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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Who can get the roads running again?
Britain's roads are experiencing record levels of traffic and for many journeys by car take longer than they did decades ago.
The government has introduced an Integrated Transport Commission to look at congestion and road usage. Inner city congestion taxes are being considered.
Conservative suggestions include a motorway speed limit of 80mph, charging companies a lane rental fee for digging up the highways, and revitalising the road building programme with an emphasis on town by-passes.
The Liberal Democrats have suggested variable speed limits to ease the build up of traffic in certain areas and say most short journeys by car are avoidable and should be discouraged.
What do you think is the best way to get Britain moving again? Is it a question of building more roads or will that just lead to more cars using them?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
During the 1997 General Election Campaign, Labour and in particular the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, promised a radical solution to Britain's transport. Four years on, Labour have failed to deliver the goods. It appears that Tony Blair behind the scenes has ordered Prescott to make himself scarce as he personally has bungled his "flagship" policy. On the railways, he's created more problems. On the roads, scrapped or postponed many much needed improvement schemes or in the case of London has handed over complete control to other organisations who are totally incompetent. The skies are getting more congested. Labour talked about Private Public Partnership. The government's record has been at best hot air, and on the whole an unmitigated disaster.
Aleksander Mazalon, London UK
Until such time as public transport can deliver a suitable alternative to travel by car, I for one will retain my car. Even in the quiet time prior to the early morning rush, a simple 12 mile journey by public transport still involves an extra 15 minutes travel, a change of bus and at least 25 minutes walk x 4 (to and from the transport).
Toll charges and congestion charging are not a real solution. What really needs to be examined is the process of the travel, and as someone has pointed out in this debate already, the reason for the journey. However, councils are already supposed to be doing this, with their endless round of census checkpoints etc. But what do they do with the results? Nothing, because they are simple bureaucrats who haven't got a clue about traffic management. They decline offers of advice from peoples such as the AA, RAC, and RTA because "we don't want outsiders meddling in council business".
Don't forget that because of the property boom in the South East, more and more people are having to live further from work. Perhaps we should think laterally and encourage more working from home? With a decent telecoms network many journeys could be made unnecessary.
I believe that the political parties should all take a closer look at the root problems that lead to congestion: where do people go, when do they go there, and why? A great proportion of congestion is caused by people trying to get to and from work. Cities are organised so that people live and work in places separated by a great distance. It may well be that re-organising cities so that more people can live closer to where they work would reduce the number of people on the roads, cutting congestion at peak hours.
You will never get rid of congestion on the roads until the cost of travelling by car exceeds that of travelling by public transport. As long as people have cars and can afford the gas and taxes they are going to use them, traffic jams or not. You'll find that the attitude of car drivers in Britain, as in the US, to public transport is "a great idea. It'll get people of the roads so that I can drive my car". Answer: stop building roads, build a super low cost public transport system and triple the price of gas. Obvious but political suicide.
Roger Sayer, USA
Why not build cycle-tracks that actually function as a means of transport? Even wheelchair users or roller-bladers could travel on it. Pubs could rent out bikes with stabilisers for those that have over indulged and need to get home safely! Everyone would benefit in some way! What about a bicycle made for four?
I agree with Jim Hutton! Why does the argument have to be so polarized? In Hastings we have a new cycle path, it is a fantastic success and very popular. We also have a major trunk road cutting through the centre of the town with cars diverting 60 miles onto better roads. I want 4 things 1) Every trunk road in Britain to be dual carriageway standard 2) Public transport to target offering a comparable speed/cost advantage to using a private car. 3) National cycle network to be completed. 4) New roads to have greater environmental sensitivity (e.g. tunnels through sensitive areas)
Governments can do very little to reduce congestion, it is in the hands of the people. It's no use complaining there are too many cars on the road when you are part of the problem. Two-wheeled transport can provide part of the solution. Unfortunately the government seems to forget the part motorcycles can play in traffic reduction with Powered Two Wheelers hardly getting a mention in their last transport plan.
The Government needs to accept that congestion is caused not just by weight of traffic, but by poor and inconsiderate driving. A driving license should be a privilege not a right, and hence should be earned. If people can't be bothered to make the effort not to hold everyone else up, they should be taken off the road.
Jeremy Davey, Oxford, England
I voted Labour in 1997 because they pledged they would reduce road traffic. In London I face noise, pollution, danger, and congestion every day. More roads will not solve the problem - this just leads to more traffic, as Labour said in '97. Now they have failed to reduce traffic, failed to improve the alternatives, and this manifesto says they will build 100 new bypasses - leading to ever more traffic.
I want to know why they abandoned their promise, turned their back on all the evidence, and are going to leave us more polluted, more congested and doing more damage to our environment than ever before?
