Letter: Drivers plead not guilty

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Drivers plead not guilty

Sir: I read with some concern the series of articles based on Christian Wolmar's pamphlet Unlocking the Gridlock ("You, your car and how to end the affair", 19 August).

It seems there is now a concerted campaign to force drivers off the roads into poorly funded and inadequate public transport. The freedoms brought by the car are increasingly being ignored and drivers are made to feel guilty each time they start their engines. Mr Wolmar's arguments appear to centre on dire predictions of worsening congestion and environmental damage. These arguments are, I believe, fallacious.

It is highly unlikely that congestion will worsen in line with the direct predictions of the green lobby. Eighty per cent of those eligible to drive already have driving licences. A 50 per cent growth in the number of cars on the road is thus impossible. Furthermore, recent surveys suggest that the number of teleworkers will increase to 3 million by 2000, bringing the volume of road traffic down further.

Cars are getting cleaner. A modern petrol car produces less than 10 per cent of the pollution of its pre-1993 counterpart, and emissions are set to fall by 50 per cent over the next 10 years without the additional legislation already planned. There may be a pollution problem, but much of the blame can be laid on the 10 per cent of road vehicles currently producing 50 per cent of the pollution. One bus, for example, produces more particulates (PM10s) than 128 cars.

To be able to travel at will for work and leisure, rather than when a public transport operator decrees one may, is a vital and precious freedom. This is being slowly removed through traffic regulation and now, it seems, through road pricing, closing motorways to cars, car park tax and higher fuel prices. At the same time, little has been done to make public transport more attractive to travellers. Thus far the Government's approach has been all stick and no carrot.

Successive governments have refused to invest in road infrastructure and now berate drivers for having the temerity to cause congestion. Few will use public transport through choice because it does not take them where they need to go, it is expensive, time consuming and highly unreliable.

We need to recognise that owning and driving a car are not tantamount to environmental desecration, but an essential freedom vital to the economy. However, drivers remain easy targets for political correctness and cynical revenue-raising dressed up in green clothes.

Isn't it time the drivers' view was listened to?

MARK McARTHUR-CHRISTIE

Association of British Drivers

Witney, Oxfordshire

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