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Potholes number one transport priority amongst votersBack

PotholesTackling the condition of roads and pavements is seen by British adults as the most important transport priority for the next government.

More than half (53%) believe this should be the number one issue for ministers to address after the general election in May.

The cost of travelling by train is regarded as the second priority (42%).

The cost of using a car (e.g. petrol prices) came third on the list (30%).

The results come from a ComRes poll commissioned by the RAC Foundation. 2,040 adults (aged 18 and over) were asked to choose from a list of options what they see as the top two or three transport priorities for an incoming government.

The question is identical to one asked for the RAC Foundation by Ipsos MORI before the 2010 election.

Back then the condition of the roads and pavements was also the number one priority amongst voters (58%), though in 2010 a much higher proportion of respondents (46%) thought the cost of motoring was a major issue compared with today.

The full list of options and responses is given in the table below.

Q. “This list shows a selection of the issues associated with transport. Which two or three do you think should be the highest priority for the Government to deal with after the forthcoming general election?” Public’s answers

(2010 responses in brackets)

The condition of roads and pavements 53% (58%)
The cost of travelling by train 42% (25%)
The cost of using a car (e.g. petrol prices) 30% (46%)
The level of congestion on local roads and in towns 27% (24%)
Overcrowding on existing train services 24% (12%)
Safety for car drivers and other road users 18% (22%)
Damage caused to the environment by transport of all types 17% (18%)
Delays caused by roadworks 17% (19%)
The frequency of local buses 14% (17%)
Planning a building a new high speed rail line connecting London and Birmingham and eventually Scotland 6% (3%)
Other 1% (<1%)
None of these 2% (<1%)
Don’t know 4% (2%)

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Five years on from the last general election and the poor state of the roads remains the number one concern amongst voters.

“But it is striking how many people now think the cost of rail travel has to come down. This is unlikely to reflect the number of adults travelling by train – less than one in ten passenger miles takes place on the railways – but repeated headlines about fare rises.

“Less than a third of the public currently think the cost of running a car is a priority. This is probably a result of the steep fuel prices we have seen over the past six months.

“But it would be a mistake if politicians thought the cost of filling up has gone away as an issue. In the last few weeks oil prices have rebounded and this has a significant and immediate impact on motorists’ pockets.”

In addition to the public poll, ComRes also asked the same question of 101 politicians – 50 sitting MPs and 51 prospective parliamentary candidates – who are likely to gain seats at the general election.

While different sample sizes – and hence varying margins of error – between the two polls make direct comparisons difficult, there are large gulfs between the public and the politicians’ views as to the importance of several key topics. The biggest differences of opinion are seen in the following areas:

Public’s answers Politicians’ answers Percentage point difference between public and politicians
Overcrowding on existing train services 24% 46% 22
The cost of using a car (e.g. petrol prices) 30% 13% 17
The cost of travelling by train 42% 57% 15

Professor Glaister added:

“On some big issues the politicians seem to be out of touch with the public. Would-be MPs give undue weight to rail matters and pay too little attention to the cost of motoring. This is likely to be a reflection of their own, untypical, travelling experiences and also their above average salaries.

“These differences aren’t laid bare just by these polls, but also by the disproportionate amount of time rail matters get in policy terms and public spending.”

Posted by Sue Robinson on 20/03/2015