With ancient slam door trains still in service on many routes and the heating almost constantly on, it is going to take a lot to persuade motorists to leave air conditioned cars behind. Also when commuting to London through the week and seeing many trains cancelled or with reduced carriage numbers why on earth are any of those people going to use the railway in their spare time? To encourage the most numbers of people to use the railways, the government has to improve the commuter services dramatically, and increase company car.
What does not seem to be picked up on is that whilst having a car may be necessary, not EVERY journey undertaken is. If people did one less journey in every twenty (perhaps taking a friend shopping instead of using two cars), then the motorist would save 5% on their fuel bills for a start.
To make the roads safer the next government needs to move away from the current obsession with speed. The real cause of accidents is inadequate driving skills, specifically poor hazard perception. Police drivers are taught to be in the correct position, speed and gear for any given situation. Until drivers are encouraged (or forced) to take advanced training, then accidents will continue. Motorists have been brainwashed into believing that if they are driving at the speed limit they are safe. Perhaps this why many feel they can use mobile phones, read maps or even newspapers while driving. Driving slowly is not the same as driving skilfully and safely. get drivers' eyes off the speedo and on the road.
Mike Parker, England
I do a lot of motorway (or equivalent) miles, and to me one thing that would ease congestion enormously is to ban HGVs in the outside lane of any multi-carriageway road. HGVs overtaking each other, in gangs or one-by-one, is one of the most common forms of hold-up on the roads. By way of compensation, offer haulage companies a rebate off the excessive duty on fuel we all have to pay. That way, roads move faster, goods are hauled more cheaply, so everyone wins.
I think that with an ambitious road building programme we can sustain the growth of our economy, all other factors being equal. The shameful use of speed cameras for revenue generation should be abolished. One thing people seem to neglect is the fact that modern cars emit a lot less sulphur/nitrogen than older cars. Let's also remember that global warming is theory not fact!
If we are to ease congestion then we must first have an integrated transport policy, which is run for the people, and NOT share holders. The way to get people out of their cars is not through higher taxation, but by showing the motorist/traveller it is easier to get from A to B using public transport. I think buses/trams should be given priority by all other road uses (except emergency services) during peak periods.
I've scrapped my car. I'm sick and tired of spending over an hour travelling 10 miles and paying more road and petrol tax for less benefit. Public transport in the city is pretty good, but we need better rural public transport instead of a bus every two hours (if you're lucky). I want to know how the government proposes to persuade profit motivated bus and train operators that it would be in their interest to offer more than mobile adverts. Until that happens we will continue to suffer from overcrowded roads. Does the government really care? This is their chance to prove it!
Alan, Bath, UK
Alan from Bath is having a laugh with a bus every two hours. We get one to and one from Ashford a day. As a bonus there's a bus to Maidstone on a Thursday.
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.
Get shot of the lorries on our roads and dump what they carry onto trains. That will halve the amount of traffic on roads in no time. Scrap the public transport system, it is too bad to make good.
The Conservatives are promising to raise speed limits, abolish speed cameras and allow left filtering on red lights.
In other words they don't care about the thousands of deaths and serious injuries caused by reckless, careless and dangerous drivers.
Nor do they listen to the highway authorities, even those affiliated to Conservative local councils. Most "accidents" are avoidable - so please electorate don't allow the accident of a Tory victory.
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 pot holes they make.
The UK needs an integrated transport systems. We can't go on just filling the roads with cars like nothing will ever happen to us. The trouble is we are all too selfish to leave our cars at home and we won't vote for a party that tells us to
As a company car driver, I clock up around 50000 miles per year. Suggestions to improve traffic include: Heavy fines and points for driving too close to the vehicle in front, as most delays are caused by shunts occurring as people drive too close then cant react to braking from the car in front. Tachographs for company car drivers as truck drivers have to do. (Or even for all drivers). Either as a bit of paper or a black box. Recording speed and time spent driving would make us all a bit more accountable for our actions. Limiting engine size of all vehicles sold would (a) reduce emissions, and (b) reduce speeds and so likelihood of accidents. Mobile coning of repair areas rather than our huge cone mountain How about sensible, affordable public transport - and here's a novel idea - put free car parks at train / bus stations to encourage people to stop on the outskirts of towns. Don't get me wrong - we're all to blame - I'm as guilty as the next person
Darren, St Albans, UK
Sorry folks but you need a good public transport system and good public roads. It is not an either or situation.
There are three possible responses to congestion. Ask what priority each of the parties give to these options:-
- Build more roads, but this costs money, has an unacceptable environmental impact and simply generates more traffic
- Invest in public transport. This costs even more money, but has a more acceptable environmental impact.
- Put up with congestion. This puts the costs onto the individual traveller rather than the government.
I can't think why governments seem to favour the third option.
Roads? What about the trains?
Surely the answer is a decent public transport system?
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