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Transport / Mass transit

Peterborough is the UK's most car-dependent city

If cities follow trends (and we’d argue that they do), then our major prediction for 2015 is that cars will fall out of fashion. Yes, that process has already begun – TfL figures show that motor traffic in Central London has fallen by almost 25 per cent since 2000 – but in 2015, new car-free measures all over the world are set to speed up the process. Madrid’s city centre will be closed to non-resident cars from 1 January; while some of New York’s busiest streets are now pedestrianised. Even mayor Boris Johnson has promised to “dust off” proposals for London to go car-free on Sundays.

Of course, successfully cutting down on cars relies on the availability of other forms of transport. The Campaign for Better Transport today released its annual “Car Dependency Scorecard”, which ranks UK cities according to their non-car transport options. As you might expect, London was the least car-dependent, closely followed by Manchester (thank goodness for trams) and Liverpool.

At the other end of the scale, the most-car dependent city was Peterborough. The city scored low on accessibility, buses and trains quality and uptake, and opportunities for cycling and walking. When the report visualised London’s scores in these categories, the results looked like this:

 

While Peterborough looked like this:

 

The city is well-connected in terms of mainline trains (London is just 50 minutes away on the East Coast Main Line), but inner-city transport is limited to a bus network. In answer to the question “Why did Peterborough come last?” the report’s authors commented:

A lack of public transport and heavy reliance on cars to get around shows that people do not have the options they might need to get around more sustainably.

What makes this all the more embarrassing is that Peterborough’s public transport planning was put in the hands of a development corporation when the city was designated a “New Town” in the 1960s. This means that, as the city expanded, planners could have built a brilliant public transport network from scratch, rather than fitting it in among a clutter of pre-Victorian buildings, as transport planners in older cities were forced to do.

They didn’t. Mark Speed, a transport planning manager for Peterborough City Council, told The Independent that Peterborough’s history may be to blame for its transport problems: “Peterborough was built at a time when car was seen as the most-desirable mode of transport.”

In unrelated news, the Better Transport campaign joined the likes of Waitrose and Sainsbury’s this month in running a touching Christmas campaign, in which an adorable stuffed dog sits sadly on a train platform, unable to get home for Christmas:

Image: The Campaign for Better Transport.

If that doesn’t convince Peterborough to get its act together, we don’t know what will. 
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