|London, 3 January 1998.
For immediate release.
The government aims to introduce charges for car parking that could cost the motorist between £400 and £1,000 a year. Charges would hit thousands of drivers who need to park at the workplace, in towns or even at out-of town shopping centres.
The plans are backed up by justifications about it being "no longer possible to road-build our way out of traffic congestion problems" and about "protecting the environment and our children's health". The aim is to force drivers out of their cars and onto public transport whilst providing no viable alternatives.
However, there is no sound scientific evidence supporting the proposition that emissions from modern petrol-driven vehicles are damaging to health.
Public transport, however, pollutes grossly. According to 1997 National Environment Technology Centre figures, the average bus emits NOx gases equivalent to 39 modern cars; and particulates equivalent to 128 cars. There is mounting evidence that public transport vehicles like buses, taxis and diesel locomotives - using old, dirty 1950s technology - pose a serious threat to public health through their exhaust emissions containing 3-nitrobenzanthrone - the most carcinogenic compound currently known to humanity. Environmental groups estimate that traces of this material in diesel exhaust emissions contribute to up to 10,000 UK urban lung cancer deaths per annum.
Successive British governments have determinedly underinvested our country into traffic congestion problems. The UK invests less than 0.5% of GDP annually in roadbuilding and this figure is declining. By contrast, all our major European partners invest more, from 0.8% (France) to 1.2% (Spain).
To resolve our environmental and congestion problems, government needs to realise that the car is an integral part of transport in Britain and re-instate the hundreds of stalled or shelved town and village bypass schemes. These would take through traffic away from unsuitable urban centres and onto high-quality alternative routes, thereby reducing congestion and unnecessary emissions.
It's time to clean up public transport too; the government should apply the latest emissions regulations to (currently exempted) old technology public transport vehicles to get them off the road NOW for the sake of the health of all of us.