Five years since Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott pledged he would have failed if traffic levels were not lower at this point, Friends of the Earth says car journeys, measured by vehicle kilometres, have increased by 7%.
On June 6, 1997 John Prescott was quoted as saying: 'I will have failed if in five years' time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It is a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to it.'
Although more people are using public transport, his efforts to curtail car use have failed. The number of rail journeys has increased by 25%, light rail journeys are up by 36%, bus journeys are unchanged, while the volume of vehicle traffic is up 7%.
Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner Tony Bosworth said: 'By its own test, Government transport policy has failed.
'More traffic on the roads is causing more congestion, more pollution and more misery. 'The policy has been wrong, the investment has been inadequate and the Government has run scared of upsetting motorists. That has left transport in the crisis it currently faces.
'John Prescott's pledge still sums up the key challenge facing Alistair Darling: how to get people to use their cars less? Mr Darling must take this immediate opportunity to change the failed policies of his predecessors.'
Friends of the Earth's call follows a damning assessment of the Government's 10-year transport plan, launched by Prescott in 1999, by an all-party select committee of MPs last month (Fleet News May 30).
In 1999, Prescott said he would 'give Britain the best transport system in Europe' but in a scathing attack, the Labour- dominated select committee said the plans were vague, confused, ill-balanced and poor value for money.
The Department of Transport disputed the figures, saying car use had fallen, although the figures used by Friends of the Earth were based on the Government's own statistics.