Letter: Greener public transport for clean air and congestion free cities

30 July 2017

The government has announced that it is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in order to “improve air quality”. We in the Green Party accept that this is step forward - but a tiny one compared to the challenges we face. By then many thousands of people will have died because of air pollution which could be prevented. However, even bringing forward this measure would not address the real issue. While electric cars will have a positive effect on reducing some of the most toxic fumes in our air, they won’t solve the congestion problems afflicting many of our cities. Crucially, electric vehicles are only as clean as their power supply – and we currently face the prospect of driving cars powered by fracked gas. This country needs a completely new transport policy. Current spending plans will see £23bn of taxpayers’ money ploughed into the road network – thus encouraging more private car use, often at the expense of our countryside. And rather than encouraging people to switch to public transport just last week ministers said they will scrap three key electrification projects on our railways.

To make matters worse, in the same week that the government rowed back on its long-standing commitment to electrify the Trans-Pennine railway between Manchester and Leeds, it also announced their backing for a £31bn Crossrail 2 rail scheme in London. New analysis by IPPR North shows that over the past decade public spending on transport in London vastly exceeded that in the North – spending per head of the English population on transport infrastructure has reached £2,595 in London. In comparison in the North West it is just over £99!

The government should be helping people across the whole country to switch to cleaner, cheaper and more sustainable modes of transport. We should be aiming for towns and cities that are easily navigable by foot and bike, a fully electric and publicly owned train and tram system, and local public transport that is a joy to use – rather than the overpriced, unreliable service that’s currently on offer in so many places.

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