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We all have the right to travel, but millions of people across the UK are cut off from work, education, healthcare, food shopping, or leisure by our unfair transport system.
This situation worsens some of the massive inequalities that already exist in society, and drives climate change. Here are seven ways the UK’s transport system is unfair:
1. The government has made us seriously dependent on cars
The UK is one of the most car-dependent countries in Europe, and not by choice. Over the years, the government has forced us into cars by prioritising investment in new roads and making driving cheaper over providing good public transport. This means our public transport system – especially outside of major cities – is a shambles.
Many hospitals, schools and shops are impossible to reach without a car, and 40% of jobseekers say poor transport stops them from getting work.
The impacts of car dependency don’t fall evenly. While 78% of households have a car, one in five men and one in three women don’t drive. This means men are more likely to drive than women, and so the burden of our car dependent society falls more heavily on women.
Also, the more we earn, the more likely we are to own a car (or several). That means poorer people are worse affected by our broken transport system. Those who don’t drive or cannot afford to, find themselves increasingly trapped in a world built around cars.
2. Public transport is failing us
Bus, tube and train services have been underfunded for decades and are often overpriced, delayed or just nonexistent. Almost £400 million has been cut from local bus funding in the last decade alone, and rail fares in the UK are some of the most expensive in Europe.
People outside big cities suffer the most from poor public transport and can end up feeling socially isolated. Only half of rural households are within 13 minutes walk of a bus stop with at least hourly service, compared to 96% of urban households.
With passenger numbers falling during the pandemic, bus and train services across the country are being cut to save money. For example, residents in Basingstoke are worried about getting home safely now that bus services have been cut, and heaps of routes have been affected due to massive cuts to East Midlands train services.
3. People in poorer areas are more likely to die on the roads
The poorest communities pay the highest price for the UK’s car dependence. Children of the lowest socioeconomic groups are up to 28 times more likely to be killed on the roads than those in the top socioeconomic group.
Also, the highest levels of air pollution are found in the poorest neighbourhoods. As a result, people in these areas are more likely to suffer – and die – from heart disease, asthma, cancers, and other health problems.