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Explain why economists are concerned about the main environmental problems associated with the growth of road traffic in the UK.

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Introduction

M.Ianiri Transport Economics Holiday Work 28/12/02 1. Explain why economists are concerned about the main environmental problems associated with the growth of road traffic in the UK. Transport, of course, contributes to the environmental problems that face us. There is little argument that transport pollutes the environment and, through CO2 emissions, it is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Within transport it is the road sector that attracts most criticism and cause for concern. Other modes, particularly rail, are more environmentally friendly for the carriage of passengers and freight than road transport. At a more local level, transport imposes much more localised external costs, particularly on those living and working in urban areas close to main roads, transport depots and so on. These negative externalities include: * Noise pollution; Lorries in particular cause high levels of disturbance. Traffic noise produces a level of pitch which over long periods becomes unwelcome to the human ear. Prolonged exposure to traffic noise can disrupt lifestyle, increase stress and make it difficult to relax. * Atmospheric pollution; Road traffic produces CO2 emissions, particularly from exhaust systems. ...read more.

Middle

Realistically, infrastructure development is necessary, but the problem is that our ability to construct, fund and accept new road schemes, particularly in urban areas, is below what is necessary to enhance the flow of traffic. There is also the additional problem that when new roads are built, this tends in itself to generate an increase in demand. * Improving public transport - this is a logical approach that has been pursued with much more vigour in the rest of Europe, where many cities have integrated efficient passenger transport systems which receive substantial subsidies. With the exception of a few projects such as Tyne and Wear Metro and the more recent new tramway developments in Manchester, Sheffield and elsewhere, this approach has not been favoured by the UK central government since 1979, even though local support may have been extensive, also since the privatisation of buses, it is even harder for these schemes to work due to price ranges in different areas by different bus companies. * Increasing the cost of urban travel to motorists through a variety of existing and proposed fiscal measures. Increased fuel costs, parking charges e.g. ...read more.

Conclusion

* Revenue from road pricing could be used to fund improvements in public transport. On the other hand, it does have its disadvantages: * It is socially disruptive in so far as all road users will pay the same level of charge at a particular time, irrespective of their incomes. Under certain circumstances, it could actually be progressive, although this argument is seldom recognised. * There are genuine problems of estimating external costs of traffic congestion and establishing these in relation to road pricing charges. * The technology, although much more advanced in recent years, is relatively unproved and could be subject to abuse and evasion. * The level of charge must be carefully fixed in relation to the price of the elasticity of demand for travel if congestion levels are to be reduced. In conclusion, the practical problems of introducing road pricing have so far deterred other cities looking for a solution to their congestion problems. It remains to be seen whether the growing consensus amongst transport economists in favour of road pricing will actually be matched by its practical functioning. The costs of congestion are now so great that they cannot be ignored. As The Economist states, "road pricing tomorrow is the only solution to the jam today - the ball is now firmly in the politicians court. ...read more.

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