As I remember, when the Labour government was elected in 1997, John Prescott was made the "Transport Supremo." He began his reign by vowing to take us all off the roads, and onto public transport. By the end of that government, in about 2009 wasn't it? - there were an extra FOUR MILLION cars on Britain's roads!
Now I deplore this increase in private cars, and private car mileage as much as anyone. All the fuel consumed, the gridlock, the fumes, the accidents and so on. But I have to confess we have recently done two moderately long journeys. The first involved carrying 12 boxes each containing 46 books, and each box on its own was very heavy. These were distributed to a Cancer Centre and three hospitals across southern England. I attended a workshop at the centre, which was situated in the countryside well away from any railway station and bus route. We visited my brother and his wife, also living in very rural Gloucestershire. Then a couple of nights in a Travelodge, and we attended a wedding also very deep in the country and with no sign of a train or a bus. We drove home, making a visit to North London.
On the next trip we also carried about four boxes of books, and made three visits on our way to Monmouth stopping overnight. We carried a dog part of the way, and half a dozen boxes full of jigsaw puzzles. After a meeting deep in the country north of Monmouth, we moved on in the late afternoon to a house above the Wye valley in deepest Wales, and stayed several nights with another brother. Finally we came back via Leamington Spa, visiting more family, and eventually picking up the dog again. We did each trip on a tank of diesel fuel.
There is no way we could have achieved any of this by public transport, and the cost would have been far more than it was, with two people in the car all the time.
And I have to admit, that even after getting on for 60 years driving, I still much enjoy it. Oh yes, I know all about motorways at the peak of congestion, with brake lights constantly coming on ahead, and traffic jams, and getting lost, and urban gridlock, but I still enjoy it on balance, and I have the best car I have ever owned since my first Morris 8 in 1956. It has amazing carrying capacity, goes as fast as I can legally drive, is amazingly comfortable for my bad back, and does over 50 miles to the gallon all the time. What more can I ask for?
I have recently done a couple of days out with friends who can no longer drive. We got deliberately lost in the beautiful Suffolk country lanes, fetched up quite by chance at a wonderful country pub on each occasion, and much enjoyed the day out and a lot of reminiscing. We actually did a very small mileage, stopping to admire the view many times.
Somehow, we have to accept that since Dr. Beeching axed all the small branch line feeders, rail travel has very limited use for most of us. The car is here to stay, and we have adapted our lives around it. Now we have to live with it, without covering our green and pleasant land with roads, and filling our lungs and our atmosphere with exhaust fumes. Electric cars may be part of the solution, and if they can fly so much the better, but my generation are simply bequeathing the next one with a problem that must be solved.