Public transport restrictions will put a million more cars on the road at rush hour

Climate campaigners call for public authorities to intervene and prevent UK towns and cities from being overloaded with traffic

Waiting for the bus

Restrictions to public transport services could result in over a million additional cars using roads in England and Wales at rush hour, a new study suggests.

As lockdown is lifted but social distancing measures remain in place, public transport capacity is set to be severely limited, meaning more people are likely to use their cars to get to and from work instead, according to researchers at Westminster University’s Active Travel Academy.

The study suggests that areas in England and Wales that are heavily reliant on public transport will face gridlock every day on the roads if car owners ditch public transport on their commutes and get behind the wheel instead.

The London Borough of Camden, for example, could see three-quarters more cars on the road at rush hour, with similar scenarios possible in cities such as Brighton and Hove, Oxford, Newcastle and Birmingham.

Climate charity Possible - which commissioned the study - has responded to the findings by calling on public authorities to make “rapid changes” to road layouts - such as pop-up cycle lanes - in order to make walking and cycling safer. They claim that half of all public transport journeys could be made on foot or by bike, preventing the roads from being put under additional pressure.

Professor Rachel Aldred from the Active Travel Academy said a million extra cars on the road would bring “stress, pollution, and injury”, while Possible’s director of campaigns - Max Wakefield - claimed it would poison streets and speed up climate change.

Camden Councillor Adam Harrison commented: “The prospect of a 74 per cent rise in the number of cars used to commute in Camden is deeply alarming. Possible’s report recommends bringing in pop-up cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods - measures that in Camden we have already begun introducing in response to the covid emergency.

“We have shown that the political will exists to avert the congestion, air pollution, and carbon impacts brought about by a rise in driving. But to really stop the carpocalypse the report warns of, we will also need substantial financial support to ensure inner London does not come to a standstill.”

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