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Module:6  Travel and Transport

Travel and Transport


There is nothing inherently wrong with travel. Our ancestors, from the beginning of time, travelled huge distances. “Travel broadens the mind”1

The problem is how and why we travel. We are all travelling faster, more frequently and more miles per year than ever before. Since 1955 the annual distance travelled per person has increased by 70%. Since 1985 alone it has increased by nearly 32%.2

On this section of our journey we will look at why successive governments have adopted policies which have ensured that the car has come to dominate our lives. And how we can make changes to avoid the generation of waste and pollution and overuse of energy.

See - Understanding the problem

31% of all trips in the UK are for leisure, and if you include shopping in that category, it takes it up to 50%.3

It is a popular myth, created by and perpetuated by the motor industry, that nearly everybody has a car. In fact 26% of all households in the UK do not have access to a car,4 and in many central urban areas, that figure is as high as 39% - or more.5  In fact the UK has the lowest car ownership in the whole of Europe (399 cars per 1000 people)6. Italy has the highest at 577 per 1000. It is significant that we are also the lowest users of public transport in Europe – less than 11% of all journeys. Austrians use public transport for more than 25% of all journeys, and Italians 21%.

As explained in Module 1 Britain removed state and local control from its transport system in favour of free enterprise and the pursuit of profit. Following the rebuilding after the war road transport was allowed to dominate. Every other country in Europe integrated trams and street-cars with buses and trains and produced a joined up system.  In Britain, between 1959 and 1964 the Minister of Transport was Ernest Marples, who just happened to be the owner of the largest road building company in the country, Marples Ridgeway, who were responsible for the building of some of our motorways. Marples Ridgeway was a member of the British Roads Federation, an organisation of motor manufacturers, hauliers, bus operators, and road users (including the AA and RAC) set up in 1932 with the intention of crushing the power of the railways7. Ernest Marples was responsible for the appointment of Dr Richard Beeching, whose brief was simply either to make the railways pay for themselves or close them down. As a result of his advice one third of the rail network disappeared between 1965 and 1970. Many of the former lines have now been converted into roads and motorways and others have been built over making re-

1George Bernard Shaw

2National Travel Statistics 2006

3National Travel Statistics 2006

42001 Population census

5In central Scarborough, in North Yorkshire, 58% do not have access to a vehicle, (2001 pop census.)

6Eurostats 2004

7The 1932 Railways Act was designed to force all long haul freight to travel by rail. Due to fierce opposition from BRF it never happened. The 1933 Road Transport Act replaced it, licensing commercial vehicles.


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