Government challenged over motoring 'myths': Real cost of roads far higher than ministers say, transport pressure group claims

EVERY car on Britain's roads receives a pounds 1,000 annual 'subsidy' from the Government because of the indirect costs of roads and motoring, including pollution, noise, accidents and congestion, according to an analysis published today.

Contrary to claims by transport ministers and motoring organisations that car drivers pay more in fuel and vehicle taxes than they receive back in spending on roads, the 'true' cost of motoring is more than double the tax revenues - pounds 32.5bn as against pounds 13.8bn - according to Transport 2000, the environmental pressure group.

The image of the hard-done-by motorist - perpetuated by, among others, Michael Portillo, the new Secretary of State for Employment and leading right- winger - is one of several 'myths' that Transport 2000 claims to debunk.

Other myths 'commonly peddled' by the Department of Transport, says the group, are that British roads are among the safest in Europe, that building roads relieves congestion, that people will not use public transport because the car is too convenient, that car-free areas are bad for business and that bus deregulation has been a success. The 'debunking' is based largely on official statistics.

Lynn Sloman, assistant director of the group, said government thinking on transport was 'a catalogue of myths, misconceptions and mistakes. The biggest myth of all is that the Government has a balanced transport policy - yet the Department of Transport spends pounds 3 on the roads for every pounds 1 it spends on the railways, and no more than pennies on walking and cycling.'

In 1990 Mr Portillo, then minister responsible for public transport, told the Commons that road users paid about three times as much in direct taxes as was spent on roads. However, Transport 2000 says this ignores the real external costs and says that fuel taxes, currently netting around pounds 11bn for the Treasury, should be at 'least doubled' to reflect these costs.

The costs include, for instance, pounds 15bn in congestion - a CBI estimate - nearly pounds 5bn on deaths and injuries, pounds 400m in policing and pounds 1.5bn lost to the revenue in subsidies to people with company cars. Transport 2000 claims the Treasury's effective subsidy to road users is pounds 20bn a year, about pounds 1,000 per car.

However, a spokesman for the British Road Federation said that quantifying the external environmental cost of cars was a 'dubious' exercise, as there were not hard and fast figures. 'If you count the external cost of cars you have also to take account of the external benefits that accrue, like people being able to use their cars for leisure. The two may well cancel each other out.'

On other myths cited, Transport 2000 says that even current high levels of spending on road building will add only 2-5 per cent to total road space, against a forecast doubling of traffic in the next 30 years. Investment in public transport such as light rail have quickly brought big increases in passengers.

Pedestrianised areas have increased retail turnover by an average of 25 per cent, despite business worries beforehand. Bus deregulation has led to less investment, a 25 per cent fall in passenger mileage and to companies doing 'more mileage in pursuit of fewer passengers'.

And for all the supposed safety of British roads, the group points out that the country's child casualty rate is one of the worst in Europe, while cycling in Britain is seven times more dangerous than in Holland and ten times more dangerous than in Sweden.

Myths and Facts: Transport Trends and Transport Policies; Transport 2000, 10 Melton Street, London NW1 2EJ.

(Graphs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water