Socialist Worker

It's jam today, jam tomorrow

Issue No. 1831

MILLIONS OF people will be brought face to face with the transport crisis under New Labour in the coming week. Going to visit friends and family over the Christmas period will be a nightmare for many.

Grinding traffic jams on motorways. Overpriced, unreliable and sometimes dangerous trains. And things are set to get worse. When New Labour came in it promised an end to the transport chaos that the Tories had presided over, In July 1998 deputy prime minister John Prescott unveiled a ten-year transport plan. It pledged cuts in car traffic and much more. One by one all the promises have been abandoned.

Transport secretary Alistair Darling last week announced the government would not meet its target for cutting car traffic. In fact, traffic would continue to rise, he admitted. It will rise still more with Darling's plan, also announced last week, to pump another £3 billion into new road building.

The answer to the already insane traffic on roads like the M1 and M6 is to improve public transport and push freight and passenger traffic off roads and onto rail.

But New Labour refuses to challenge the road haulage barons. Instead its new road programme is a major boost to these giant firms, as is the government giving the go-ahead to huge 44-tonne lorries. And the government is making public transport worse, not better.

Last week the official Strategic Rail Authority announced that it might cut funding for rail operators by up to 20 percent. The railways need more money - but it should not go to private firms. The answer is to renationalise the railways.

Simply cutting funding will result in up to 3,500 fewer trains a day, job losses and big rises in ticket prices. Saver tickets that working class people rely on will be first to go, as companies respond to the reduced space on trains by pricing out the poorest to make way for businessmen.

New Labour's transport commissioner David Begg wants to go the same way on the roads by introducing tolls. This would price ordinary people off the roads so the rich can speed on their way unhindered.

Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody is chair of the parliamentary transport committee and has been a critic of New Labour's transport policy. She summed up last week what millions who hoped Labour would sort out the transport crisis will feel: 'We started off in absolute chaos and it's got worse, which I would have thought was pretty impossible.'

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Sat 21 Dec 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1831
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