer simply build our way out of trouble. We must develop new techniques to make better use of our highway system."

Dr Ladyman was challenged by Tim Sunter, a former Dudley Council leader and now chief executive of Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership, to say how the Government could maintain its credibility on transport and regeneration without firm action. …

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