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David Cameron: Flexible Funding for Greener Local Travel

Commenting on the publication of a policy paper on Greener Local Travel, Conservative Leader, David Cameron, said:

"One of the biggest frustrations for local people is getting around their towns and cities. Roads are over-congested. Public transport often unreliable and packed. And cycling provision sometimes non-existent.

We all know the feeling. What starts out as a simple journey ends in anger, exasperation and a complete wearing of the human spirit.

And right now, things only seem to be getting worse. There are six million more cars on the road than there were in 1997. That's the year John Prescott promised that cutting car use would be the measure of his time in office. The average speed of a journey in London is eleven miles per hour - that's the same as a century ago. And Britain is the only country in the developed world in which the average journey time to work is longer than 45 minutes.

It's absolutely clear that if we're serious about improving peoples' quality of life, we've got to be serious about improving local transport.

What's more, it's vital for the environment and our prosperity too. Road transport accounts for one quarter of our total carbon emissions. And traffic congestion will cost our economy £22 billion by 2025.

As so often, the best solutions come from local people. And Conservative councils are leading the way. Telford and Wrekin Borough Council has increased bus usage by 20 per cent since 2000 by redesigning bus routes and introducing measures to give buses traffic priority. As a result, the journey time between station and town centre was cut in half.

We should be encouraging more of this innovation - giving more power to local people to find the solutions that suit them and their needs best.

The problem today is that all we get from Labour is the same old top-down, centralised, one-size-fits all bureaucratic state interventionism. So they set up a 'Transport Innovation Fund', earmarking £200 million for local schemes. And then say Local Authorities will only get this money if they introduce road charging.

That's not innovation - it's conscription. It's telling people that Whitehall knows best and your views don't matter. What's more, without providing any alternatives to the car, this Government is pressing ahead with a national road charging scheme when everybody is already feeling the pinch in these tough economic times.

It shouldn't be like this. Real transport innovation means recognising two things. The first is that the car is a popular and important part of peoples' lives - and hammering drivers without providing an attractive alternative is doomed to failure. The second is that when it comes to providing that alternative, local authorities, in partnership with the people living locally, are the real sources of ingenuity. They know the area - and they know what will work best.

That's why we will free local authorities from what is in effect this National Congestion Charging Budget. Instead, with a Conservative Government, we will give this £200 million directly to Local Authorities and set them free to consult with local people and spend it on the green transport solutions that suit their communities. This could be more cycle lanes. It could be reliable bus travel. And yes, if they wish, it could be on road charging.

That's a solution fit for the post-bureaucratic age. Not Whitehall knows best. But people know best. Whatever local communities want, and need, with a Conservative Government, they will be allowed to get."

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