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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Gridlock Britain 'chokes economy'
Tolls on the Severn Bridge
Taking a toll on the motorist's pocket is one option
Traffic congestion on UK roads is costing businesses about 20bn a year as productivity is hit by staff arriving late to work.

The number of cars on UK roads has risen by 70% between 1982 and 2003, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

This, its latest survey said, has put more pressure on an already creaking transport infrastructure.

ICE is calling on the government to increase funding for transport.

In its State of the Nation Report 2005, ICE revealed that 69% of the public want improvements in public transport to help combat the UK's gridlocked road network.

On your bike

The report calls for greater investment in quality bus stations, taxi ranks and railway stations to create a "totally integrated transport system that people will want to use".

Action must be taken before we can't drive to work or school in the morning due to permanent traffic jams outside our houses
Dr Colin Clinton, ICE president

ICE also wants expansion and further investment for existing light rail systems and funding for transport schemes in rural areas where it is often harder to get around.

Additionally, it is calling for high-speed rail services, similar to those on the West Coast main line, to be used on other major train routes.

With the exception of Denmark and Sweden, public transport fares in the UK are more costly than elsewhere in Europe.

The answer to this, said ICE, is government subsidies to cut fares, making it more appealing for commuters to ditch their cars in favour of buses or trains.

'Carrot and stick'

Another way to get motorists to think again is to introduce road tolls. Charging to use roads will make drivers consider whether their journey is really worth paying for.

"We've got no option other than the carrot and stick," said Dr Colin Clinton, ICE's president.

"The carrot option is to encourage increased bus, train and tram use, the stick option is to charge drivers to use highways."

A quarter of car journeys in the UK are less than two miles long and ICE believes most of these can be substituted by public transport, walking or cycling.

"Action must be taken before we can't drive to work or school in the morning due to permanent traffic jams outside our houses," Dr Clinton continued.

"Unfortunately, the future of UK roads is simple - increased governmental promotion of public transport or meltdown."

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