LETTER: The real transport choice is a choice not to travel

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Sir: Graham Allen's assurance that the next Labour government will create "an infrastructure that will give people transport choices" (letter, 7 March) is laudable in itself, but ignores the core transport problem, which is the enormous growth in total movement of both people and goods, by whatever means of transport.

For example, the average item of food travels 50 per cent further from producer to household than it did 10 years ago. Similar changes have occurred in almost every field of production, all represented by proportional increases in lorry mileages. People also travel ever further to work, to shop, and in their leisure activities. Only a small part of this is because of increases in personal freedoms and choices. Most is the result of planning decisions, both by public bodies and by manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Time and again the decision is made that it will be cheaper to close down a factory (shop, office, school, depot, court-house, blood transfusion centre) and let people travel to a new big central one.

Of course, it is not cheaper for the country. The cost is simply transferred to someone else, such as the government or council that builds the roads, or the customers and workers who have to spend more time, money and nervous energy travelling, and all of us who have to suffer the resulting congestion and degraded environment.

A sensible transport policy must start by asking not how we move people and goods about but how we can avoid having to.

Christopher Padley

Market Rasen, Lincolnshire