On the road

The case for traffic restraint to ease congestion on the motorways is even stronger than Roger Harrabin claims ("You'll never drive alone", 4 February). Road pricing is not the only possible form of traffic restraint. Lower and better-enforced speed limits could have a similar effect in reducing the volume of traffic, while producing very significant benefits in the form of much lower costs per vehicle mile, which do not result from road pricing. Casualty rates would be reduced, as would fuel consumption, air pollution and noise. Lower speeds and road pricing would reinforce each other. The case for road pricing for lorries is especially strong; a system of distance-related charges could and should be introduced quickly.

Many people value a car because of its instant availability and facility for door-to-door travel, but rarely drive long distances. A new category of car, a local runabout, with a low top speed and other "green" characteristics, would suit their needs well. Its natural advantages of being cheap to buy and run, as well as easy to drive, could be enhanced by fiscal policy and the laws governing driver licensing. In inner-city areas, car clubs or some kind of hiring arrangement make better sense than individual car ownership; local authorities can encourage their introduction by changing parking policy - for example, by making over some of the space now used for residents' parking.

Stephen Plowden
London NW1

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Take cover: evil is back