Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Public transport costs rise as motoring costs drop

The benefits of going green are not lost on businesses and governments. Green has political capital right now. Green sells and green gets votes. The UK government likes to talk up its green credentials, to be in effect the government that cares for the planet. There seem to be new sound-bites and new initiatives to tackle climate change coming out all the time.

This may play well in the papers and on the television news, but in reality are these just more empty words and token gestures? Looking at the government’s transport policy, it would appear to be just another smokescreen to keep the public placated. In the last 30 years, the cost of travelling by car has fallen by 10% while the cost of travelling by train and bus has risen by 50%. Not exactly the best way to get people out of their cars and onto public transport! In the last 10 years, motorists have driven up to 270 billion miles a year, which any way you look at it adds up to a massive amount of CO2 emissions.

Is there a simple solution? As our population grows and people become wealthier, more people will own and drive cars. To compound the problem, there is the perception that public transport is more dangerous, especially for women travelling on their own, and of course there is the stigma of not owning a car and having to get on a bus or train. This is a complex problem, and will involve a culture change among many people. The car has been promoted as a sign of independence and status, for some people it defines who they are. The government can help by improving public transport generally and by making it cheaper and safer. They can even risk the wrath of motorists and increase the cost of driving, but that I think will be step too far for any government that depends on voters to stay in power. In the end it will come down to individuals making choices that either help reduce climate change or increase climate change.

[Via The Independent]

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