The Association of British Drivers ("the ABD") was founded in 1992, by a group of drivers from across the country and from all walks of life who had become concerned that the case for the motor-car was not being put effectively. Membership has grown steadily ever since. The case for the motor car is, in our view, so obvious that it is in danger of going by default. The motor car has liberated the average man and woman in a way which our great-grandparents could not even have dreamed of.
The motor car has transformed all our lives, almost entirely for the better in terms of freedom and mobility, and provided enormous social and economic benefits. In our view there is neither need nor justification for seeking to curb the freedom to use a car, with the inevitable loss of liberty and mobility that that would entail.
We believe that Government must recognise that the motor-car is much more than just many people's preferred means of transport: it is the best and sometimes the only possible means of transport. Even unlimited resources thrown into mass transit systems would not change this fact.
The vehicle manufacturing, road transport and related industries have been among the UK's most successful in recent years and now employ 2.3 million people. Exports of motor vehicles and components earned the country £15,370 million in 1995 (three times more than in 1985), and that figure is set to rise rapidly in the coming years. However, those industries need a healthy home market if they are to continue to thrive.
Road user taxation in the UK reached £28,300 million in 1996/97, far exceeding the sums spent on road maintenance and construction, providing revenue that could be spent on other services (figures courtesy of the British Road Federation).
Any decisions made about the future of transport in this country must be made in the context of these facts.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Consultation Document. We fear however that any new policy may be anti-car rather than pro-environment. As it is, the Economist Intelligence Unit reported this year that car sales in western Europe were likely to decline by 300,000 per annum by 2000, and they blame the threat of environmental controls as a major contributory factor.
We welcome the idea of an "integrated transport policy", so long as:-
The key to providing an efficient and modern transport system is investment. The ABD strongly supports a balanced programme of investment. We deal below with most of the questions raised in the Consultation Document. These have been numbered in accordance with paragraph 34 for ease of reference.
These should be expanded to include:-
The ABD believes that the use of "sticks" to coerce the public is inconsistent with a free and democratic society.
People can be persuaded to use other means of transport for some journeys, if adequate provisions are made. These should include:-
Road building remains one of the most cost effective means of improving our transport system, and it should be remembered that car and commercial vehicle users provide a huge subsidy to the Exchequer each year. High quality roads can:-
Contrary to the case put by anti-car lobby groups, by-passes are generally very popular, and play an essential part in any properly planned integrated transport policy. The report commissioned by the Transport Research Laboratory and published by the RAC on the impact of the Okehampton bypass was instructive and showed 80% local support ("the bypass was a good thing for Okehampton"). There was much local dismay in Salisbury at the Government's decision to scrap that city's proposed bypass, and the ABD is deeply concerned that the unbalanced media coverage of anti-roads campaigners is allowing Government policy to be hijacked.
We would also say that piecemeal building of bypasses, whilst valuable, is no substitute for a strategic plan for the improvement of the country's trunk road network. We would like to see a radical programme of improvement to our road network, including further motorway construction, and upgrading of existing roads to motorway standard and status. Candidates could include the A34 from the M40 to Southampton, to name one example.
The ABD welcomes the decision to construct the Birmingham Northern Relief motorway, which will relieve pressure on the busy M6. We regret, however, the decision to build this as a toll motorway.
The ABD also gives its support to a visionary project promoted by London Expressways which wishes to build a network of underground highways linking London's motorways. The Project Director proposes using deep bore construction techniques to minimise disruption. Almost all surface through traffic would be absorbed, thereby reducing traffic levels on the surface. The whole project would complement the public transport system, and at the same time facilitate other surface projects, such as the closure to traffic of parts of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. The project is supported by world class companies such as BT. Similar projects already exist in Paris, Stockholm and Tokyo.
The ABD urges the Government to reject the dogmatically anti-road approach adopted by so many pressure groups, and to facilitate further projects here, including a serious study of the London Expressway scheme.
In order to obtain full benefit from modern bus rail and tram systems, full integration with private cars is essential. Many of the "Parkway" railway stations are testimony to the success and popularity of a system that enables commuters and others to switch to public transport for those parts of their journeys that are best covered by that mode — and back again to their car for the final part of their return journey. Unfortunately, however, parking at many stations remains limited and too expensive.
