Breaking Point?

Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor


The AA reports that motorists are currently being hit by the largest ever monthly increase in pump prices:

Worst hit were drivers of diesel cars, who saw the price shoot up by 7.39 pence a litre since the middle of May, despite a temporary 10 per cent drop in wholesale prices at the end of May. The rise, which exceeded last month's 6.76 pence increase, brought the price up to 131.56 pence a litre.

Petrol prices jumped by 5.61 pence during the same period, beating the previous highest monthly rise of 4.6 pence between March and April 2006.

Organisations such as the IoD have long argued that taxation is reaching a 'tipping point' in the UK. Whilst the cost of fuel has risen across the world, it is also important to remember that nearly 2/3 of the price paid at the pump can be attributed to taxes. The purpose of this article is not to argue against taxation however, but rather for a more focussed answer from the Government and Mayor for what will be a long term and recurrent problem as oil becomes more scarce and difficult to source.

As can be seen in the US, high fuel prices push people from their cars onto public transport. However, with the Tube being close to capacity, CrossRail some years off, and the Olympics draining funding from London's reserves, it is not entirely clear that London can handle the ensuing shift. There is a fine balance between those who drive, cycle, walk, and use public transport. It is doubtful that there is really the capacity for a mass migration of one group to the other columns without a massive strain showing in the form of delays, queuing, or congestion on the roads.

There are alternatives to this scenario however. As Christian Wolmar argued in his piece for LondonSays, business, led by Government and the Mayor, needs to focus on the advantages of working from home.

A new voice has entered the debate today with Hank Dittmar, the Chief Executive of the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Architecture and Urbanism, authoring a report on Transport and Neighbourhoods. The Guardian reports:

[The plan]... includes bans on private cars at peak times in central London, personal carbon allowances that could mean the end of budget air travel, and investment in new 200mph high-speed trains between big cities.

As oil prices continue to rise, Britain should dramatically cut its reliance on petrol-powered transport, Dittmar says. He will stress that cycling, walking and working from home to limit commuting should be made a priority by the government.

This plan tallies with Mr Wolmar's own ideas, and presents a vision of London which is both achievable and a salve against rising fuel prices and carbon emissions. Such a shift is not just a possibility, but a necessity for London to continue as a place for international business and as the engine of the UK economy.

We will report more on Mr Dittmar's vision tomorrow, but commend the sentiment of his plan now.