Memorandum by The Association of British
Drivers (IT 136)
THE WHITE PAPERPROVIDING OR PREVENTING
Far from being the engine of choice that it
claims to be, the Integrated Transport White Paper will simply
push up taxes on drivers with the aim of forcing them onto inadequate
trains and buses. It completely fails to recognise the importance
of the car to our economy, our freedom and our quality of life.
It tries to "integrate" various forms of transport whilst
excluding the one which most people find the most efficient most
of the time. In short, it fails to properly analyse the problem,
relies on weak thinking and trendy "solutions" to distorted
or imaginary problems.
The extra taxes proposed by the ITP will hit
the elderly, the disabled and the poor who are unable to afford
the high prices or tolerate the inconvenience and discomfort of
public transport. This is far from an equitable solution to the
UK's transport needsfor the ABD it is no solution at all.
First, it is vital to remind ourselves that
transport is the lifeblood of the economy. Development has always
followed transport infrastructure, starting with the great sea
and river ports which were the centre of activity in our country
for centuries. That prosperity only spread inland with the advent
of the eighteenth century canal system, and really took off when
the rail and tram network brought more rapid access to places
where canal construction was impossible, allowing the movement
of goods necessary for centralised production.
But development in the last 30 years has been
largely based around the assumption of car use and the road network.
This is described as "car dependency" by anti-car campaigners,
but is in reality the third great leap in prosperity that has
been made possible by successive revolutions in transport.
Whichever view is subscribed to, the fact remains
that much of our modern infrastructure has developed without being
served by a remotely adequate public transport system. To return
to public transport dependency for such an economy would involve
our cities being entirely replanned at huge expense around vast
new mass transit systems, a return to the decline and dereliction
of the rural economy and would probably be impossible without
displacing vast quantities of property built on former railway
land. Such an undertaking would make the channel tunnel rail link
difficulties look like a tea party.
Much of modern life involves the kind of multi
purpose journey that only the car can deliver in an acceptable
time frame. The car is thus a key enabler for improving our quality
So most people have little choice about car
use. Viewed in this context, the White Paper and existing fuel
tax rises seem just a cynical attempt to raise money from a politically
A return to dependency on mass transit systems
is not only impossible and uneconomic, it is not even desirable.
Public transport is simply not the most efficient means of transport
for the diverse journeys found in a modern economyit is
incapable of handling the multiplicity, flexibility, and orbital/radial
nature of journeys which may be unpredictable, time critical and
multi purpose. To even attempt it would mean public transport
running at overall utilisation rates which rendered it less energy
efficient and more polluting than carsat 20 per cent full,
buses and trains are no better than single occupancy cars on these
measures, and many public transport networks struggle to exceed
this level overall even when they cherry pick the most efficientfrom
their point of viewservices.
Travel into town centres is one area where public
transport can and should be a preferred alternative for manysingle
purpose journeys with large numbers of people are the natural
habitat of mass transit systems; if they can't compete here they
can't compete anywhere. Vast numbers travel into London on the
train, which for a single purpose radial journey is still by far
the best way. As soon as any orbital component comes in to the
equation, though, the train rapidly becomes hopeless as one has
to go in, change stations and go out again.
But public transport has failed too often to
offer a credible choicelack of investment has left it crowded,
unreliable, and expensive. Too often it has failed to compete
positively for custom due to a "public service" take-it-or-leave-it
mentality in place of customer focusand people have left
it, they have been forced to.
It is deeply worrying that the mass transit
companies involved with the pressure groups in drafting Mr Prescott's
White Paper have connived to produce a negative document aimed
at taxing, obstructing and generally forcing motorists onto their
existing outdated infrastructure. The only positive offerings
are vague promises of the co-ordination between various transport
companies that should be routine if they are trying to offer a
How much better it would have been if they had
given some thought to how to integrate the car into their networks
rather than excluding itthen people might have had an easier
time actually accessing public transport for the city journeys
which are the only ones where it can compete with the freedom,
flexibility and efficiency provided by the car.
As it is, the average driver already pays more
than £1,200 in car taxes with the Treasury set to take around
£31 billion from drivers in 1998-99, whilst the roads are
falling apart and rail fares are double the international average.
If parking taxes and road tolls are imposed, the burden on drivers
will be even greater, and no-one will believe that this extra
money will go on transportthe motorist has been lied to
too often in the pastremember "Road Fund Tax",
parking charges to pay for car parks and tolls to pay for bridgesall
have simply become revenue streams.
Despite impressions given to the contrary by
proponents of the ITP, most roads in Britain are free of congestion
most of the time. Where congestion does happen, it is usually
related to peak time commuting, often into city centres and on
certain motorway routes, and it has mostly been caused by inadequate
government policies over the years.
On motorways, congestion is made much worse
by the mixing of long distance and commuter traffic around major
conurbations, combined with the absence of good alternative routes
causing the sucking in of traffic which completes three sides
of a square.
But the real reason is the growth in commutingthere
has been a 50 per cent increase in commuting distances in 20 years.
Some of this is due to greater specialisation in the job market
leading to more distant opportunities and more frequent job moves.