"Park and Ride" is the most practical means of attracting people to public transport in most towns, as it is generally the only way of bringing a large number of people to a central transport node. Schemes are likely to be most successful if accompanied by generous cheap and secure parking, with high quality, frequent bus/tram/rail services, which preferably do not stop before reaching the town centre. The ABD favours extensive use of pre-purchased and season tickets at reduced prices to cut delays while tickets are sold to passengers.
Transport improvements which can make public transport genuinely attractive and competitive with the private car will be very expensive, and will need considerable investment if they are to work Some, such as the long overdue Heathrow/Paddington rail link can be financed by the private sector. Such projects should be encouraged, and especially be persuaded to integrate with the road network, with car parks so that travellers can switch easily to the train, tram or bus.
We also welcome the decision by Richard Branson's Virgin group to invest in 140 mph tilting trains for the West Coast main line, and urge the Government to do all they can to speed up the construction of the High Speed rail link to the Channel Tunnel. We also believe that this should be seen as a first step toward a national and international high speed rail network to cut rail journey times in line with best Continental practice. Experience in Spain and France suggests that these links will be genuinely popular with business people who will use them as an alternative to air and road travel.
The ABD considers that restraints on car use are an unacceptable intrusion into civil liberty and incompatible with freedom of the individual. Measures of the type now under discussion in the UK are far more draconian than anywhere else in the democratic world.
The ABD considers that drivers already pay their way, and contribute handsomely to the public purse. Further taxation is unnecessary and discriminates against the millions of lower paid motorists in this country, who risk losing their liberty and possibly livelihoods as a result. The Government stresses that it wishes its transport policy to be "inclusive". Measures which price drivers out of their cars would be incompatible with this aim.
Encouragement for tele-working, home-working and video conferencing will lead to less need to commute and lead to fewer business trips being undertaken. Home shopping via the Internet, with deliveries direct to peoples homes will reduce the need to travel, and should be encouraged.
Beyond this, see our comments on the traffic growth forecasts in paragraphs 19-21 below.
Traffic targets are inflexible and unresponsive to the needs of a mobile population and a dynamic and growing economy. In practice, they are probably also unworkable. We believe targets would also delay real progress in the development of technology for cleaner cars, since air quality improvements would arise from a falling quality of life rather than a real reduction in exhaust emissions from individual vehicles.
In the longer term, cleaner vehicles must remain the real goal, not restrictive policies which would limit freedom. This is especially important to the lower paid, who will bear the brunt of anti-car taxation.
The ABD believes that the Government should make more use of the subsidy available from road users to finance a transport system fit for the 21st Century. Road users contributed £28300 million in 1996, whilst only £5450 million was spent on road construction.
The ABD believes that the income from the Road Fund Licence should be ring-fenced for the purpose it was intended, and paid to the Highways Agency for road maintenance, construction and improvement. The income from the Road Fund Licence in 1996/97 amounted to £4,300 million, whereas only £2,013 million was spent on Trunk Roads. It is generally acknowledged that the standard of British roads has fallen below acceptable standards, especially compared to other West European countries and North America. If all of this money was allotted to Trunk Roads the standard of maintenance of the network would be transformed to the standard, as well as providing a fund for expanding and improving the network.
Public transport needs to be fast, reliable, flexible, frequent and available into the evening and at night. It also needs to be safe, as well as clean and comfortable. the cost also needs to be reasonable.
Some suggested improvements are:-
However, the ABD supports moves to make rail freight more attractive. A recent report by National Economic Research Associates reckons that freight traffic on the railways could rise by 40% by 2005 if promised cost cuts and service improvements are realised. The report warns, though, that much of the possible growth could be lost if the industry fails to modify tunnels and bridges as a matter of urgency to allow bigger containers and "piggyback" trailers, allowing rapid and non-labour intensive transfers from road to rail and back again. The industry is however concerned that capacity constraints may soon emerge. Ian Braybrook, Managing Director of English, Welsh and Scottish Railway warned recently that freight operators are already being squeezed by passenger trains and pressure is increasing at bottlenecks such as the busy Birmingham/Coventry line. Ways will need to be found to increase the frequency of trains on existing lines, but it is likely that difficult political decisions will need to be taken soon regarding construction of new lines.
