Bigger engines, two-car households and school runs on rise


An increasing number of households in Great Britain now own two or more cars

Far from downsizing, Government transport statistics reveal a trend towards multi-car households and bigger engines as well as more children being driven to school

The number of cars on British roads with an engine size of more than 2 litres has doubled from around 2 million in 1999 to 4 million today, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

At the same time there has been continued growth in the number of households with access to two or more cars, from around 2 per cent in the 1950s to more than 30 per cent in 2008.

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The number of journeys made by public transport has risen slightly since the 1990s from around six to seven billion, but is still well below the 12 billion figure of the 1960s.

Richard George, from the Campaign for Better Transport, said the rising trend towards bigger engines showed improved engine efficiency was not persuading people to slim down in their choice of car.

'The style of vehicle people are buying does not reflect the type of journeys they are making. You might need a bigger engine if you are towing a caravan but not for driving to Tesco,' said George.

He said only by increasing the cost of motoring (which the ONS statistics revealed had fallen over the past decade) and making cars a less attractive alternative to public transport and walking could you tackle the trend.

The statistics also revealed that the number of primary school children walking to school had fallen below 50 per cent.

In the late 1980s the proportion of children aged 5-10 walking to school was 62 per cent but this had fallen to 48 per cent by 2008.

At the same time, the proportion of children travelling to school by car has increased from 27 to 43 per cent.

The average school trip length increased from 1.3 miles in the mid-1990s to 1.6 miles today but campaigners say the vast majority of children still live within a 20 minute walk of their school.

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets which runs the national Walk to School campaign, said the statistics were a 'wake-up call' to Government, local councils and parents.

He said pedestrians had been 'slowly designed out of their streets with priority given to motor traffic', and that streets had been turned from 'social hubs in the community to no-go areas for children.'

'Walking to school is one of the cheapest, greenest and easiest things for parents and children to do to improve their health and wellbeing.

'We need to take action now to make children more physically active, to prevent storing up health problems later in life and to make our streets what they once were, social spaces for the whole community,' said Armstrong.

Useful links
Walk to school campaign
Office of National Statistics - transport figures

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