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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Manager - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Commercial Manager is required to join a lea...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£18000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first ...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web / Software Developer - ASP.NET

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small and agile digital marketi...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders