Suffolk needs investment in public transport - not cuts
PUBLISHED: 11:18 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:18 24 January 2020
Cities around the world are banning cars to tackle air pollution. But how can rural communities follow suit when public transport is so inadequate?
Cars are a problem. And a big one, at that.
It's certainly no secret that cars are major polluters, and as the threat of global warming grows ever more urgent, we need to drastically reassess our relationship with our vehicles.
Slowly but surely, cities around the world are falling out of love with cars.
Last week, Birmingham introduced a new transport plan, which could see private cars banned from the city centre in an effort to tackle air pollution.
Taking inspiration from the European cities of Ghent and Oslo - both of which have taken steps to go car-free - the proposals could turn Birmingham into a model city for the future, where walking, cycling and public transport successfully get people from A to B.
It sounds almost too good to be true: a smog-free, tranquil zone where the sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic is but a distant memory.
But this could become the new normal for British cities in the near future.
Already, the affordable, reliable public transport systems in place across London, Birmingham and Manchester are helping to tempt people away from their gas-guzzling vehicles.
For us to make a real dent in our CO2 emissions, however, it's not just the city dwellers who should be thinking about going car-free.
Of course, carless utopias are much more difficult to achieve in rural areas, where people tend to depend much more heavily on their vehicles.
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But with British CO2 emissions from new cars rising for the third year in a row, it's clear that we need to turn our attentions towards greener ways to travel.
Simply put, public transport needs to become a more viable option for people living in rural areas.
At present, anyone living outside of the major cities has to put up with expensive, unreliable and inadequate public transport, meaning that people are actually driving more than in years past - despite growing concerns over emissions, air pollution and congestion.
Cuts to rural bus services and the sky-high cost of rail travel has seen car dependency rise dramatically in recent years, with one in four Brits saying that they're driving more because public transport has deteriorated.
According to the RAC, 44% of Britons say that reliability has declined, 39% report higher fares and 33% say that they have to drive more due to cuts to local services.
Here in Suffolk, meanwhile, just one in 10 residents use public transport to travel to work, while seven in every 10 travel to work by car.
Of those 10, six Suffolk drivers are the sole occupant of the vehicle for the entire journey - so, is it any wonder why the roads are gridlocked each morning?
And even as traffic jams cause chaos on the roads, the county's already patchy public transport is coming under threat.
Last Summer, Suffolk County Council confirmed that it would be pulling the subsidy on 23 rural bus routes, plunging the future of these services into doubt.
Decisions such as these reinforce rural dependence on cars, adding more polluting vehicles to our roads rather than taking them away.
If we want to tackle the escalating climate emergency, then we all need to be driving less, and we need reliable, cost-effective public transport options that work for all.
Our bus and train services need investments, not cuts, and if we stand a chance of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, our local and central governments must start driving change when it comes to green travel.