North East car use bucks national trend

Car use in the North East is continuing to rise as the rest of the country turns towards public transport claims a study of commuter habits

Traffic on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle
Traffic on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle

We remain addicted to our cars and buck a national trend as the rest of Britain turns to bikes and public transport.

A national study of commuter habits has shown while car use may be falling nationally, the North East is keeping away from public transport.

Dr Anna Goodman, Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, looked at a decade’s worth of transport figures and said London and some parts of the UK are seeing a slow rise in bike usage as more and more people cycle to work.

Outside London, however, a large majority of commuters are still dependent on their cars, and there have been increases in car use in Wales (79.4%, up 0.8%), and the regions of the North East (71.8%, up 1.3%), Yorkshire and the Humber (71.7%, up 1.3%), East Midlands (76.5%, up 1.3%) and West Midlands (75.5%, up 0.8%).

Dr Goodman added: “People in England and Wales remain highly car-dependent, but this research suggests we are starting to see a slight decline in car use and an increase in the alternatives.

“This gives some hope that people are travelling in the right direction towards creating a healthier and more environmentally sustainable transport system.”

The rising car use in the North East has been attributed to a number of factors, but some have speculated that rising bus fares may be putting people off.

In Tyneside, Metro owner Nexus is seeking to take over bus routes as part of a Quality Contract process.

The figures behind the legal battle are based on a predicted rise in bus use which, transport group Nexus says, will come about if buses are cheaper and more reliable with a simpler pricing structure.

A Nexus spokesman said: “We agree that bus use has been declining as car ownership has increased and bus fares have risen above the rate of inflation.

“Our Bus Strategy sets out to arrest that decline. Increased public transport use helps to boost social and economic mobility and reduce road traffic congestion.

“We are investing £385m to modernise the Metro system to ensure that it remains the backbone of public transport in Tyne and Wear, keeping an estimated 15 million car journeys off our region’s congested roads.”

The findings, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, were welcomed by the charity Sustrans, which campaigns for sustainable transport and was recently involved in Newcastle getting £5.6m to improve cycling routes.

Chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said: “The Government recently announced significant funding to improve cycling in eight cities and four national parks across England over the next two years.

“Whilst Sustrans welcomed the Government funding as an important step in the right direction, investment needs to be long-term and cover all areas of the country, making it easier and safer for as many people as possible to choose cycling for their everyday journeys.”

We agree bus use has declined as car ownership has increased and fares have risen

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