Everybody knows it’s expensive to own and operate an automobile, and there are ongoing efforts on the part of environmental and other organisations to promote the advantages of car-lessness. However the fact remains that ours is an automotive society, and doing without private transportation is still considered a colossal pain if not a life-threatening hardship. Also, the vast majority of private vehicles still run on fossil fuels, so the cost of driving inevitably goes up.
According to motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, and based on previously unreleased figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), at least 800,000 householders in the UK are suffering from ‘transport poverty’ due to the cost of driving. The data also indicates that it’s people in the lowest income brackets who are hit worst, shelling out more than a quarter of their total weekly budget on fuel, insurance and upkeep for their vehicles.
Car owners with higher incomes spend a considerably smaller percentage on transport costs, more like 12%, but the majority of low and middle-income families are being squeezed harder and harder as the price of gas goes up. Adding to the problem is the rising cost of public transport. Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle mentioned the government’s “. . . allowing private transport operators to get away with extortionate fare rises. . .” as a major contributor to transport poverty.
In real numbers, the RAC report revealed that the average low-income household spends £44 per week out of £167 budgeted for a seven-day period. About £16 of that is used for fuel and at least £8 for insurance. The report also noted that petrol prices have gone up by 5p in just two months, costing the average 2-car family £10.62 more per month than they spent in January.
The ROC Foundation’s director Stephen Glaister said he expected the figures would be shocking to the Chancellor, as they pinpoint the plight of a huge sector of the population that relies on private transport to get where they need to go, including their workplace. He suggested that a major reduction in petrol tax would be needed to ease the burden on hard-pressed car owners.