Efforts to cut car commuting at a standstill

Scots commuters remain stubbornly wedded to their cars with no reduction in driving to work compared to a decade ago, new Scottish Government figures show.

Two thirds of Scots drove to work in both 2006 and 2016. Picture Michael Gillen
Two thirds of Scots drove to work in both 2006 and 2016. Picture Michael Gillen

The lack of progress comes despite all ministers’ efforts to encourage more people to travel by public transport, walk or cycle.

In fact, the proportion of people walking to work has fallen by two points to 12 per cent since 2006. The popularity of taking the bus was also down by two points, to 10 per cent.

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However, the figures highlighted the continuing growth of rail, which was up by two points to 5 per cent.

Cycling has also increased in popularity - up from 2 per cent to 3 per cent of commuting.

The survey, of 11,000 households, also showed only 36 per cent would consider buying an electric car or van. Almost half said they would not.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said the failure to curb car use had caused an “air pollution health crisis”.

Air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “The statistics reveal Scotland’s transport system continues to favour the private car, to the neglect of cleaner, fairer modes of transport like buses, walking, and cycling.

“The result is that we have an air pollution health crisis, with all of our major city centres tarnished by toxic air, and 
with vulnerable people including children, the elderly and the ill disproportionately affected.

“Buses have the potential to be a solution to air pollution because one full double decker can take 50 cars off the road.

“These statistics confirm our bus sector is in crisis, with passenger numbers falling significantly in the last decade.

“The Scottish Government should re-regulate the bus sector through its [forthcoming] Transport Act so councils can better ensure bus services operate in the public interest.”

The Greens said ministers were getting it “badly wrong” and should scrap their planned 50 per cent air tax reduction.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “The Scottish Government needs to get real on its transport policy, and rather than listening to aviation industry lobbyists on cutting taxes, ministers need to listen to the public, cancel their proposed air departure tax cut and step up investment in the buses, trains and bike lanes we all need.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats highlighted the lack of progress with boosting cycling.

It makes up just 1 per cent of all journeys compared to ministers commitment of increasing the proportion to 10 per cent by 2020, which is widely regarded as unachievable.

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “Boosting the number of people cycling would be a win-win for Scotland but the percentage of journeys taken by bike has barely shifted since the flagship target was set in 2009.

“It will be a gigantic uphill struggle to meet the Scottish Government’s target.”

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said he wanted to see “more progress”.

He said: “Today’s figures highlight that while advances are being made in building a cleaner and greener transport system, there is still work to do.

“It is welcome that the overall share of walking journeys has increased and there has also been an increase in the number of pupils walking and cycling to school. Performance is being maintained in public or active travel [walking and cycling] to work, and the distance cycled in the last five years has increased by 13.5 per cent.”

Mr Yousaf said this month’s announcement of a doubling of the active travel budget to £80 million next year was to “help achieve our ambitious targets in this area”.

However, he added: “We recognise more can be done to address the fall in bus passenger numbers, and I meet the industry regularly to discuss this.

“We currently have a consultation running on where we can improve services and we want as many people as possible to get involved in this.”