Headlines: July 30th, 2009

Opposition to congestion charging schemesis hardening according to research published today. The study, carried out by Ipsos MORI for the RAC Foundation also shows that more than half of motorists would rather risk being stuck in a traffic jam than make use of public transport.

The report, ‘The Congestion Challenge’, summarises the results of a survey on car use and congestion and says people seem to have resigned themselves to a congested, low-performance future. They are unconvinced about alternatives to the car and unsupportive of measures to reduce congestion unless these are paid for from the public purse.

In detail, 53 per cent of drivers said they would rather risk a traffic jam than take public transport, although three-quarters support an increase in the number and frequency of bus services. Forty-four percent of respondents oppose any form of congestion charge in towns and cities even if the money raised were to be spent on improving local transport. That figure has risen from 32 per cent in 2001. At the same time support for congestion charging schemes has fallen from 54 per cent to 41 per cent over the same period.

Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the Foundation said: “It is apparent that radical approaches to easing congestion will be difficult for politicians to sell to a sceptical population. This was proved in Manchester where there was an overwhelming rejection of a local congestion charging scheme.”

The report’s co-author, Ben Marshall, Research Director of Ipsos MORI, also said its findings posed significant difficulties for politicians and policy makers. He added: “Perhaps the biggest challenge facing policy-makers and politicians is what to do next. In particular, should public opinion be followed, or led? Who should do this, and how?”