Leading Article: There is no transport crisis. But Mr Prescott has run into difficulty

JOSEPH GOEBBELS once proclaimed a philosophy that could almost be a mantra for modern politics. Say something often enough, and people will start to believe it. A lie becomes an accepted truth by virtue of the fact that it has been repeated so many times. It has become a given that our transport system is in crisis. The reality is: there is no transport crisis.

That is not to say there are no problems, merely to point out the need to keep them in perspective. London, our worst-afflicted city, has not become Mexico City or Kuala Lumpur; it compares favourably even with cities elsewhere in Europe. Where there are problems they are often problems of success, not failure.

Take the much-maligned London Underground system. Certainly, the Victorian infrastructure is now creaking under the strain. But billions of pounds' worth of investment is flooding in for the first time in years; even the Northern Line has begun to improve. The Jubilee Line extension has finally opened, its awesome design an architectural triumph. Passengers remained packed like sardines in rush-hour; but this will always be the case unless there is a savage recession.

Complaints about the state of the national railways are another staple. These have risen in recent years, but the problem is partly one of success. The number of passengers has gone up by a quarter in the last three years, and continues to grow. There has been massive investment here too, especially in new rolling-stock. While delays are still frequent, things are getting slowly better, although one result of the badly handled privatisation is the absurdly complex ticketing system.

Buses remain, as ever, the poor relation. There are justifiable concerns about the fate of rural bus services. But in some areas bus use has increased by 40 per cent. There are hundreds of new buses on the roads. Technology, such as smartcard ticketing and electronic indicators, will help to make the use of the bus more attractive.

As for traffic congestion, that has been a familiar complaint for decades - first noted in London more than a century ago. However much is done to keep cars off the roads, a certain norm of "acceptable" congestion will return. The important thing is to ensure that there is a viable alternative, which is why substantial investment is vital to improve public transport - to provide choice, and for those without cars.

Only in one respect is the crisis real: in the political world. John Prescott's elementary mistake was to be too boastful in giving the impression that he could solve everything at a stroke. Transport problems are always with us, like death and taxes, and they are always the cause of moaning, like the weather. Once Mr Prescott had intervened, given the timescale involved in solving the problems, a popular irritation was converted into a crisis. Almost half the population now say the Government has done a bad or very bad job on transport.

Mr Prescott has achieved the remarkable feat of being vulnerable to attack from two diametrically opposed points of view. On the one hand, the name "Two Jags" Prescott has stuck, because of the perceived hypocrisy of his devoted use of the car; on the other hand, he is attacked for his "vicious vendetta" against the car. Poor Mr Prescott. If he had not boasted so, this need not have happened. Instead, he has made a crisis out of a problem. A little modesty might go a long way.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice