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Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Rolling Stones

Aeroplane flying over houses

BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Rolling Stones is broadcast on Thursday 19th February at 20.30 GMT and repeated on Sunday 22nd February at 21.30 GMT.

Human beings seem to have a deep rooted need to travel and despite concerns over global warming, we are not showing any signs of slowing down.

In the first of a new series of Analysis, "Rolling Stones", Professor Alison Wolf of King's College London finds out what this means for transport policy.

Is it right to subsidise any form of transport, helping to keep us on the move, or should towns and cities be designed in such a way that we are forced to abandon our cars?

Among the contributors to the programme is Dr Andreas Schafer, of the Faculty of Architecture at Cambridge University.

He explains how our travelling behaviour fits the concept of an innate "travel time budget"- the amount of time we spend travelling each day. "People in the poorest societies spend a roughly constant amount of time travelling as do people in very rich societies like the UK or the United States…. walking in the one extreme versus automobile or aircraft in the other extreme."

Alison Wolf
This week's Analysis presenter Alison Wolf

He predicts an explosion in the number of kilometres travelled globally as car ownership spreads in the developing world.

One way to discourage travel would be to allow costs to rise.

Dr Frank Kelly, Master of Christ's College, Cambridge and a former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Transport says "long term one would not want to in aggregate subsidise transport. It would just encourage us to travel further."

So where is the happy medium? Too much travelling and we endanger the planet, not enough travelling and we risk becoming depressed, the wrong sort of travelling - commuting - and we suffer from stress, so how can we marry our behaviour to our innate travelling needs?

Alison Wolf is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London.

Rolling Stones - Your thoughts

More joined up please. Disabled - it took a year to get a dedicated disabled place outside my door. What do those suddenly wheelchair bound do? I am on elbow crutches. We cannot walk to those shops in pedestrianised zones!

Teresa Joan White

You say that to find an ideal "travel" city one needs to look at some classic European cities. For me Seville comes to mind and its new 21st century tram and underground system. However, I have just moved to Portsmouth, Hampshire UK. For just the reasons you stated. I can walk, which I do, cycle, which I do, bus, which I do (bus pass!) and use my little car rarely. When it falls to bits I shall use the local Car club and taxis if I have to. So, we do have such cities here, as well as abroad.

Hilary Reed

What a cracking programme to kick off the new Analysis season! Thought-provoking, informative and well-researched. Keep it up!

Michael Brooks


Coming up

Richard Reeves looks at social housing and asks what we can learn from the lessons of the past as house repossessions soar and the waiting list grows for state subsidised homes.




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Alison Wolf explores our need to travel and the future of the transport industry



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