Comment Writer Jacob Dawson explores how the UK government overlooks the benefits of public transport

Written by Jacob Dawson
UOB first year International Relations student, 19, West Yorkshire. Interests - Volleyball, Tae Kwon Do, Politics, History and Energy.
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The UK has a long history of public transport which goes all the way back to the London Underground in 1863. Public transport has many benefits which have been overlooked in recent years, and so instead of pushing public transport aside, we should strive to make it a bigger part of our lives. 

Ever since 1960s, public transport has continued to be pushed to the side-lines as cities were carved open to make room for the rapidly expanding amount of cars on our streets. Not only do cars contribute significantly to the climate crisis through emissions released by combustion engines (in 2017 one fifth of the UK’s emissions came from road transport), they take up significant amounts of road space and transform cities with massive highways. This in turn makes cities all the less liveable and sustainable for people of all incomes.

Privatisation of public transport and free fares are two things which do not go together

Public transport has been further hampered by privatisation in the UK which originated under the Major government in the 1990s. Since privatisation began, ticket prices have risen on average by 48% in real terms, while workers wages have been slashed, causing justifiable backlash by rail unions like the RMT. Privatisation of public transport and free fares are two things which do not go together, one cannot run a train service which is profit-seeking while charging zero for fares.

The predominant focus of both government and private businesses has been directed towards supposedly “innovative” transport solutions by business men like Elon Musk, or towards making cars climate friendly enough to offset their clearly negative effects. However, contrary to what twitter businessmen say, we cannot simply innovate our way out of climate change by attempting to fundamentally fix one of its key drivers, cars.

One consistently ignored solution to the issue of cars on the roads is universally free public transport for citizens, subsidised by the government and run by the local communities they operate within. An example of a successful free and universal public transport is during the Spanish Civil War. During the anarchist workers’ revolution in Catalonia between 1936-1939, public transport was seized by the workers and made free for all citizens to use. Not only was this highly valued by workers during the civil war, it also brought together a community spirit and boosted production due to ease of getting to work.

Students and elderly people in particular benefit majorly from low cost public transport

Public transport is also highly beneficial for those in society who do not, or cannot, own cars. Students and elderly people in particular benefit majorly from low cost public transport, as it saves them having to throw away money on cars which sit dormant for most of the day while continuously sapping money. 

If free public transport becomes ingrained into communities, it will not only push cars off the street but it will also become a valuable and respected commodity, ensuring closer community bonds, lower carbon emissions, sustainability and ease of living for all those who use public transport regularly. 

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