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Richard Griffiths reports for BBC News
"We're still paying a hefty premium when we buy a new car"
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The BBC's Simon Montague
"UK motorists are said to pay the most to buy cars"
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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 05:16 GMT
UK motorists 'worst off in Europe'
UK has worst congestion and highest prices

A year-long investigation by motoring organisation the AA suggests UK car drivers are worse off than their European counterparts in almost every measurable way.

The pitifully low levels of money spent on the UK's crumbling transport infrastructure have weakened every link in the chain
John Dawson, AA policy director
The survey says the British spend the most time commuting to and from work, suffer the worst road congestion and pay the most for petrol and diesel.

The results were published hours after it emerged that UK petrol prices have risen by around 15% this year, and are set to rise still further by Christmas.

The AA's Great British Motorist 2000, a study of five years' of data from across Europe, said Britons pay the most for cars.

They are also the most likely to have them broken into.

UK motorists are most likely to have their cars broken into
The British are also taxed highly and receive the least return in investment in roads and public transport, said the AA.

On top of that, UK motorists face the most difficulty in using alternative means of getting around, such as public transport and cycling.

John Dawson, the AA's policy director, said the root cause of the "depressing" picture was a lack of investment.

"The pitifully low levels of money spent on the UK's crumbling transport infrastructure have weakened every link in the chain, from poor maintenance to bad day-to-day management," he said.

Britons pay the most for petrol and diesel
"If we are to reverse this deplorable situation we must fund a formal structure of workable projects that will get Britain's transport network back on track."

There was only one bright spot in the survey - road safety.

Britain has the safest roads in Europe, it found, with the risk of being killed in Greece and Portugal almost four times that of the UK.

British drivers drink and drive less than the French, drive less wildly than the Portugese and Italians, and go through amber lights less often than just about anyone except the Austrians and Belgians, said the report.

But the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) accused the AA of painting a false picture.

A spokesman pointed out that the cost of motoring was actually down 1% in real terms this year.

But the UK has the safest roads in Europe
The previous government cut spending on road maintenance by 9%, he said - but this was being boosted by the current government.

He said spending this year on road maintenance was 400m more than under the last government, and that by 2001/2002 the total spent per year would top 3bn.

The chancellor, he added, was planning to spend all future increases in fuel duty on the transport network.

He said the government was committed to reducing car crime by 30% by 2003, and was also tackling "the scandal" of Britain's high car prices.

And he claimed that during the last four quarters, traffic levels in Britain had not risen despite a period of strong economic growth.

He said road congestion was being tackled by giving local authorities powers to apply road charges.

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See also:
23 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Government 'parks' car tolls
18 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott: We must act on transport
04 Nov 99 |  UK
One in 40 drivers 'without licence'
30 Sep 99 |  UK
Speeding zero tolerance 'unworkable'
22 Sep 99 |  UK
Road groups attack car crime crackdown
11 Sep 99 |  UK
Squeegee clampdown for irate motorists

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