Letter: Tax car usage, not the car

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FOR MANY decades the entire socio-economic structure of this country has been geared towards universal car ownership and use ("Prescott's transport of despair", 21 November). Shops, businesses, entertainment facilities and housing are no longer concentrated in the same area but scattered randomly on remote sites. It is neither feasible nor desirable to have a network of high-frequency services between any two random points within an urban area and even less in rural areas. This situation encourages and often necessitates the use of a car and will take more than the life of a Parliament to reverse.

There needs to be a more general adoption of Ian Herbert's philosophy: select a residential area with good transport links to one's work area. The family car is then available for transporting the children and the shopping.

The Government should take steps to help people make rational decisions about the mode of transport to use for any given journey. The high fixed cost of car ownership mitigates against this, as the marginal cost of the journey always seems small. Part of the answer would be to shift the bulk of the tax on vehicle purchase and most of the road fund licence on to fuel. The cost of the tax disc could be reduced to the cost of issue, and additional administrative costs of special arrangements for transport would be offset by the abandonment of short-term licence and partial refunds. This would raise the perception of journey cost and the importance of fuel economy. This is a radical step and we will need to take our friends in the EU with us if a form of fuel piracy is not to ensue.


Huddersfield, West Yorkshire