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Cheers and jeers for UK transport plans

odometerAs environmental groups decry today’s OK for a third runway at Heathrow airport, others are cheering accompanying decisions — including £250 million to encourage a shift to more ultra low-carbon vehicles — by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon.

“The extra £250 million of funding announced to develop low-carbon vehicles will spur the development of new technology in the automotive sector and will be vital to meeting our climate change targets,” said Neil Bentley, director of Business Environment for CBI. “(T)his is an opportunity for Britain to become a market leader in low-carbon vehicle technology.”

While low-carbon vehicles are doubtless a benefit in the global warming fight, the full package of today’s transport decisions are more of a mixed bag. The Heathrow expansion — set for completion in 2019 or 2020 — is expected to increase annual flights from 480,000 to 605,000, and the £6 billion announced for road capacity increases promises more traffic throughout the nation. (To paraphrase a famed movie line, “If you build it, they will come.”)

On the other hand, Hoon’s announcement also calls for clean planes only at Heathrow’s third runway, along with plans for a possible high-speed rail line between London and Scotland, possible electrification of the Great Western and Midland Mainline railway lines, and efforts to cut the UK’s aviation emissions and include international aviation in a new global pact on climate change.

From an environmental perspective, the conclusion appears to be, “Hoon giveth and Hoon taketh away.”

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