As international trade grows, especially with the rest of Europe, integration of road and rail connections to ports and airports becomes more important. Better rail links are on the cards for Heathrow, and for the Channel Tunnel, but upgrading of the A34 Bicester/Southhamton road and A12 London/Ipswich (Felixstowe) road to motorway standards and status would enhance communications and assist in the development of a true European Transport Network, to which the UK is committed by the EU treaties.
The UK should follow the lead taken in the US, Germany and Japan in pressing for the development of environmentally friendly cars. We believe that a pragmatic approach, involving an acceptance that mass car ownership and use is here to stay, will result in cleaner air and a better environment because it will involve working with industry and the public rather than against them as at present.
Much progress has already been made as highlighted in section 27 below (air quality). This progress needs to be acknowledged and built upon. There has been an unfortunate tendency to pretend that the situation is deteriorating, when the reverse is in fact the case.
The ABD is extremely concerned at the potential for the abuse of land use policy to force people to live their lives in a certain way. The ABD favours a "market solution", whereby different towns adopt differing policies. The best systems will lead to prosperity, the others will eventually be changed. It must be recognised that a transport policy appropriate to, say, Oxford, would be alien to Milton Keynes or Swindon. Many people in modern towns have located there because of the good road communications, and their choices should be respected.
Many estimates of the "true cost", and the "environmental cost", and the "social cost" of motoring seem to come from the "think of a number and double it" school of economics. Some include the cost of road casualties, yet similar tests are not applied to industrial or sporting injuries. The actual figures are set out in paragraph 8 (Funding).
The ABD believes that Trunk roads and Motorways should be administered at national level to retain a high quality national long distance network. Whilst only a small percentage of journeys are long ones, the proportion of mileage covered on long journeys is of course much higher (Just one 250 mile journey equates to 125 two mile journeys).
Road Charging The ABD believes that there is no case for charging for use of the roads. We remain vehemently opposed to charging for the use of roads which have been paid for many times over out of existing taxes. Motorists provide plenty of money to pay for the provision of roads (see Funding section).
Not only are road charges likely to lead to widespread avoidance, but they are also an extremely inefficient, expensive and bureaucratic means of raising revenue.We particularly oppose charging for use of motorways:-
For these reasons, the Parliamentary Select Committee which studied the possibility of road charging a few years ago was against the proposals and even the anti-car Royal Commission Report into Transport and the Environment, published in 1994, expressed grave reservations. The Labour Party also opposed it in its manifesto.
Similar objections exist for most other types of charging. Any attempt to introduce urban charging, for example, is likely to cause a "doughnut effect", as people would try to conduct their lives in such a way as to minimise the need to go into areas which are subject to charging, and particularly to avoid areas where charges are highest.
Whilst we do not support — or accept the need for — further petrol price increases, if more revenue is needed, then raising tax on petrol will provide it without the need for expensive electronic weaponry. By contrast, it is also cheap and relatively uncontroversial to collect.The Government can expect fierce political resistance to tolls, and the fallout from the inevitable administrative mistakes will be high.
Creating a more expensive but less effective charging system is, frankly, bordering on the vindictive. Quite simply, there are far too many better ways of raising revenue.
Parking Spaces Public Car park spaces — most authorities already charge as much as they can to maximise revenue. Any increase above this level, would be counter productive, since the reduction in use of the spaces would actually cause a fall in revenue. This idea exhibits a poor grasp of economics.
Company spaces — these are, of course, already taxed on their true value as part of the Uniform Business Rate assessment. For many employees, the car is either necessary or extremely desirable, and sweeping measures would cause hardship and inconvenience to many.
The purpose of any effective urban traffic management system must be to speed the flow of people and vehicles and to promote mobility. This must include all types of transport, the car included. This is an area best left to local decision makers answerable to their own electors. However, we oppose giving the right to Councils to levy yet more taxation from drivers. Even less acceptable are "permit" systems, which would be prone to very widespread abuse. Those with influence and connections would find that they were able to obtain permits; others would have their mobility curtailed.
The United Kingdom suffers from some of Europe's worst traffic congestion problems. In truth, this situation has come about as a result of decades of under investment in transport infrastructure of all types — including both roads and public transport.
