23/08/2012 08:19 BST | Updated 23/08/2012 08:28 BST

War On Motorists Is A Myth And Drivers Should Not Be Spared Fuel Duty Increases, Says The IPPR

There is no "war on motorists" and the government should press ahead with fuel duty increases and prioritise spending on public transport, a think-tank has urged.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said there was no evidence of a "war" on drivers, instead it was users of rail and bus services being hit by hikes in the cost of transport.

The IPPR report said the cost of motoring rose by 32.5% between 1997 and 2010, a real terms fall, but rail fares went up by 66.2% and bus and coach tickets increased by 76.1%.

war on motorists

The IPPR's Will Straw said compared to users of public transport, there was no war on motorists.

Train fares are set to rise further by an average of 6.2% next year after a surprise rise in inflation last month, with some tickets set to increase by more than 11%.

But the left-leaning IPPR said Chancellor George Osborne had announced delays in planned fuel duty rises which would cost £14 billion over five years.

The report recommended avoiding further delays in fuel duty rises and an extension of road tolls and congestion charging to finance public transport infrastructure.

Measures to improve bus and coach services, which the IPPR said were the most accessible forms of public transport, particularly in areas with poor rail connections, should be prioritised.

There should also be increased Government support for transport capital projects, the report said.

IPPR associate director Will Straw said: "No number of Taxpayers' Alliance petitions will change the facts.

Compared to users of public transport, there is no war on motorists.

"Rail and bus users have seen fares spiral out of control while the cost of driving has actually fallen over the last decade.

"Users of public transport rarely have an alternative, while car drivers can switch to smaller and more fuel-efficient cars and cut out non-essential journeys.

"Given the pressures on the public purse, the Chancellor should avoid further delays in fuel duty and think again on rail fare hikes."

The Taxpayers' Alliance insisted it was right to freeze fuel duty, arguing that many people depended on the car.

The pressure group's chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: "Rail passengers are getting a terrible deal from an inefficient and monolithic industry, but motorists are also having an incredibly hard time paying punishing rates of tax on petrol and diesel.

"It is easy for ivory tower think-tanks to lecture people from Westminster, but the reality outside city centres is that people need to drive.

"The best way to help passengers on the trains isn't hammering drivers who already pay more tax, as a share of the price at the pump, than in any other EU country.

"The Government should at least freeze fuel taxes for the rest of this Parliament."

A Government spokesman said ministers were determined to bring down the cost of running the railways but stressed it was also right to support motorists at a time of high oil prices.

He said: "The Government is embarked on the biggest programme of rail improvements since the Victorian era.

Rail fares make a vital contribution to delivering these improvements.

"However, we are determined to get the cost of running the railways down to allow us to end the era of above-inflation fare rises.

"We have also rightly taken action to support motorists at a time of high international oil prices.

"Pump prices are 10p a litre cheaper than if we had proceeded with the planned fuel duty escalator."