We have one of the worst public transport systems in Europe and yet we pay the highest fares.

The realisation that you have to pay over the odds for such a poor level of service is hardly likely to encourage the British public to ditch their cars.

There may be a small degree of snobbishness involved, as has been suggested by some local politicians in Birmingham (http://icbirmingham.icnetwork/birminghampost).

But, on the whole, we’re not stupid.

If we are being asked to pay high fares for unreliable, uncomfortable and unattractive public transport, then we will opt to stay faithful to our own cars.

The latest study by the BBC shows that people in the UK spend 15% of disposable income on transport and double the amount on fares spent by those in other European countries. Researchers also found that people spend 20 minutes longer travelling to work each week than 10 years ago (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6243561.stm).

There are many questions raised by such findings:

  • Why do we pay so much and yet are continually told that the public transport system is in dire need of additional investment?
  • Why are large parts of the country simply not accessible to those without their own vehicle because of a lack of basic public transport provision?
  • Why are inflation busting rail fares acceptable for services with poor punctuality and standards of customer care?
  • What incentive is there for people to leave their car at home or take the bus, train or tram to work?

Our roads are getting more and more congested and yet we are happier to queue on gridlocked roads than buy a ticket for a bus or a train.

That mentality will not change overnight. Even with the right kind of investment targeted where it is needed the most, an immediate reduction of fares and improvement in vehicles and rolling stock, the cult of the car is now so strong that it will take years to break.

So perhaps you should take a look at the latest vehicles being unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in the US and pick out your own four-wheel charger (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/6240631.stm)?

Chances are that if you’re driving in the UK you’ll be spending an awful lot of time in it as congestion increases. At least you should be grateful to Ford and Microsoft, who are about to revolutionise in-car entertainment (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6240479.stm).

The joys of the open road might be a thing of the past in the UK but at least you’ll be able kick off your shoes, put on your favourite DVD and sit out the traffic jam in a bit of style and comfort.

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