5 May 2005

In the week of the general election, secretary of state for transport Alistair Darling has admitted that cars are ‘a vital part of the transport system and essential to many people’. In an exclusive interview with Autocar he defended the government’s position on speed cameras, which he says are ‘playing a key role’ in cutting road deaths. He also claimed that ‘Labour is sensitive to current fuel prices,’ having ‘held down fuel duty levels at the last three opportunities’.

On the subject of national road charging, Darling said: ‘We need to examine whether we can use new technology to make more efficient use of our roads, including examining the potential for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation towards a national system of road pricing,' (right).

‘Such a system is some way off yet,’ he continued, ‘but studies show it could halve congestion.’ However, the government transport minister admitted that such a system would be ‘a big change’ and that Labour would ‘seek political consensus’ before bringing it about.

His comments and policies are part of our three-party political review, where they are opposed by those of Conservative shadow environment and transport secretary Tim Yeo and Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary John Thurso. In it, all three polititians set out their parties stances on speed enforcement, fuel and road taxation levels and road pricing, and paint a picture of what drivers’ lives would be like under their legislature. It’s essential reading if you’re a committed driver and about to cast your vote.

Transport is higher than ever on this year’s election agenda. Last week, hauliers demonstrated their anger at current fuel prices by forming picket lines outside oil refineries in Grangemouth, Scotland and Stanlow, Cheshire, and drivers aggrieved by the government’s policy on speed cameras disrupted traffic on both carriageways of the M4 during a ‘go-slow’ protest on Saturday morning.

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