My disbelief at UK Government’s ‘crackdown on anti-driver road schemes’ – Alastair Dalton

Department for Transport’s move for England puts it at odds with Scottish Government policy

I used to get annoyed at the pernicious “War on Motorists” trigger headlines in tabloid newspapers, which signalled another rant against perceived curbs on drivers, thinly disguised as a news story.

But a more experienced newsroom colleague pointed out it was simply a “stick on” default heading for the story to pander to the prejudices of its readership.

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Prior to specifically covering transport, I don’t recall having strong views about car use, and drove to the office in previous jobs in Dunfermline, and, on occasion, in Aberdeen, even though I lived just 1.5 miles away.

The UK Government measures could see bus lane restrictions in England eased. (Photo by Ian Rutherford)The UK Government measures could see bus lane restrictions in England eased. (Photo by Ian Rutherford)
The UK Government measures could see bus lane restrictions in England eased. (Photo by Ian Rutherford)

However, my views since then have been informed by writing about transport issues, and I soon became aware of the consensus among policy makers and academic experts of the need for restrictions on car use in favour of public transport and active travel – walking, wheeling and cycling.

Over the two decades I have been The Scotsman’s transport correspondent, I’ve also detected an increasing support for this among politicians, who are often the most reluctant to embrace potentially controversial measures.

That’s been translated into Scottish Government policy, as exemplified by Transport Scotland’s “sustainable transport hierarchy” – an inverted pyramid with walking and wheeling at the top, followed by cycling, public transport, and taxis and shared transport, with the private car at the bottom.

Against that background, an announcement for England by the UK Department for Transport on Sunday made me check it wasn’t already April 1.

My double take was also prompted by the press release heading unusually being in capitals, while its wording was a flashback to those tabloid headlines: “CRACKDOWN ON ANTI-DRIVER ROAD SCHEMES AND BLANKET 20MPH LIMITS TO PUT LOCAL CONSENT FIRST.”

It described the move as the latest step in the UK government’s “Plan for Drivers”, with the “crackdown” to also cover “over-zealous traffic enforcement” such as bus lane restrictions.

Ministers, proclaiming they were “on the side of drivers”, have threatened to cut funding if local authorities “fail to deliver sensible road schemes” – and the extraordinary step of taking control of their roads “where they are deemed to be widely mismanaged”.

It’s a salutary warning of the need to win public support for policies that don’t put drivers first.



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