“The Chancellor’s decision to freeze fuel duty for the seventh year running is bad news for climate change, air pollution and public health. Our country has returned to the bad old days of rising traffic growth and the main political parties are competing over who will build more roads. It’s like the anti-roads campaigns of the early 1990s never happened and our pollution crisis doesn’t exist.
Between 2010 and 2015, the cost of driving fell 10%, while the cost of using bus services rose 5% and rail by 7%. This led to a rapid rise in traffic last year, which reached record levels. The rise has been especially noticeable on rural roads where council subsidies to bus services have been cut and bus services decimated.
The Government should reverse the fuel duty freeze of recent years and reverse all the bus cuts. It could use the billions of pounds raised to give the rest of the country the quality of public transport that Londoner’s enjoy. £850m would have been raised in the coming year without the freeze. Despite a huge increase in population, London’s traffic levels have fallen a lot since 2000 when the Mayoralty was set up. London works because it broke with the ‘car is king’ mentality that dominates government thinking and gave more priority to buses, walking and cycling.
The best way of helping those in a JAM (Just About Managing) is to break car dependency by giving people the choice of cheap, high quality public transport alternatives. We could invest in a national scheme of electric car clubs, especially in the suburbs of cities and rural areas. The best way of funding those alternatives is to make the polluter pay.”