The result is that, although rates of car ownership in the UK remain embarrassingly low by international standards, the UK is poorly provided for in terms roads. By way of comparison with major competitor nations:-
This appalling state of affairs has arisen because the UK has consistently spent a lower proportion of its GDP on roads than any of its main competitors. As a result, in Europe, only Poland and Spain currently have worse road congestion. By 2010, the UK will have fewer miles of motorway per 1000sq. km. of land area than any major nation in Europe and will trail both Spain and Portugal in this respect.
The ABD does not accept that new roads simply cause more traffic. Many new roads, including the M50 motorway and the Humber Bridge remain quiet years after they were built, as do many "A" roads long after motorways are built to bypass them. The construction of the M5 from the Midlands to the south-west, for example, has left the A38 quiet. Towns like Worcester, Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Bridgwater, Taunton and Exeter have less congestion now than they experienced 35 years ago as a result. This is one example, but there are many more like it. Rising traffic levels have been a product of increasing trade, a growing economy and rising living standards.
Nor is it true to say that the country is disappearing under tarmac. The entire road network in the UK takes about 1.6% of the nation's total land area, and only 1% of the increase in road length during the last decade has been motorway or trunk road. Even if the previous Government's aptly named policy of "Roads for Prosperity" had been implemented in full, the total land area under tarmac would still have remained well under 2%.
If the UK is to build a successful and prosperous economy, it is essential that much more of the revenue raised by taxation of motorists is spent on transport infrastructure. This spending must include generous sums for both public transport (especially in urban areas) and on new and improved roads (especially in rural areas and on inter-city routes).
Many bodies have claimed to be able to predict the likely rate of traffic growth over the coming years. These predictions have gone as high as an outrageous 140% by 2024. The latest projection from the National Road Traffic Forecast suggests that the increase by 2031 may be as low as 38%, and is unlikely to be more than 60%.
Even these figures are pure speculation, and the ABD believes they are exaggerated. The SMMT believes that, while the total number of vehicles registered will rise by 30%, the average use of cars will actually come down. Others believe that the an increase in home and tele-working will actually cause car commuting to fall over the next few years. Furthermore, the projections fail to take into account the feasible limits to the driver population. There are currently 32 million licence holders in the UK, and, based on census figures, the maximum there could ever be is 39 million. When the minority of people who cannot or do not wish to drive are excluded, it can be seen that the potential for growth is now smaller than at any time this century. In our view, it seems unlikely that traffic levels will grow at anything like the rate predicted. The scare stories are simply not supported by the traffic and car ownership trends of the last seven years.
The UK has an impressive record on road safety, with casualties now the lowest on record. The main reasons for this lie in modern car design, the compulsory wearing of seat belts, the reduction in drink-driving and (especially) improved road engineering. If the success of the past decades is to continue then it is essential that the momentum is not lost.
Increased separation of cyclists and pedestrians from vehicular traffic is desirable wherever possible, as is improved driver education. Better road maintenance can also play a part. Well maintained roads cut casualties. Figures show that 8,798 people suffered injuries related to bad maintenance of the road network , of which 1,344 were directly related to surface defects. Although we realise that it is not part of the Integrated transport Consultation document, we understand that speed limits are also being reviewed as part of this exercise. We wish to express our concern that this should not lead to the imposition of unreasonably low limits on safe stretches of road in safe conditions. Research has shown that low limits are generally not respected by drivers and that they can therefore be counterproductive in road safety terms. Much has been made of "speeding" as a road safety issue, but this approach ignores the fact that road casualties fell throughout the 1980s despite rising average speeds and increasing traffic levels. The "speed kills" message is too simplistic: speed is not dangerous per se, but mis-use of it is.
Mis-use of speed in urban areas is a real road safety issue, since 70% of injury accidents occur on roads limited to 30 or 40 mph. By contrast, the the motorway speed limit is in urgent need of upward revision.
The contention is that somehow the car is "unsustainable". This is patent nonsense. What is needed, however, is the political will to deliver both improved roads AND an attractive public transport system, integrated with the roads.
There is a need to recognise the difference between journeys best covered by car, and those where public transport can offer a real alternative.
It needs to recognise free choice and the enormous social and economic benefits of the car. It also needs to work much harder to make cars cleaner, and ultimately less dependent on fossil fuels.
