Three Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns cut car use by nine per cent – nearly 53 million miles of car travel

People in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester have cut their car use and taken to more active, low-carbon forms of transport, according to research released by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

The three Department for Transport-funded Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns ran ‘smarter choices' schemes over five years between 2004 and 2008. The aim was to encourage residents, commuters and visitors to walk, cycle and take public transport more often and to reduce single-occupancy car use.

At the end of the five-year project, car use had fallen by up to 9 per cent across the three towns, detailed travel surveys conducted by Sustrans and its partner Socialdata on behalf of the Towns have revealed.

This equates to nearly 53 million miles of car travel taken off the roads across the three towns, resulting in annual savings of more than 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

As car travel has fallen, use of more active and sustainable forms of transport has increased across all three demonstration towns. Levels of walking increased by more than 10 per cent in each location, while bus use grew by more than a third in Peterborough and by a fifth in Worcester.

There was a 12 per cent increase in cycling in Peterborough and a 19 per cent increase in Worcester. Darlington, which received further Government cash to improve facilities for cyclists, saw levels of cycling more than double over the same period.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans' Chief Executive, said: 'These results confirm what we have always suspected - that a lot of people are fed up with being stuck in their cars and that with the right support they are happy to walk, cycle or take the bus more often.

'The Sustainable Travel Towns have demonstrated how simple, value-for-money schemes can make a real difference to travel patterns, helping people to be more active and reduce their carbon footprint. We hope that other towns and cities will now feel inspired to follow their lead.'

Transport Minister Paul Clark said: 'These results are encouraging and show the real benefit of sustainable travel initiatives in reducing congestion, improving the local environment and encouraging healthier and safer lifestyles.

"I urge local authority leaders across the country to seriously consider how the lessons learnt from these demonstration projects can benefit their local communities."

The three local authorities, Darlington Borough Council, Peterborough City Council and Worcestershire County Council shared a £10 million fund established by the Department for Transport in 2004 to tackle car use and traffic congestion.

The travel survey results are now being fed into a broader evaluation of the Sustainable Travel Towns commissioned by the Department for Transport, which is likely to conclude later this year.

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