Sticks thrown at drivers to fund high speed rail network

Under the Lib Dems, public transport would receive massive investment and drivers of polluting cars would suffer.
Under the Lib Dems, public transport would receive massive investment and drivers of polluting cars would suffer.

The Liberal Democrats today called for a £12 billion investment in the railways that could see passengers travel between London and Edinburgh on 170mph trains.

This was the "carrot" in plans that aim to ban petrol cars from the roads by 2040, as well as pricing drivers out of environmentally unfriendly 4x4s.

Transport spokesman Susan Kramer set out plans to raise £12 billion for a Future Transport Fund through extra charges on lorries and aviation.
The fund could increase rail capacity, allow the development of freight only lines and finally introduce a High Speed Rail network to the UK.

This could be funded by charging lorries per mile, with prices dependent on emissions, and levying a £10 Climate Change Charge against passengers on internal flights.

Addressing the Lib Dem conference, Ms Kramer said it was "genuine madness" anyone would consider flying between major UK cities.

Setting out her transport vision to delegates in Brighton, Ms Kramer argued transport was crucial to combating climate change. The sector is already responsible for a quarter of all emissions in the UK and is the only sector where this is expected to grow.

With two-thirds of transport emissions coming from private cars, the Lib Dems want drivers to switch to public transport or fuel efficient cars.

They are calling for road tax for the most polluting cars to rise to £2,000, offset by zero car tax for the greenest drivers.

Industry must also be encouraged to pursue new technologies, Ms Kramer said, but warned the Liberal Democrats must ensure biofuel production does not displace food crops in poor countries or exacerbate deforestation.

The party plans to oppose any new major road scheme and remains committed to a national road pricing scheme, despite fierce opposition from the public.

Liberal Democrats believe making the rail system attractive is crucial for getting drivers off the roads, but they are confident drivers will abandon their cars if journeys can be kept below 2.5 hours, making investment in high speed lines essential.

Ms Kramer also squared up to the aviation industry, arguing "at the moment, the prices charged for aviation do not even remotely reflect its economic or environment costs."

She called for an end to tax breaks and warning the Lib Dems would be pushing through the EU for duty on aviation fuel and VAT on airline tickets.

Delegates have already backed plans to scrap Air Passenger Duty - which does not cover freight or penalise airlines for running half empty planes - and replace it with a new charge based on pollution.

Ms Kramer, who was one of the few members of the political establishment to back the climate change protesters at Heathrow this summer, also said the Liberal Democrats would oppose runway expansion at any major airport.


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