Transport failings


According to the BBC, a team of academics from Glasgow and Plymouth universities has declared the Labour government's record on transport "a big disappointment".

The reasons were as follows:

  • Traffic congestion is worse than a decade ago.
  • The investment needs of the railways have been almost completely ignored, in particular to increase capacity.
  • Bus services in most of the UK have remained poor, especially in comparison with European rivals.
  • Tram schemes have been abandoned, despite proving effective at getting motorists out of their cars.
  • Walking and cycling have been largely neglected.
  • The government is afraid of addressing the environmental impact of aviation.
  • Transport carbon emissions continue to rise.

My thoughts:

  • The environmental impact of aviation is more of a symbolic problem than an actual one. Aviation accounts for just 1.5 percent of total CO2 emissions and is unlikely to contribute more than 3 percent by the mid-century.
  • Tram schemes have been abandoned because they're very expensive and there's little demand for them. Where there is demand for public transport, buses are a much more sensible option.
  • Bus services in most of the UK have remained 'poor' for an entirely rational reason – there isn't much demand for bus services. Even in London, most drive around half-empty.
  • Traffic congestion has worsened because we don’t have enough road-space. The government collects £32bn in transport taxes, but only spends £8bn on roads, most of which goes on maintenance. The M6 Toll road offers an example of what we should be doing: getting the private sector to build and operate new roads to take the strain off congested bits of the existing network.
  • The investment needs of the railways have been ignored because, despite privatization, the railway companies continue to rely heavily on taxpayer funding and central planning. If they were free to set ticket prices and direct investment, they could make profits and plough them back into increased capacity (rather than relying on a £6.5bn subsidy).
  • It's hard to see what government could do to encourage walking and most towns already seem to have more cycle-lanes than cyclists.
  • In the short term, rising transport emissions are more or less inevitable. In the long run though, technology will solve the problem, not government.