Transport minister Norman Baker rules out tolls on Norfolk roads at launch of community transport association in Norwich

Transport minister Norman Baker ruled out tolling Norfolk's roads and offered some support for the county's bus fare campaign today.

Responding to prime minister David Cameron's suggestion that private companies might step in to build and maintain roads, recouping their investment through tolls, Mr Baker told the EDP that drivers would not be charged on roads such as the A11 and A47.

He also denied the county was getting a raw deal with funding for infrastructure.

Speaking at the launch of the Norfolk Community Transport Association at the Open venue in Norwich, he said: 'I'm not sure it [Norfolk] gets a raw deal.

'We're dualling the A11 – quite a lot of money is going into the area in terms of transport.

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'I'm being lobbied heavily by Norman Lamb and Simon Wright.'

He also gave a measure of support to Norfolk's Fair Fares campaign.

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Mr Baker said he had written to the Department for Communities and Local Government, to make the case that had been put to him by Norfolk County Council.

The county council is fighting to get more money to plug a funding gap caused by supporting concessionary bus fares.

The council paid �4.5m this year, a figure which is set to rise to �5.3m next year, to fill the funding hole.

County council leader Derrick Murphy said: 'I think there is a real commitment by the government to make this a fair and equitable scheme.'

Mr Baker praised Norfolk at the community transport association's launch at the Open in Bank Plain.

He described the work of Norfolk's 60 community transport schemes as 'cutting edge'.

'Community transport is delivering in Norfolk in particular,' he said, adding that he was keen to see the county's success copied in the rest of the country.

'It is very important we have access and we don't have communities who are shorn off and isolated,' he said.

The social enterprise brings together Norfolk's voluntary and community transport schemes to share expertise.

But Mr Baker said community transport was an addition rather than a substitute for public buses.

He also revealed that Norfolk would find out very soon if its bid to become a better bus area and get more money for services had been successful.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright called on Mr Baker to back the bid.

He said: 'I have raised the county's better bus area fund application with the minister before, and I hope that during his visit today he was further convinced of the merits of investing in Norwich.'

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