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Government must help public transport users, not just motorists

17 March 2011
A bid to help motorists with the increasing cost of fuel needs to go hand-in-hand with help for public transport users, charities have warned today (17 March 2011).Campaign for Better Transport, along with environmental think tank Green Alliance, is calling on the Government not to prioritise one group of travellers over another and instead recognise the rising cost of public transport by supporting public transport users in the same way it plans to help motorists.

The charities have spoken out ahead of next week's budget when it is widely expected the chancellor will postpone the 1p rise in fuel duty. But with public transport users facing even higher price rises than motorists, the Government is being urged to step in and in particular support 16-18 year olds to access transport, reverse planned cuts in bus grants and help those looking for work with the costs of transport.

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport's chief executive, said: "Helping motorists with high fuel costs by postponing the fuel duty rise is sensible, but bigger cuts in fuel duty would both threaten public finances and weaken our ability to move to a transport system less dependent on uncertain and declining oil supplies. Half of people on the lowest incomes do not have access to a car so rising public transport costs are having a real impact on poorer households. The Government must not help one sector of society whilst neglecting another."

Matthew Spencer, director of Green Alliance, said: “This budget needs to be about fairness as well as green growth. The Chancellor must be even-handed in responding to rising transport costs. The motoring lobby may shout the loudest, but it is rail and bus users who have suffered the greatest rises. The Government can’t afford to protect motorists from rising oil prices in anything more than a marginal way, but it can help reduce our dependency on oil whilst protecting those in greatest need.” 

Campaign for Better Transport and Green Alliance suggest three ways the Government can support public transport users alongside motorists:

•    Introduce free or subsidised travel for 16-18 year olds from low income households to help them overcome one of the main barriers to further education
•    Help people looking for work with the cost of transport by providing journey-planning support with free or discounted tickets and passes to reach interviews and work
•    To support bus services, which are already facing unprecedented cuts, by reversing the planned 20 per cent reduction in the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), which threatens to lead to fewer services and higher fares from April 2012

Download Investing for the future: using fuel duty revenue to support growth, a report from Campaign for Better Transport, here.

Notes to Editors

1. Bus fares have risen by 24 per cent and rail fares 17 per cent since 1997, compared to a fall of seven per cent in the overall cost of motoring over the same period.

2. Making the Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion, Social Exclusion Unit (February 2003), discovered that 38 per cent of job seekers found transport a major obstacle to their finding work. Easing the transition into work, The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), found that concerns about access to public transport are the strongest source of anxiety for those who are actively seeking work; higher even than previous work experience or the extent of their responsibility for housing costs.

3. The Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) is the fuel duty rebate the Government provides bus companies with. The Government announced in the spending review that BSOG will be cut by 20 per cent from 2012, which will effectively mean a 51 per cent increase in fuel duty costs for bus operators. This increase will ultimately be passed on to passengers or result in less profitable services being cut.

4. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

5. Green Alliance is an independent think tank working to bring environmental priorities into the political mainstream. Green Alliance’s latest research in conjunction with the Policy Studies Institute, Would a fuel duty stabiliser really be fair? (February 2011), calculated that a fuel duty stabiliser could cost the Treasury up to £6bn in lost revenue.