ABSTRACT

For passenger traffic i n the Uni ted K i n g d o m the last 30 years has been a per iod of phenomenal growth (Box 1.1). The number of households w i t h access to one or more cars is now 67 per cent. A t the same time growth i n the relative share of private transport is matched by a correspondingly precipitous decline i n public transport. Under ly ing these changes are the improvement i n real incomes and a divergence i n the real price of private and public transport. It is notable that over the last decade the real price of both ra i l fares and bus fares has increased much faster than the index of all motor vehicle cost components and that the real price of private motoring has actually fallen (Box 1.2)

The average distance that each of us travels by bicycle has declined markedly, as has the distance travelled on foot. The falls i n cycling are particularly marked for children, a point to which we return i n a subsequent chapter (Box 1.3). The trends i n freight transport are more mixed, but once again the relative share and absolute volume of freight hauled by rail has fallen sharply compared to that hauled by road (Box 1.4)

In the view of many, this rapid increase in road transport stands squarely i n the way of a growing desire for a cleaner, safer and quieter environment. Road transport has begun to erode the benefits that it once brought and now it is difficult to countenance the impact on the environment of the continuation of current trends. A n d yet, the Nat ional Road Traffic Forecasts made i n 1989 suggest that the tremendous surge in vehicle kilometres w i l l continue over the next 30 years, growing by between 61 and 98 per cent on 1993 levels (Department of Transport, 1994). There are genuine doubts as to whether the road network can actually accommodate this much traffic and, if it cannot, traffic growth w i l l be left to f ind its o w n level. This w i l l result i n more congestion, and therefore longer journey times for all motorists, which i n turn w i l l dissuade people from maki n g more trips, not least because of the sheer unpleasantness of

driving. The speed of travel i n London is no faster now than it was at the turn of the century, and much investment i n road infrastructure appears to f i l l up as soon as it is opened.