Car-free Sundays could be introduced to parts of central London, Boris Johnson has suggested, amid warnings that Britain’s roads will be jammed with an extra seven million drivers within 20 years.
Today the Government will announce plans for a £15bn overhaul of 100 of Britain’s busiest roads and motorways. The projects include a tunnel under Stonehenge, improvements to junctions on the M25 and turning the A1 in the north of Newcastle into a dual carriageway.
But speaking on a visit to Indonesia the Mayor of London said he was in favour of copying a scheme in Jakarta where areas of the capital have been closed to traffic from 6am every Sunday. “I was blown away by the popularity of the car-free Sunday here,” he said. “I will certainly be asking Transport for London to dust down [their] old ideas and have a look.”
In Bristol, two roads in the centre are now closed to cars every weekend, following a successful trial of car-free Sundays last year. The city’s Mayor, George Ferguson, introduced the idea as part of his Make Sunday Special initiative.
Mr Johnson’s comments came as the RAC Foundation warned that the number of British road users is set to soar from 36 million to 43 million over the next two decades. In a report published today, the motoring charity said its forecast was consistent with government projections. The report stated that 49 per cent of people in England and Wales lived in towns and cities with a population of at least 250,000, with three-quarters of households in towns owning at least one car. It said that, while the widespread use of electric cars would bring environmental benefits, this may also have the effect of increasing traffic.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said the report illustrated the “massive challenges” the UK faced in “unclogging our urban areas”.
“Traffic forecasting is not an exact science but the direction of travel is clear – towards increasing jams,” he said.
Plans for a £15bn investment in roads will be presented on Wednesday when the Chancellor George Osborne gives his Autumn Statement.
There will also be £100m to improve cycling provision at 200 key locations across the road network, as well as a commitment to cycle-proof any new schemes being developed.
Also, there will be a £300m environmental fund to mitigate carbon emission and reduce the number of people affected by serious noise by 250,000.
David Cameron has described the proposals, which include the creation of extra lanes on motorways, as a “roads revolution” which will lead to quicker journey times and more jobs.
But Professor Glaister said a cultural change in the way that Britons travelled was needed. “To preserve the quality of life in cities we must revise our travel expectations and ministers need to set clear strategies to facilitate this,” he said.
The price of fuel has fallen in recent months against a background of declining world oil prices. But in an analysis published today, the AA said petrol sales were down on a year ago, suggesting families and businesses are still struggling economically.