Letter: Cars promise a nightmare future

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Cars promise a nightmare future

Sir: Mark McArthur-Christie is mistaken to claim that a 50 per cent growth in car numbers is impossible because 80 per cent of those eligible to drive already possess driving licences (Letters, 22 August). Such a simplistic argument fails to recognise the large number of licence holders who, like myself, do not own a car. It also ignores the fact that people are now tending to possess their cars well beyond retirement age.

Comparison with other countries shows the potential for further dramatic growth in car ownership. The UK has only 350 cards per 1,000 population, compared with almost 600 in the United States, over 500 in Italy, and nearly 500 in Germany.

The claim that teleworking can significantly reduce road traffic volumes is unproven - his prediction of 3 million teleworkers by 2000 seems a little optimistic. There are concerns that working from home could increase demand for living outside cities in locations where there is often little alternative to relying on the private car.

The view that measures must be taken to discourage car use and promote alternatives, such as walking, cycling and public transport, is shared across the political spectrum. The Government's Transport White Paper consultation document recognises that "we cannot carry on as at present", and the former transport minister, Steven Norris, said last week, "People think they have a civil right to drive where they want; that is a civil right which has expired."

Without government action, the freedom to drive will simply be restricted by worsening congestion, with disastrous implications for the environment and the economy. This vision of the future does not bear contemplation.

Councillor DAVID BEGG

Convener of Transportation Committee

The City of Edinburgh Council