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Britain is in a jam, or rather, many of them.Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott promised a ten year plan to "transform" Britain's crumbling transport infrastructure, but four years into the plan it seems to be a road to nowhere.

Britain is in a jam, or rather, many of them.Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott promised a ten year plan to "transform" Britain's crumbling transport infrastructure, but four years into the plan it seems to be a road to nowhere.

A 28 mile journey from Hampshire into Isleworth can easily take two and a half hours on a bad day - and there are many bad days.

Complaints about idiotic road restrictions, most of them imposed by our local and county councils, enthusiastically following the Government's anti-car line, flood into this paper every week. So much so that independent pro-motoring, anti red tape candidates are considering standing for local council seats, I am told.

Last week we carried a letter from a prominent Hart Conservative warning County Councillor John Stocks of the dangers of not listening to constituents who are against road blockages built in the spurious name of "safety."

Now traffic monitoring group Trafficmaster has issued its journey time index on gridlock Britain and it shows that real improvement schemes are in the slow lane.

With Red Ken's ridiculous road charging scheme about to be unleashed on those unfortunate enough to have to drive into London, roads policy is about to become the number one political topic.

The Conservatives were considering a number of detailed schemes for easing motorway bottlenecks when Mr. Prescott became Transport Secretary in 1997, yet after 15 months he had approved one, scrapped three and referred eleven to an interminable process of "study," involving panels of civil servants, consultants, anti-car interest groups and other time-wasters. After over four years, four of these "multi modal study groups" have yet to present their recommendations.

The Government has yet to decide if any of the schemes will go ahead. In the last financial year not a yard of new A road or motorway was built in Britain, although £41 billion was siphoned off from drivers' wallets via 55pence a litre fuel tax, vehicle duty and VAT.

In the last five years of the Conservative government an annual average of 321 lane mile improvements were started. In Labour's first five years this had slumped to 38 and last year the figure was eleven. So we know that, as it takes about four years for a road project to come to fruition, nothing is going to improve before 2007 even if Prescott and co suddenly swing into decisive action.

The last time Mr P did that was when he ordered up one of his Jags to give his wife a lift 300 yards along the front at Blackpool, to save her hairdo. Not that our deputy leader dislikes fast travel: he took Concorde to South Africa to lecture us all on environmental matters at the so-called Earth Summit.

From road schemes to robins: I have a little red-breasted friend who hops out to see me when I pop down to the bottom of the garden to dump compost in the bin.

Of course, it's not me he likes, but the fact that I find worms for him. He regards me as a sort of giant mole, I suspect.

The robin lands on my wheelbarrow or hops about at my feet. I have held worms in front of him, but he hasn't quite got round to taking them from my hand.

Our wildlife is wonderful to watch and now it is cold and icy the birds also need some help. Be generous with seeds and fat and don't forget warm fresh water - a major problem when the ground is frozen.

Look after them and they will still be around to delight you with their song in spring.

I just got news of an extra £1 million being supplied to support local cycling lanes. I suggest Hart Council gets in quick with a request for a lane through the woods from Fleet to the new road to Cove, where it could join the existing cycle lanes.

With a fairly small outlay, it could be possible for cyclists to travel on designated lanes from Fleet to Farnborough - and Aldershot also if some of the existing pathway was turned into a cycle lane. Few people walk there, after all.

It's no good exhorting people to get on their bikes unless you make it safe for us to do so - and I do not think the existing Fleet to Aldershot roads are safe for cyclists.

If the Conservatives think they are being radical with their tentative, rather pitiful bleats about cutting "some" Government expenditure by 20 per cent, they should read a discussion document I have just helped edit.

It proposes the abolition of income tax! Income tax, after all, was only brought in as a "temporary" measure... As Gordon Brown, the chancellor who is first class only at spending OUR money, keeps dipping his mitts into our pensions and pursuing every other form of tax robbery, he will drive all investment and entrepreneurship overseas.

I laugh when councillors talk about how their spending plans may be cut.What a joke. Hart Council whines that it is "broke"- a fantastic untruth. It is still wasting far, far too much of our money. Just think of a few recent Star stories, like the one about the Fleet lady who came home one day to find a line of useless-but expensive - wooden posts ringing her garden.

Hart has just sent me a document detailing how hordes of "tree inspectors" have wasted our money busybodying in people's back gardens. Broke? Give me a break!


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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