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Norman Baker: "Price shoppers out of cars"
Shoppers should be priced out of their cars in city centres and encouraged to use public transport, according to a government minister.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said the move could be a way to encourage more people to use high streets and keep communities thriving.
The transport minister admitted that higher parking charges could “damage” town centres, but suggested that greater public transport usage can work.
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But Conservative MPs criticised Mr Baker adding they felt it would be “disastrous” for high streets up and down the country.
Speaking at an event at the Lib Dem conference, Mr Baker said: “I was in Southern Germany for a holiday a few years ago. I forget which town it was, but there were no cars in the centre at all.
“The place was heaving with people spending money – and every single shop was occupied.”
Mr Baker said more money should be given towards cycling and public transport, adding “filling towns and cities with cars can’t work”.
He said: “If we are doing everything to make sure towns are attractive for bikes and public transport, then it’s right to say cars should be dis-incentivised.”
In response, Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “Norman Baker’s desire to see people priced out of parking their cars is incredibly short-sighted and would be disastrous for high streets up and down the country at a time when we should be doing all we can to support local businesses.
“It is simply not possible or practical for everyone to use public transport to do their shopping.
“It is already incredibly expensive to park in Brighton and we should be looking to reduce this cost to help attract people to our local shops, bars and restaurants, not increase it still further.”
Elsewhere Mr Baker announced plans for a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis and allow passengers to “mix and match” each ticket type when planning a return journey.
Ministers hope the move could see an end to single-journey fares costing almost as much as return tickets.
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