The last government’s Ten Year Plan envisaged that congestion could be greatly reduced by increasing rail use by 50% and bus use by 10%. Consequently vast sums have been spent on public transport. However, the policy was, at its inception, deeply flawed.
Firstly, it was always obvious that, since rail accounted for only 2% of motorised journeys, and since rail and bus each carried only 6% of passenger miles, large increases in those percentages could have only a trivial effect on car journeys. For example, increasing rail use from 6% to 9% (a 50% increase) and bus travel by from 6% to 6.6% (a 10% increase) would increase public transport’s share by less than four percentage points. Figure 1 illustrates the potential effect. It assumes half of the increase in public transport use would come from the car and that car use would otherwise rise by 10% over the 10 year period. Clearly the effect of the policy would be difficult to discern.
Secondly, the car has enabled a dispersed land use that is difficult or impossible to serve by bus let alone the train. If it were otherwise that land use distribution would have arisen in the past and it did not.
As for road and rail, the train is used by people reaching the hearts of our largest cities because there is, for those people, no other practical way of reaching the destinations. Half of those journeys are more than 20 miles long and 10% are more than 80 miles long. Similarly, the bus may get a passenger to a town centre but seldom anywhere else except at great inconvenience. In contrast the car serves out of town locations; half of all such journeys are less than 5 miles long and 90 % are less than 17 miles long.
Supposing that left any doubt as to the foolishness of the policy, consider Figure 2. The idea that the car trips that have arisen since 1950 could ever be swept into buses and trains is clearly absurd.
The cost to the nation has been vast. Roads have been starved of funds and congestion has been deliberately caused in a misguided attempt to force people out of cars onto buses and trains.