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My Department has started to review the regional transportation strategy and aims to issue a draft document for consultation in July. It is anticipated that the review will be completed by 2010 in order to help inform the next comprehensive spending review. As the review impacts on a number of Departments, I have circulated a paper to the Executive. I intend, if that paper is endorsed, to then make a statement to the Assembly.
I thank the Minister for providing the news that the review is under way. Can he give us any indication as to the likely balance of expenditure between roads and public transport? There are clearly needs for road improvements in many rural areas. However, in recent years we have seen much money spent on roads in greater Belfast, which has added to the commuter problem rather than diminishing it.
There is a need for road spend in rural areas, but there is also a need for strategic corridors connecting towns and cities, which is part of the major road spending programme that is under way. The Member will be aware that the majority of our public transport uses the roads; therefore, it is not a clear case of one versus the other. Spending on the roads improves public transport services. For example, the creation of quality bus corridors and park-and-ride facilities allows buses and other modes of public transport more space to move about in urban areas, which improves those services.
Having said that, I should say that, when the major routes are completed — work on most of them is either under way, or there are plans being advanced for their completion — the debate will shift towards the issue of the contribution to and the reduction of emissions. I have started that shift internally in the Department. The debate will then move on to the issue of greater investment in public transport.