Car congestion? Simple, build more roads!The publication of Sir Rod Eddington's report on the future of transport, and roads in particular, seems to epitomise our political elites attitude towards cars these days. Indeed, comments made by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, a few years ago, illustrates perfectly contemporary attitudes towards modern motoring. The Mayor once said 'I hate cars. If I ever get any power again, I'll ban the lot'.
The debate about the future of transport and roads in the UK is dominated by bean counters and small-mindedness. Eddington's solution to future urban car congestion is simply to make drivers pay more for using congested roads and motorways during peak times - it took him all of some 350 pages to work that one out, how imaginative. The report is in reality, just an echo of the government's own mantra, that is, whatever happens, Britain cannot simply just build it's way out of the problem of congestion. In the foreword of the governments white paper on transport two years ago, the Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that Britain 'cannot simply build our way out of the problems we face'. It was a mantra that was repeated by his Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, in case you didn't quite get the message, he reminded everyone at a speech to the Institute of Public Policy - that - yes, you've guessed it, 'we cannot build our way out of the problem'. Ok, ok, ok, message received and understood.
To me, the report and it's solutions are, to all intents and purpose, a shining example of the politics of petty, small-minded, local green Nimbyism, that is being placed over and above the fundamental notion of providing universal provisions. Indeed, according to Eddington, 'there is no attractive alternative to road pricing'. Well, he's certainly wrong about that, because there is an 'attractive alternative' - BUILD MORE ROADS.
Eddington admits in the report that the invention of the car and motorways have improved the quality of our lives like never before in human history. He also accepts that the car has given us all more freedom and wealth in the process. The history of human development, is the history of making things bigger, better and more efficient. The report is bereft of vision, leadership, and more importantly bold ideas. The truth is, our society, the 5th wealthiest nation on the planet, needs new, bold and exciting ideas to deal with congestion. The only things that our political masters seem to have in mind is rock bottom horizons and taxing motorists out of existence - how novel.
For a more amusing and skeptical view on this issue take a look at the excellent Longrider's piece.