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If there is no congestion in Shrewsbury, what could we learn from a congestion scheme there? However, that is not what the local council tells me; I am informed that there are problems with the through movement of traffic and congestion. We have told the councilwe have said this to all the TIF partnersthat the first thing that it needs to do is to produce a business case and to examine where the congestion is in its area. We are not interested in partners coming up with solutions yet, which is why it is ridiculous that people suggest that we have designed a scheme. We have told the partners not to design a scheme yet, but to examine their congestion problems. When they have done that analysis, we can move on to making a decision on the package of measures that might help and the way in which demand management could fit into that package. Only after that would we decide that
a partner had a scheme that would work, about which it could convince its local population, and from which we could learn something. The TIF money might then be made available.
I have been greatly impressed by Shropshires bid for funding. It has been given some pump-priming money to help it to carry out its work, although there is no commitment on either its or our part. The money is simply for the officer time necessary to produce the business case and carry out planning. We have asked the authority first to identify the nature of the congestion problem and, secondly, to develop a robust business case for Government support. I have not seen the business case yet, so I cannot comment on any specific proposals. The authoritys clear vision for Shrewsbury was set out in the initial discussions. I understand that the idea is to relieve the historical and attractive town centre of choking traffic, thus making it a more pleasant environment for tourists and shoppers. Better and more frequent buses, better park-and-ride facilities and better road routes for through traffic are likely to be part of the package.
On the face of it, that seems like an exciting prospect. There is the potential for a package of measures that could bring great benefits to people and businesses in Shrewsbury. If the county council decides to move ahead and make a bid to the fund, it will need a package approach that combines both transport improvements and a road pricing scheme. The proposal will need to be an effective solution to the problems that the area faces.
We are not interested in forcing areas to develop schemes. We want volunteers, not pressed men. As I have said many times, we have designed nothing and decided nothing. If we cannot convince local people, the 1.8 million people who signed the petition and everyone else in the country that such an approach is the best way forward for the country, it will not go ahead. However, given the facts and the modelling on the way in which congestion is building up, we have to do something more than we are already planning