READING'S chances of winning its £300m bid to overhaul transport in the town got even slimmer after senior Labour and Tory MPs called it a "political impossibility".

Last month West Berkshire pulled out of the Reading-led Transport Innovation Fund (Tif) bid and Wokingham Borough Council reiterated its opposition to congestion charging, and now the parliamentary Transport Select Committee, chaired by Labour's Louise Ellman, has joined the Tories in demanding the Government rethinks the whole scheme.

The Tif was launched in 2004 to give towns and cities a shot at masses of Government cash for overhauls of bus, train and road networks - but controversially bids must include 'demand management', usually congestion charging, so no money has ever been awarded through the bidding process.

The Transport Select Committee's report released last week said: "Congestion charging proposals have not proved popular with the public, even when packaged with promises of substantial investment in public transport.

"The Government needs to reconsider its approach to the Tif."

Manchester, Edinburgh, Shrewsbury, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Durham and the West Midlands have all abandoned or heavily modified their Tif plans after public anger.

Only Reading, Leeds and some Bristol district councils are still interested, according to the report.

The Tif is also being raided to pay for the Government's entire contribution to Crossrail, it was revealed this week following Tory questions in Parliament, which could leave even less money available for Reading's bid.

But Reading's Tory transport spokesman, Cllr Richard Willis, said for now Tif remains the best option.

He said: "I don't support congestion charging but I recognise the need for massive up-front investment in cycling, bus services, fare reductions, park and ride schemes, mass rapid transit schemes, a third Thames bridge and so on.

"It's only if those things don't cut congestion that we'd need to consider congestion charging, far in the future."

Borough transport leader Cllr Tony Page (pictured) added: "I'm confident we can cut congestion without needing to consider charging, but you can't expect a Government of whatever colour to offer such massive amounts of money without expecting something in return."

Hampshire and Oxfordshire county councils are also involved in the bid, which will include schemes to help ease congestion on roads within their boundaries. But as reported in the Chronicle earlier this year, residents in the district of South Oxfordshire remain resolutely opposed to a third Thames bridge especially.

Reading's bid should be in later this year.

To read the full Transport Select Committee report, visit: