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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 17:03 GMT
Drivers 'snubbing public transport'
Bus in London
Motorists in London are most dependent on their cars
Drivers are becoming increasingly more reluctant to give up their cars and use public transport, according to a survey by the RAC.

Car users enjoy the sense of freedom, reliability and door-to-door service that public transport cannot match.

The RAC questioned 1,700 motorists in England, Scotland and Wales at the height of the petrol crisis in September.

It may take longer for people to change their travel habits

Graeme Potts, RAC
The Hatfield train crash has added to the falling confidence in public transport since then, despite government drives to persuade them otherwise.

The RAC Report on Motoring 2001 found more than a quarter of drivers questioned said they were reluctant to switch to public transport even for one journey a week.

Only a third said they would be prepared to drive less, even if bus and train services improved.

Fuel protests

About half said they wanted more frequent services, 43% wanted cheaper fares and 38% were holding out for more reliability.

The RAC says the willingness to abandon private cars use in favour of public transport is the lowest in eight years.

RAC Group managing director Graeme Potts said the figures were worrying.

Mayor of London Ken Livingston on the tube
Drivers want public transport to be more reliable
"The fuel protests in September 2000 and the disruption following the tragic Hatfield rail crash will have influenced how motorists make their choices between using their car and using public transport," he said.

He said motorists liked the independence, the security and the flexibility that the car offered.

"That is a tough agenda for public sector transport to match up to," he said.

"Until they do, motorists are going to choose to stay with their own cars."


Enthusiasm to "go green" did surge when Labour came to power in 1997 with an integrated transport strategy.

But motorists who were asked about giving up the car said they would miss the sense of freedom.

About 21% were concerned about the ability to get to work and 12% cited their ability to go shopping.

Motorist using mobile phone
Most drivers know the dangers of using mobiles while driving
The report found drivers from the north of England were least reluctant to switch to public transport while those from London and the south east were the most dependent on their vehicle.

The RAC believes road congestion is more likely to influence motorists than improvements to the buses and trains.

In December, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced a 1.3bn cash injection for local transport schemes which included funding for light railway systems, road systems, buses and the rail industry.


In a foreword to the RAC report, Transport Minister Lord Macdonald said shifting some people's journeys away from the car was necessary if the government's 10-year transport plan was to work.

"That does not mean trying to force people off the road, or stopping them using their car altogether." he said.

"But it does mean encouraging them to walk or cycle or use public transport for some or parts of journeys where it offers a reasonable alternative."

The report also found that Scottish drivers were at greater risk of nodding off at the wheel than motorists in other parts of the UK.

It also found that 84% of drivers were aware of the dangers of using phones in cars, but only 33% of private drivers and 57% of company drivers actually used hands-free kits.

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