Roads-focused policy fuels UK’s ‘car addiction’, campaigners say

Posted on October 9, 2022Comments Off on Roads-focused policy fuels UK’s ‘car addiction’, campaigners say

The government must stop building roads to satisfy growing “car addiction”, clean air campaigners have said, after three-quarters of transport projects announced by Liz Truss’ administration were road-related.

There are now 3.1m more private cars registered in Britain than ten years ago, an increase of 11%, with cities outside London seeing the largest increase in car ownership.

Manchester has seen the largest percentage increase in private car registrations over the last 10 years, with 38,000 more cars on the road now than in 2012, a 25% rise. There was a 19% increase in Glasgow over the decade and 18% in Nottingham, Liverpool and Leicester, according to the latest vehicle licensing statistics from the Department for Transport.

In Kwasi Kwarteng’s doomed mini-budget, 87 out of 117 (74%) transport infrastructure projects listed in his “growth plan 2022” related to road upgrades.

There are growing signs that some senior Conservatives want to move away from Boris Johnson’s public and active transport agenda to refocus on the car, with speculation looming that HS2 may never reach Manchester.

At the Tory party conference this week, Ben Houchen, the influential Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, called for an end to the “villainisation” of car drivers and suggested that within 20 years we may not need trains and buses because of driverless cars.

Speaking at a fringe event hosted by Transport for the North (TfN) – a body set up to advocate primarily for public transport investment in the north of England – Houchen launched an impassioned defence of cars.

“I am a huge believer, actually a huge supporter, of the car. The automatic default that we’re trying to get people out of cars … does perplex me. I don’t see why we should be pushing people out of cars, I don’t see why we should be trying to drive the narrative that trains or buses or public transport is the right way to go,” he said.

At a reception for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a thinktank started by George Osborne after he left government, the new transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, began her speech by raving about all the roads being upgraded in the growth plan.

“The big thing we want to do and get cracking before the next general election is to really rocket-boost those key arterial roads and some of the train projects that we can do at a greater pace,” she said, adding that “it is those key big changes to road infrastructure which change the dial for those regions and that’s what this prime minister’s vision is all about.”

In her speech at party conference, Truss laid into the Labour leader of Wales, Mark Drakeford, for “cancelling road-building projects and refusing to build the M4 relief road.” Roads came first in her list of building priorities: “We will build roads, rail, energy and broadband quicker,” she said.

Houchen said: “While public transport is important to a number of people because it’s their only form of transport to be able to get around, the vast majority of people do drive, particularly in the north of England outside of our major cities. And there shouldn’t be this villainisation of people driving cars.”

He suggested that within 20 years most people may have subscription access to driverless cars using clean technology – “and then what do you need public transport for? Because that’s, in effect, a similar version of trains and buses.”

The government’s growth plan also promises to bring in “reforms to accelerate roads delivery, including by consenting more through the Highways Act 1980 and by considering options for changing the Judicial Review system to avoid claims which cause unnecessary delays to delivery.”

Oliver Lord, UK head of the Clean Cities campaign, called on the government to change direction.

“This government needs a reality check. We’ve been trying to road-build our way out of car addiction for decades. If this government is serious about tackling the cost of living crisis, delivering growth and reducing emissions, then it would pump cash into our bus, rail and cycling industries,” he said.

“Instead, car use in England’s cities is growing and the government still wants to make road-building easier. Air pollution is a public health emergency and I fear the only growth we can expect from this budget is in the rate of childhood asthma and illnesses in our cities.”

Source link

Comments Off on Roads-focused policy fuels UK’s ‘car addiction’, campaigners say