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Single car journeys surge

DRIVERS appear increasingly reluctant to give up the sanctity of their cars, with figures showing the proportion of journeys in Scotland with only one person in a vehicle has risen.

Despite Government attempts to encourage car sharing and cut congestion, cars are now carrying fewer passengers than at any time over the last decade.

The proportion of journeys made with only one person in a car was 63% in 2011, according to statistics from the latest Scottish Household Survey, an increase of five percentage points on 2001.

The drop in car passenger numbers emerged despite a steep increase in fuel costs, which led motorists to cut back on journeys and helped produce a dramatic slump in the level of travel since 2007.

When the survey was conducted last year, 73% of adults said they travelled the day before, compared to 80% in 2007.

Older people were more likely to stay in their homes, with travelling levels decreasing among the over-60s, the survey found.

Its results were greeted with dismay by environmental campaigners who pointed out that, although overall levels of travel have dropped, there has been no significant shift towards public transport, cycling or walking, with car journeys still accounting for around half the number of journeys.

The Automobile Association (AA) put the rise in single-driver journeys down to a rise in the number of two-car households.

Separate Government statistics show the proportion of households with access to at least one vehicle went from 63% to 70% through the 1990s, while the proportion with two cars rose from 18% to 26%.

Paul Watters, head of policy at the AA, said: "It seems odd because the number one concern of motorists at the moment is that they're trying to cut their fuel bills and I wouldn't have thought single person journeys are an efficient way to travel.

"The most obvious factor is the increase in two-car households.

"What it does show is that personal, private transport is still king of the road.

"People have the ability to do what they want at the end of the day, whether it's shopping, leisure or commuting to work."

John Lauder, director of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said the figures showed Government policy made it easy to drive while deterring people from taking public transport.

He said: "There could be a host of things like the breakdown of the nuclear family to blame. But generally, it's still convenient and pleasant to drive – and cheaper than public transport.

"The majority of transport planning is predicated around short car trips, which are made to be convenient and easy at the expense of public transport."

Mr Lauder praised Transport Minister Keith Brown for his commitment to active travel such as cycling but said this enthusiasm was not shared by other members of the Cabinet.

He claimed that, as a result, planning of hospitals, GP surgeries and schools was done in a way that centralised services and increased car journeys.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it was committed to encouraging "greener lifestyles" and reducing emissions from car use.

She said: "The Scottish Government has an ambitious agenda for tackling climate change. Where motoring is concerned, greener lifestyles can also be cheaper lifestyles.

"We are funding the establishment of a network of car clubs which will provide more drivers with the opportunity to give up their cars in favour of pay-as-you-go driving, further reducing the environmental and economic costs of car use.

"The news the two fastest growing car clubs in the UK are both in Scotland – Aberdeen and Glasgow – shows the potential for development. The car club in Dumfries launched this week."

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Automotive

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