Some is brought about by both partners working in opposite directions
and living in the middle. Some is from choice. But much is due
to poor planning of housing and industrial/office development.
This has been typical recently with the row about the proportion
of new homes being built in the countryside, but it has been going
on for yearsall too often a housing estate is built at
one end of a new road and an industrial estate at the otherand
then everyone wonders why the road fills up with traffic It is
too often impossible to find suitable accommodation close to a
place of work.
The answer is to balance the jobs and the housing
more effectively in suburban areas, giving people the opportunity
to live within the short distance most of them crave, and to reduce
the outrageous cost and hassle of moving house. The government
are making encouraging noises about the hassle, but have made
the cost worse by increasing stamp dutymaking long distance
commuting more attractive.
Even with increased commuting, the traffic growth
forecasts constitute ridiculous scaremongering. The current maximum
forecast is for 76 per cent growth. This would require every person
in Britain over 17 to have a licence, own a car and do the average
mileage currently achieved by today's drivers. Since most of the
future licence holder growth will be amongst female pensioners,
this scenario is, to say the least, unlikely. How the previous
forecast of 149 per cent growth, on which the change of policy
against the car was based, could even be entertained is difficult
None of this takes account of the huge impact
that information technology will have on transport. If canals,
railways and cars constituted the three great transport revolutions,
it is probable that teleworking will be the fourth. In fact, the
Henley Centre predicted that new technology would reduce the number
of car journeys by 28 per cent by 2010almost exactly cancelling
out the probable mid point growth forecast based on current trends.
It is therefore probable that the major road traffic increases
are behind us, not ahead, which is a good job, because we are
shackled by an inadequate, badly maintained and archaic road system.
The issue of air quality and car exhaust emissions
is also used as a stick to beat the motorist.
We are told by the anti car lobby that "Government
figures suggest that up to 24,000 people may
die up to three weeks earlier as a result of short-term
air pollution incidents." (Italics ours). Of course, they
know full well that, when this gets to the press, the "suggestion"
becomes "fact" and the headlines scream that "Cars
Kill Thousands". Propaganda at work.
The ABD has obtained a copy of the Committee
of the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants report from which this
information is quoted; What this report actually says is very
different from what is implied by green campaigners. In fact,
it gives the petrol driven car a clean bill of health:
The report writers say they have
assumed without any proof that air quality has caused a small
increase in mortality amongst already sick and dying people. The
timing of these deaths could equally be linked to extremes of
temperature which tend to accompany episodes of poorer air quality.
Crucially, this tentative and
purely statistical link was made with levels of Particulates,
Sulphur Dioxide and Ozone but NOT with Nitrogen Oxides and Carbon
1. Sulphur Dioxide is an industrial pollutant,
with only 3 per cent coming from transport.
2. Ozone is not produced by exhausts but
by complex reactions in the atmosphere. There is no positive relationship
between levels of Ozone and levels of car pollutants.
3. Particulates come mainly form industry,
but the main town centre source is large diesel engines in the
very buses that the ITP proposes more of.
The plain fact is that levels of all the main
pollutants associated with car exhausts are well within internationally
recognised safety limits almost everywhere almost all the time,
and emissions are falling steadily, being projected to reach only
20-40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010 by the Government's own
air quality strategy figures.
Moreover, a mainstream scientific opinion has
long moved away from air pollution as a causal factor in the increased
incidence of childhood asthma. This does not prevent anti car
groups clinging to this discredited link to justify their views.
Perhaps of more concern than anything else in
the White Paper are the implications for road safety.
Bad enough are the unnecessary deaths which
will result from cancelling most of the road building programme,
as new and upgraded roads are invariably safer than their predecessors.
Much needed bypasses have been shelved, leaving traffic thundering
through small towns and villages quite unnecessarily.
But the Government is now threatening something
even worsepolicy on setting speed limits and controlling
vehicle speeds in other ways will now no longer be based on safety
alone, but on "environmental" grounds, with full consultation
for anti car groups who know nothing about and care less for safe
driving, by their own admission only looking to find new ways
of making driving less attractive.
This change in central government policy only
formalises what has been going on at a local level over the past
six years anyway, years in which the previous trend of falling
road deaths has come to a halt and begun to revere itself.
This rape of road safety is a national disgrace,
and should by rights do more than anything else to discredit the
thinking behind the White Paper.
The proposals in the White Paper are ill thought
through, and, if implemented will cause huge damage to the economy,
together with damage to the liberty, opportunity and quality of
life of the British people unparalleled in post war society. Almost
without exception, they reduce choice, fail to recognise what
people really want, and will harm most of the interests of those
who have benefited from the revolution in personal mobility the
car has brought aboutworking mothers, those on lower wages,
young families, pensionersas well as many, many working
There is a real danger that it will be looked
back on with the same disdain as 1960s education policies and
high rise developments. But that is not surprising since it was
drafted by anti car pressure groups and intellectuals, vested
interests in public transport and certain commercial organisations
who are too short sighted to see that clearing the roads for their
companies will bring them little benefit if the whole economy
suffers. The intelligent objections placed by many in the consultation
exercise were, of course, ignored, but that is the nature of a