Prescott’s traffic pledge appears to be failing

New government figures show that despite a pledge by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to cut road traffic, numbers continue to rise.


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Figures released by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) show that traffic levels in the second quarter of 2001 remained at about the same level as in the same quarter of 2000, but allowing for the suppression of levels caused by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, especially in April, the underlying growth in traffic is estimated as about 1%. Over the same period, goods vehicle traffic fell by 2%, also only due to the foot and mouth epidemic.

A comprehensive analysis of annual road traffic estimates, also published on 9 August, showed that traffic growth rose by 0.3% between 1999 and 2000, but after allowing for the effects of the fuel protest in September 2000, it is estimated that there would have been a rise of 0.7% between the two years.

Disappointingly for the Government, car traffic on Sundays in 2000 was only 10% below that for Mondays, while the corresponding percentage for good vehicles was 76%. This demonstrates that the car is still being extensively used in recreational time for short, local trips.

Motorcycle traffic fell by 3% between 1999 and 2000 following a 16% rise in the previous year. The Government says that these changes are probably related to the good weather in 1999 and wetter weather in 2000.

In 1997, John Prescott said that he would have failed in his job if road traffic had not been cut in five years. Although the past year has seen a 15% growth in train use, this results in little impact on transport figures, as car journeys make up such a high proportion of the total, and far, far exceed any other kind of journey taken.

“More traffic means more congestion, more pollution, more accidents – and more broken promises,” commented Tony Bosworth, Transport Campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FOE). “Building new roads is not the answer. If the Government is serious about tackling traffic, it has to spend less on building roads and more on giving drivers good quality alternatives to the car.”

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