The War on Motoring: Myth or Reality?

Institute for Public Policy Research
Publication date: 
August 2012

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There is a widely held perception that there is a war being waged on motorists and that government is using motorists as a ‘cash cow’. There are frequent calls – often granted, as in June 2012 – for delays or reductions in fuel duty and other motoring taxes. These are often juxtaposed with calls for greater spending on roads. This paper sets out the costs of motoring both to individual drivers and to the public purse, compared to the cost of living and the costs of alternative transport modes. It considers whether there are justifiable reasons for increased taxes on motoring.


Two of the five recommendations of the report, the ones that directly affect cycling:

  • Government should accompany this with a clear statement of the importance of encouraging modal shifts away from driving and towards more sustainable forms of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport. Local transport authorities should be empowered and incentivised to implement such measures in the most cost-effective way appropriate to local conditions, for example by switching
    resources into the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Measures to improve bus and coach services, which are the most accessible form of public transport, particularly in areas with poor rail connections, should also be prioritised. Given that bus fares have increased more than for any other mode of transport, priority should be given to bringing down these costs.
  • Improvements in public transport, walking and cycling facilities should also be supported through an increase in government support for transport capital projects. Given the current low interest rates, there is a real opportunity available now to make much-needed improvements in public transport and other infrastructure that can increase patronage and reduce the environmental impacts of existing fleets and stock. The nascent Green Investment Bank should be empowered to begin borrowing immediately to support these projects.