Car now as slow as train and bus

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The Independent Online
MOTORISTS WHO try to beat the bus by driving into central London are wasting their time, according to official figures published yesterday.

The journey time into the city centre by car is as slow as by public transport for the first time, a government survey found. The study by the Department for the Environmental, Transport and the Regions found an average nine-mile journey between outer and central London took both the car and public transport 64 minutes.

Car journey times rose 7 per cent from the 60 minutes recorded in 1995, while public transport trips using a mixture of bus, train and Tube took 2 per cent longer, up from 63 minutes.

Glenda Jackson, a Transport minister, said: "This shows yet again that traffic congestion is choking London streets and making journey times longer for everyone, particularly for car drivers. Using public transport means less congestion, less pollution and less wasted time."

However, the car was much quicker for journeys within suburban London - at 42 minutes compared with 73 by bus or train. The survey also found the average journey time by bicycle for eight-mile trips was 48 minutes, compared with 36 minutes by car. The survey was done at varying times to given an accurate result.

The report, Journey Times Survey 1998 - Central and Outer London, found that growing levels of congestion over the past three years had been a major cause for slowing down car journeys. Other reasons included motorists choosing longer and more varied routes to avoid traffic jams and a 13 per cent rise - to pounds 10.50 - in the cost of four hours' parking, prompting motorists to take time seeking cheap parking.

The AA said motorists preferred their cars and would not be tempted out of them until public transport was improved.

Paul Watters, head of road and transport policy at the AA, said: "Even though journey times may be the same, the people that are in their cars argue that they are much happier being in the car rather than being in the cold and wet with other people.

"Our surveys of London members show they are strong supporters of the car for reasons of personal security and safety. They may use public transport but they don't like it."

The Confederation of Passenger Transport said the trend was moving in the right direction and would be helped by government policies such as congestion charging and workplace parking charges. "We have to get the point where the bus beats the car. As long as they are level, the average driver will prefer their car," a spokesman said.

Researchers carried out 80 trips between central and outer London in both directions and 80 long journeys through the outer suburbs.

They included time taken to find parking spaces and, for public transport users, time spent walking to the station or bus stop and waiting for the service to arrive.

Long Haul

Nine-mile journey from outer to inner London

Time (minutes)

Car Bus/train

1995 59.7 62.6

1998 63.9 64.1

Speed (mph)

1995 9.0 8.6

1998 8.4 8.4

Source: DETR