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Labour's new trunk-roads policy for England: an emerging pragmatic multimodalism?

  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


In 1998 the UK government introduced a new, integrated transport policy signalling a move away from the principles of 'predict and provide' towards 'new realism'. Labour's approach involved promoting a reduction in car use through (among other things) seeking to improve public transport provision and, in line with the trend which had begun in 1994, scaling down the national trunk-road building programme. But despite claiming that building new roads to resolve traffic problems would generally be a measure of the last resort, Labour's most recent statement of transport policy, Transport 2010: The 10-Year Plan , makes provisions for a large programme of trunk-road construction against a background of continued traffic growth. In this paper we compare the scale of trunk-road completions achieved by the generally pro-road Conservative governments of 1979 - 97 against those anticipated in Labour's 2000 - 10 plans. We suggest that the annual level of trunk-road completions in England over the next decade will in fact be little different from that achieved by the Conservatives. At a broader scale, we identify the emergence of a new paradigm in transport policy which we call 'pragmatic multimodalism'.

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