Let motorists stew

So motorists will abandon their cars only when they're certain "trains will run frequently and on time, dovetailing with local bus services at all hours of the day" (Tom Brown, NS Scotland, 25 October). This idea that motorists will use public transport only when it reaches a vaguely defined state of perfection is bullshit. Some will never use a bus, except maybe at gunpoint. Quite a few more will use it if the alternative is sticking to the car, in ever more unpleasant conditions. So let them stew - building new roads is the last thing we need if people are to be persuaded to use public transport. Once motorists make those first hesitant steps, they may find that public transport isn't that bad. Strathclyde, for example, has one of the best commuter rail networks in Europe and overcrowding on buses and trains is nowhere near as bad as it is in cities south of the border. Motorists would find that public transport is also cheap and pretty frequent if you live in one of the larger towns and cities of Scotland.

Paul Salveson
Transport Research and Information Network

This article first appeared in the 08 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - To uplift the souls of the people