|London, 27 July 1999.
For immediate release.
Leading motorists' campaign group The Association of British Drivers (ABD) considers that, despite his protests, Mr Prescott is still determined to create as much expense and inconvenience as possible for the private motorist - despite there being no viable alternatives to the car.
Interviewed for a national daily 1, Mr Prescott confessed "I've got nothing against cars. I'm ‘Two Jags’ Prescott for God's sake. I love a car. I enjoy it like everyone else ... the stereo music, the comfortable seats, the freedom to go where you want, the flexibility." In this respect the ABD agrees with Mr Prescott.
However, with the Audit Commission 2 describing public transport outside London as “costly, unreliable and inflexible”, the only way he will succeed in turning the bus or train into viable alternatives for all but a minority of commuters who happen to live and work in the “right” place is to make journeys by car as expensive and unpleasant as public transport already is.
On the same day as Mr Prescott’s confession appeared, traffic reports revealing that 10,500 cars had been trapped in a 7 mile traffic jam on the M4 alongside the new bus lane showed that he is making progress towards this objective.
After admitting that public transport will never be able to rival the car for ease of use, flexibility and comfort Mr Prescott continued: "What I can't accept is that journeys are taking longer and there's all that pollution."
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory comments "At this point our tolerance of the spin stops. Prescott's comments are offensive to the tens of millions of over-taxed drivers struggling to cope with the damage caused by his raft of muddled meddling with this country's transport system."
ABD Roads and Traffic spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie continues: "As the 1998 traffic survey showed that volume on major urban routes fell by 1%, jams are now being caused by the Government's devolution of traffic management to local authorities. More roads than ever are being closed for "busisation", two-way streets are reduced to one-way flow, new restrictions hold up cars entering towns and cities, road furniture and lane narrowing reduces flow, bus lanes with empty buses waste further road space, motorway development is blocked and a bus lane even appears on the M4. Each of these measures seems to be designed to make driving unpleasant for the private motorist rather than making public transport any better.
"This country's drivers have already paid for their roads many times over. Each year the government takes £33 billion from car taxes yet less than a fifth of this is re-invested. Only a small minority of motorists is aware that of every £10 spent on petrol, £8.60 is tax and that more than £1 in every £8 of Government spending is sourced from the transport sector. Once 90% of drivers realise how they are being ripped off, the government will be in real trouble when it goes to the polls. "Mondeo man" and "Wolseley woman" are being forced to the wall with policies which aren't just hitting the poor but ALL drivers."
ABD Environment spokesman Julian Rowden dismisses the environmental arguments against car use: "We are told that buses are green yet a single bus, depending on age and level of maintenance, generates 50 times (or more) the particulate pollution of a single modern car, yet buses are exempt from strict emissions testing which cars must pass.
Pollution surveys have shown air quality improving since 1991. Levels of sulphur dioxide have fallen by over 75%, nitrogen oxides by over 20%, carbon monoxide by about 50% and particulates by 50% compared to pre-1990 values 3. The worst urban pollution problem is now urban particulates, which are increased due to the government's own policy of encouraging bus use."
"The global warming myth won't wash either. There is increasing research which shows that changes in the Sun are responsible for climate change, while satellite measurements show that nearly all of the claimed 0.6 deg C rise in surface temperature this century doesn't exist."
Brian Gregory concludes: "Ministers have recently admitted that, even if all transport in the UK was stopped, it would not be able to meet its air quality targets, due to the fact that there is so much 'trans-boundary' pollution. In other words, the UK motorist is being blamed for emissions arising from beyond these shores. Meanwhile, claims for deteriorating air quality are, quite simply, wrong."
The ABD message to Prescott is clear -
If you claim to like cars, then stop penalising their drivers in such an unnecessary and unfair way, put the anti car white paper in the recycling bin and start again with a policy that is positive towards all modes of transport.