Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly urged the people of Britain to get on their bikes to cut traffic congestion, as she said the debate about road pricing must continue.

Speaking at Labour's annual conference, she said she had been criticised for failing to provide all the funding needed to pay for the refurbishment of New Street station. But she defended herself, saying she had a duty to the public to ensure taxpayers' money was well-spent.

She said: "If you are in Government you have to be really sure, if you are committing sums of money, that you are using that money wisely."

Ministers have previously said money for New Street is not ruled out, but it can only be provided if Birmingham City Council provides assurances that the development is needed and there is no cheaper way of doing it.

In July, Ms Kelly announced the Government had agreed to provide £128 million to improve capacity at Birmingham's New Street station. But the ambitious Birmingham Gateway proposal drawn up by the city council in partnership with a range of bodies including Network Rail will require around £350 million in public funding.

Ms Kelly said "real progress" was being made on improving Britain's transport system.

But she admitted: "That doesn't mean that over the past ten years we've always got everything right on transport."

She said: "To improve public health and tackle congestion, I will give greater priority to cycling, including more cycling training for children in school.

"I have no doubt that alongside investment in public transport, travel patterns will also have to change."

She continued: "So let us have the debate on road pricing, and as we do, I look to our towns and cities to take the lead in showing how better public transport and measures to reduce congestion can go hand in hand."

The seven West Midland metropolitan authorities are expected to bring forward proposals for road pricing early in the new year.

The councils have requested £4 billion from the Government's Transport Innovation Fund over a 30-year period to deliver better train, tram and bus services, with £1.7 billion up-front to pay for a five-year priority programme of urgent measures.

But the Department for Transport has insisted it will no consider the bid unless the local authorities submit firm proposals for road pricing.