It is often argued that road traffic needs to be curbed in order to improve the quality of our air. No right minded person would argue with the idea of reducing air pollution. What is needed, however, is a full strategy to tackle the problem across the economy as a whole — not a one-sided knee-jerk call for controls on cars.
The fact is that air pollution from cars is already falling, and will continue to fall sharply for at least another decade. By 2010, emissions of the four main exhaust pollutants will have fallen by 67-81% compared to their 1990 levels, even if traffic levels rise at the highest projected rate. Indeed, pollution from traffic has already fallen substantially since the start of the 1990s. These figures are clearly illustrated in appendix B in the Royal Commission report on Transport and the Environment, published in October 1994.
Current expectations are that emissions might then increase again, albeit slowly. We do not accept this because even tighter emissions standards are envisaged from cars by the EU. The compulsory fitment of catalytic converters on all new petrol driven cars registered from January 1993, coupled with tighter enforcement makes this possible. The forthcoming ECD3 regulations will make new cars 99.8% cleaner than their 1976 equivalents. Interestingly, some of the cleanest cars on the market at present (according to Swedish research) are German. We believe that this is because the German Government has encouraged consumers positively to choose cars that emit few pollutants, whereas (sadly) the emphasis in the UK has been negative — telling consumers to use their cars less.
Attempts to clean our air should focus on:-
Traffic pollution is no longer a valid reason for restraining traffic.
It is frequently argued that traffic growth must be curbed in order to reduce emissions of this gas in order to reduce the threat of global warming. Over 95% of the worlds Carbon Dioxide emissions arise directly from the respiratory processes of the animal species on the planet; and studies by climatologists Friis-Christensen and Lassen published in 1995 have shown that nearly 85% of the variation in global temperatures between the late 16th century and the present day can be accounted for by variations in the length of the solar cycle without invoking any anthropogenic radiative forcing (global warming) effects.
Therefore, along with an influential body of scientific opinion, the ABD has serious reservations about validity of the scientific evidence purporting to support the theory of global warming.
In particular, if global warming is considered to be a threat to our well-being, it seems bizarre that the Government has chosen to increase the 400% tax on petrol and diesel, but reduced the 8% tax on domestic fuel, especially as road transport accounts for only about one-fifth of man-made Carbon Dioxide emissions in the UK.
The Royal Commission Report on Transport and the Environment acknowledged that total Carbon Dioxide emissions in the UK fell by 10% in the 20 years to 1994 (see para 3.73). The fact that there has been an increase in the proportion emitted by the transport sector seems immaterial in this context.
A modern car, driven over an average distance, emits about 3.6 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide per year, while heating and lighting the average home emits 9.6 tonnes per year. By improving energy efficiency in Britain's homes, the National Energy Foundation believes that cuts of 24 million tonnes per annum are achievable. This would be equivalent to removing 6.5 million cars from our roads — and could be achieved without damage to our lifestyles.
The ABD supports moves to make cars more fuel efficient, but does not accept that there is any justification or need to attack personal mobility, including car use, to achieve Carbon Dioxide emission savings.
'Consensus for change', Labour's transport strategy document states "Since 1970, the amount of car travel per head of the population has nearly doubled." and "Since 1975 the average number of miles people travel has risen by 37%". Both these figures indicate the tremendous freedoms that have been brought by the car. Forcing drivers out of their cars either economically or logistically will have the effect of curtailing these freedoms. Poorer members of our society (particularly in rural areas) will be penalised for travelling by the only method available to them — dramatically restricting their freedom. These are not only freedoms to travel for leisure but for work — and they are thus essential to the economy as a whole.
'Consensus for change' also states "...proposals that simply seek to punish car use will not win public support. Nor would they be fair. Many people are completely dependent on their cars for travel to work and other essential activities." Drivers will perceive any restrictions on car use as an attack not only on their vehicles but on their freedoms and on their rights to travel when and how they please.
The Association of British Drivers urges the Government to ensure that the private car is recognised as the form of transport necessarily favoured by the majority of the UK's population. We believe that if the UK is to maintain its position in the European and world economies, that road transport (including the private car) must be encouraged to continue its role as the lifeblood of that economy.
The Association represents the views of a great number of Britain's drivers, and believes it has a great deal to offer in the discussion towards developing an Integrated Transport Policy. We would welcome further involvement.