The Department for Transport (DfT) has decided not to invest in a proposal that could have resulted in the rapid roll-out of car clubs in major urban centres.
The four-year programme would have enabled the development of a national network of car clubs which, according to its developers, would have delivered significant environmental and cost benefits to businesses.
Speaking exclusively to Fleet News, a spokesman said: “We still believe that these schemes have an important role to play alongside other measures such as travel planning, but we are not convinced that a national network, as proposed, would be the best way of achieving an increase in car clubs around the country.”
Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas said: “It’s very short-sighted of the government to reject this proposal.
"Car clubs could play an important role in moving towards a truly integrated transport policy.
"The evidence is clear that they reduce overall mileage and take large numbers of cars off the road.”
The DfT’s decision has also been condemned by Robert Goodwill, shadow roads minister, who said: “It is disappointing that the government has failed to see the value of car clubs.”
Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The government would be well advised to commit to supporting car clubs and rethink its rejection of this proposal.”
Philip Igoe, co-director of the charity Carplus and the man behind the proposal, said the four-year plan was examined by the DfT and independent economists and found to represent “excellent value for money”.
He said it appeared that the reason for turning down the proposal was that the sustainable transport budget was too small.
“The pathetic level of expenditure provided by the government to enable people to make smarter transport choices is hampering efforts to cut the UK’s carbon footprint,” said Mr Igoe.
“The perception is given that the department is merely playing lip service to sustainability, with no interest whatsoever in balancing out the consequences of some of its more environmentally-damaging decisions.”
However, the DfT has defended its decision, rejecting any inference that it was based solely on a lack of funds.
“The government is committed to promoting transport options which reduce congestion and carbon emissions.
"This is why Carplus has received almost £500,000 since 2000 to support its work in developing the concept of car clubs and car sharing,” said the spokesman.
Mr Igoe said he would press ahead with the plan, but the DfT’s decision meant it would be on a much smaller scale and would take far longer to get off the ground.