World chokes as cities reach gridlock: But it's lost on three- car families

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Visiting the car capital of Britain, the enormity of John Prescott's task became apparent. Housing estates were being built with triple garages the norm, the town centre streets were crammed with cars and the bus depot was far from bustling.

Guildford, the Surrey commuter town, has more cars per household than anywhere in the United Kingdom. And yesterday, the car owners of the most affluent town in the country were determined to stick firmly behind the wheel.

One in 12, or 8.33 per cent, of households in Guildford have three or more cars. John James is part of that statistic.

Indignant about the Deputy Prime Minister's proposals, Mr James said: "It's simplistic to say if there was better public transport more people would use it.

"It's to do with freedom of choice. It's our business and no one else's that we have three cars. Prescott's solution seems to be to hold a conference, wave a wand and hope everyone will obey. But I'm not going to give up my cars.

"We need them locally, I use my car for short journeys - I can't use anything else, it would be ridiculous. And it's all very well to have cheap train fares to London, but the rail companies penalise you by charging stupid amounts to park for the day."

Andrea Wooton had driven her Mercedes two miles from her home into the town centre. Her husband, a surveyor, had driven to Slough to do a site visit. The family's third car is "a little runaround, a bit of an old banger."

Mrs Wooton felt it was justifiable for her family to have three cars. She said: "My husband can't use public transport - he's somewhere different each day. And I love my Mercedes and need it to pick the children up from school, do the shopping and take my mother to the hospital every week. I would be housebound without it.

"My eldest son is learning to drive in the other car. It's not extravagant, it's a necessity. It's all very well for Mr Prescott, who lives in London, to say this, but I'd like to see him in mine or my husband's shoes minus a car."