Motoring Getting Cheaper

08 September 2021

Do we have a joined-up Transport policy.

The government is seeking to move the country to using green transport through various measures including:

  • Supporting Active Travel (Walking and Cycling)
  • Revision to Bus Management
  • Support alternative fuelled vehicles notably electric cars
  • Calling for proposals to re-open closed Railway lines

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has written in his forward to the consultation on de-carbonising transport that:  "Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network."

The Reality

The RAC Foundation has monitored the changing cost of travel over the past 10years (See Graph attached below).  Compared with a cost of living increase of circa 30%, Bus Fares have increased by 65-70%, rail fares by circa 30%, and motoring by under 20%. 

Drivers already own 32 million cars - that's up 28% since 2001, during which time the population has only risen by 13%. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 44 million cars in the UK. 

Cars take up seven times the space of a bike but usually carry only up to five people. Often this number is much lower.  Congestion and traffic jams come down to one simple fact – Cars are space-inefficient.  To add to this congestion the RAC Foundation published a report that revealed cars are empty and parked 23 hours out of every 24 (Note - the average car is 28% bigger than it was in 1965). They're only used for an hour a day. And there aren't enough car parking spaces to go round.

Last year, the government announced a £2.8bn package to encourage drivers to switch to greener vehicles. This included a £1.3bn investment in charging infrastructure as well as discounts of up to £2,500 on low emission vehicles costing under £30,000.  This is in addition to the £27bn for new roads versus £6bn for walking and cycling over the term of this parliament.

Do Emission Free vehicles solve the problem?

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warns that, rather than improving air quality by lowering exhaust emissions, these incentives risk making highways far busier and even slower - as people buy so-called "zero-emission, guilt-free" vehicles.

The IPPR is concerned that unless the government takes active steps to encourage use of alternative transport modes as car ownership, with no action, will continue to increase due to a growing economy and increasing population.

The IPPR believe a failure to tackle car use will have negative effects on:

  • Health: Walking and cycling (when practical) are healthier than sitting in a car.
  • Resources: An ever-expanding car fleet drains raw materials and energy.
  • Urban space: Fewer cars would mean more trees, play space, and room for walkers and cyclists.
  • Congestion: Traffic jams damage the economy and lead to demand for more and bigger roads.
  • Inequality: Allowing current trends to continue will widen the social divide between those who own cars and those who don’t.

The Future of Travel

Steve Gooding from the RAC Foundation has been quoted as saying:

“The challenge for government is that we’re not just going to have to think about how we travel, but when, where and even whether we continue to travel in the ways that had become the norm pre-Covid. That means changing our lifestyles, which could be better for us all in the round but might not seem immediately attractive.”

He mentioned that autonomous vehicles provided a “tantalising” longer-term prospect of fewer people owning cars but more sharing them.  The Foundation consider this is a more viable prospect than a 24/7 rural bus or train service in some instances.

The RAC Foundation believe that the 300,000 new homes planned by the government each year must be designed and located such that they don't “bake in” car dependency.

The Transport Planning Society (TPS) has called for a halt to any new major road-building projects on the grounds that "If you build more roads, you get more traffic. When we build a new road, journeys get a bit faster because there's a little bit more capacity." But drivers then realise this road is faster and it fills up with more traffic - undermining any benefits of the original intervention,

Space Efficiency is Critical

Many Transport planners believe that the government should be investing far more in space-efficient transport modes - public transport, walking and cycling.

Electric vehicles should be viewed as secondary.  58% of UK car trips are less than five miles, there is huge potential to convert this to use other modes.  Most of our shorter trips take place in urban areas, so it's really in cities and towns we need to see significantly more spending on walking and cycling and public transport.  This shouldn’t exclude rural areas, where UK public transport cuts often mean driving is the only option.

Might we see?

With the COP26 conference shortly to take place, it will be interesting to see if the government brings foreward more initiatives  For example

  • Increase Fuel Tax to fund more sustainable modes of transport
  • A  rolling programme to electrify the rail network
  • Stronger planning regulations related to transport on new sites.
  • Support Rail and Bus operators to maintain services and encourage usage post Covid..

There is a lot to do to turn aspiration to reality.



Share this article

Related Articles

Help us make Guildford better

We want our town to be vibrant, attractive and liveable. We support development that brings a sense of place and enhances the best aspects of our town. If such aims can be embraced, we believe Guildford has the chance to lead the way in enabling sensitive and sustainable development.

Pressures for development are increasing. Planning rules are being eased. The Society’s commitment to standing up for Guildford is needed more than ever.

Support Us

Getting involved allows the society to continue its work.   We welcome new members, from every age and background.  Membership provides an opportunity for you to contribute to the continued health of the town and surrounding area, and to meet other people who care about Guildford.