Let’s face it, public and private transport is expensive and will unfortunately just keep getting more expensive as time goes on. The rise in transport costs has had a large knock-on effect, causing many people all over the country to go into debt. This is now known as ‘transport poverty’. According to the RAC Foundation, an estimated four-fifths of the UK’s 26 million households fall into the transport poverty bracket – a truly sobering stat that makes you think; why isn’t transport poverty a more discussed topic? It affects so many of us yet so few really talk about it. According to the same study, 960, 000 of the poorest car owning households spend about a fifth of their disposable income on buying and running a vehicle. Out of these 960,000 households, the lowest tenth of disposable income had a maximum weekly expenditure of £194 and a huge £42.50 of that was spent on vehicle costs. With such worrying facts and figures coming out transport poverty cannot be swept under the carpet any longer.
The director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister, has shared his thoughts on this worrying topic, saying: “For the average household, transport is the single biggest outgoing, bar none. The situation is even starker when you look only at those homes which have a car or van. In these cases, the poorest fifth of households are spending at least 17% of income on a vehicle – leaving aside anything extra that goes on public transport.”
Although transport poverty is a complicated issue with many factors, what’s clear is the dramatic impact it has on people across the nation. Public transport costs can be staggeringly high, whether you are travelling by train or tram, it can feel like you are being punished for not owning a car. Not only are people struggling to get to work, but according to a recent report from the PSE (Poverty and Social Exclusion) Research Team, one and a half million people are now at a risk of being cut off from healthcare.
Transport policy has focused more on the needs and requirements of motorists and not enough on those who struggle with owning and running a vehicle. A lack of good public transport alternatives can cause many people to face an unrealistic choice, either go into debt or risk being cut off from jobs, shops and hospitals. This can affect people of all ages, from children unable to attend certain schools to elderly people unable to get around. No matter what age, there is one thing that everyone can agree on and that is that it truly takes away your freedom.
If you are someone who suffers from transport poverty then there are a few things you can do to help lower those high costs. The first, if you’re a driver, is investing in a more energy efficient vehicle. However, even though electric and hybrid vehicles are constantly being designed and built, these are still very expensive to buy. Walking or cycling to work is an option, but there are not enough safe routes around the country to make this a valid alternative for all. The final thing you can do to help lower your transport cost is to simply car share. Fantastic for both the environment and bank balance, car sharing dramatically lowers commute costs, promotes socialising and can make your journey much more enjoyable.
Transport poverty is a constant concern for such a huge number of people all over the country that we truly hope that something is done to help soon. If this is left alone for too long it will just get worse, causing more and more people to fall further into debt.
Matthew Evans works for Leden Leasing, and is passionate about all things motoring. You can find more from him on the Leden Leasing website.
Author Lex Barber