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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Public transport - worth using again?
Public transport has been a political minefield for successive governments. Since the Hatfield rail crash, and the freak accident at Selby, confidence in the UK's railways has fallen dramatically .
Labour says the problem stems from years of underinvestment from Conservative governments and says its 10-year integrated transport plan will restore confidence in public transport and bring in the funds to improve safety and efficiency in the system.
The Conservatives propose changes to the railway infrastructure including a rail equivalent of the civil aviation authority and introducing measures to make bus services more attractive. The Liberal Democrats also suggest improvements in rural bus services and tax breaks for season ticket holders using public transport.
No serious political party is prepared to bite the bullet and recognise that rising traffic volumes are unsustainable. Building more roads has failed to deliver a more efficient transport system.
Everybody thinks of 101 reasons why they need to use the car but not one reason why they should use it less. However unpopular or politically incorrect it is to say it, it is plain fact that our society is too dependent upon motorized transport and fossil fuels.
The day ministers have to travel by train like the rest of us will be the day when they'll agree to re-nationalise the railways. And they'll have the full backing of the public. But they won't, because they get chauffeured around and we have to suffer in the meantime. Railtrack and the others can make all the excuses they want. They just want to make money.
I do a lot of motorway (or equivalent) miles, and to me one thing that would ease congestion enormously is to ban heavies (Heavy Goods Vehicles) in the outside lane of any multi-carriageway road. HGVs overtaking each other, in gangs, one-by-one, is one of the most common forms of hold-up on the roads I travel regularly.
There are a number of "tinkering around the edges" things that might help slightly, like the Conservatives' ideas. I'd add that the construction companies ought to be paid for maintaining a stretch of road, not for repairing it. That would reward work that lasts rather than penalise it.
But a few months continuing demand increase will be enough to offset such marginal changes. Everyone knows that the only answer is public transport, they just aren't prepared to pay for it.
Malcolm McMahon, York, UK
Put up taxes on fuel and use the revenue for public transport. Introduce fines for cars occupied by driver only, stop all parking at schools, and make the kids walk or use public transport.
Much of today's congestion is caused by poor usage of the roads we already have. 'Traffic calming' etc is too often seen as a be-all and end-all, and its wider effect does not often seem to be taken into account. Integrated transport means that ALL road usage is integrated sensibly.
The vast majority of accidents are the result of inattention, not speeding. The speed cameras are proliferating in the name of safety, but they're really another stealth tax from this Government, who are ignoring the real issues. (Driver training, road layouts etc)
Easing congestion is easier than you think. Simply use the technology of the Internet to allow people to work from home two days per week where possible. If less people need to travel there will be less congestion. But then again, you can't tax people if they don't travel.
One thing that adds to morning congestion is the school run. As a parent myself I think that more should be done to encourage parents to walk to collect children, for example safer crossings, effective road schemes to reduce speed round schools (not cameras), also what happened to the school bus?
Mike, Wigan UK
Since buses were deregulated, no one knows what buses go where any longer, or at what times. There is a bus stop outside my house without any form of timetable. I often see old folk wait there for an hour and then wander off! The whole thing is a mess.
Surely an easier way to avoid traffic congestion is to encourage employers to permit employees to work from home. This could be aimed primarily at people with IT skills, who can perform their job without the need to move from home.
I'd love to be able to get rid of my car. It takes me an hour to travel the 13 miles to work most mornings (I live in Surrey). I could use public transport, which would involve one bus, two trains and a 20 minute walk, taking just over 2 hours and costing best part of twenty pounds a day. I could move closer to a rail or bus link that goes directly to the town I work in, but that would mean selling my small flat and buying a similar one for around sixty thousands pounds more than I'd get for this one. Not realistic! Guess I'll just have to keep the car until someone comes up with a workable solution.
I ride into London everyday on my motorbike and the roads are clogged up with gas guzzling Mercedes and four wheel drives. Increases in fuel duty forces the cost conscious consumer off the roads but fails to deter the wealthy drivers. If you want to reduce congestion and pollution then you have to tackle the type of vehicle allowed on the roads. Why not ban all cars that use more than 40 mpg. If public transport were improved alongside this plan then maybe we could all reap the benefits.
Philip Barnes, London
I own and run a car, but I would rather not have to. I'm a student and in order to get to the cheaper shops and to get back home as often as I need to, I need a car. I can't afford a £28 train ticket to travel a distance that costs me £4 in petrol!
I don't think that any party has a truly viable transport policy, probably because the main leaders get police escorts in their chauffeured cars, or use public transport when the rush hour is over. Anyone who has used buses, trains or the tube knows, they are as bad if not worse than the roads. Perhaps if politicians experienced these conditions first-hand they would have the experience to offer decent solutions.
Paul R, Oxford, UK
The easiest way to clear the appalling traffic congestion on major routes such as the M1 and M62 is to impose overnight trunking. Several European countries only allow lorries over 7 tonnes to travel overnight, between 10pm and 6am. This would immediately free the roads during the daytime for commuters and local residents.As many supermarkets are open 24 hours, and factories work 2 or 3 shifts, the personnel are already available to deal with the deliveries.
The government should encourage employers to make better use of technology and encourage tele-working. By allowing a large proportion of the workforce to work from home, the number of commuters would fall. The burden on public transport would be reduced and congestion on the roads would be eased.
The way to reduce congestion on our roads is not through taxing the motorist but to make it easier to get from A to B using public transport.
Public transport should be run for the public and NOT share holders.
Buses should be given priority at peak times.
What we certainly don't want to do is make driving cheaper - that will simply make congestion worse. Unfortunately, that's what one party is suggesting as their headline policy.
Money is the key motivator in everything! If you want people to use public transport it must save them money. The government should subsidise the rail and bus services for people travelling to and from work.
The argument on transport is polarised between total non-use and complete dependence on the motorcar. Everybody can think of 101 reasons for their need to use the car, but never one good reason why they can't use it less. Clearly, ever increasing car usage is economically and environmentally undesirable, irrespective of what the parties will say.
In Hereford we have been trying to get a by-pass for nearly twenty years. All main roads lead to the centre so we get lots of lorries going through and constant congestion. It does not matter who gets in they never produce the goods.
The answer to ease congestion is to put freight back on the railways. Get the smelly, dirty, polluting lorries off the roads. It may save on repair bills for the potholes they make.
Looks like I'm going to have to vote Tory if they're serious about raising the motorway speed limit. It's about time motorists were encouraged to look at the road instead of the speedo. Drivers need to be educated about hazard perception, not persecuted for doing 95mph on a deserted motorway.
Mike Parker, Bristol, England
The current government have blown their chance with transport. John Prescott's first year transport plan was knobbled at a time when Labour were in their 'honeymoon period' and could have introduced some radically improved initiatives with relatively little back-lash. Now to get sufficient political will for change from the electorate, we'll have to wait until businesses are unable to trade, as their goods are stuck behind a queue of parents bringing their kids to school, or people give up their cars which sit rusting by the kerb as you can't even pull-out to sit in the traffic jams anymore.
Serious efforts should be made to reduce road traffic, by heavy taxes on road use and petrol.
What is needed, is investment in public transport. Serious investment. This is environmentally better than building more roads.
Alan from Bath is having a laugh with a bus every 2 hours, we get one to and one from Ashford a day. As a bonus there's a bus to Maidstone on a Thursday.
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