I would love to survive without a car, but it’s just impossible

Trevor Laffan says he has little faith in Government long-term planning and doesn't expect the Government to hit their carbon emission targets by 2030.
I would love to survive without a car, but it’s just impossible

The Government are warning that families with two cars could be forced to abandon one - but how will that work, asks Trevor.

ENERGY bills are going through the roof and all the signs seem to indicate we are in for a costly winter.

The increases keep coming and we are being advised to be careful with our use of electricity and gas, but that won’t be easy once the weather turns. The winter woollies could be worn out by the time spring comes.

That’s not the end of it either. We might be colder outside too if the Government carry out their threat to take the second car off us.

Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, is warning that we will face consequences if we don’t reach the target for reducing our carbon emissions by 2030.

That worries me because we don’t have a good record for forward-planning and reaching targets in this country, so the chances are, we are in for a fall.

Remember the late 1970s? Cork city needed a solution to traffic congestion. That’s when the proposal for a tunnel crossing, now known as the Jack Lynch tunnel, was first mooted.

In the 1980s, a report on the proposed development was commissioned and submitted to the Minister of the Environment, Padraig Flynn. It sat on his desk for a bit and in 1989, the government recommended another feasibility study - which only confirmed the findings of the first one - and the plan was approved in 1992.

The project was eventually completed in 1999, some 20 years later.

It was estimated at the time that 25,000 vehicles would use the tunnel daily, with that figure rising to 40,000 within a few years. It did rise to 40,000 vehicles per day by 2005 and that had increased to 63,000 vehicles a day ten years later and is tipping 70,000 today.

So, it took 20 years to come up with a plan that was redundant 25 years later.

In the late 1980s, the Government sanctioned the building of three new Cork garda stations, in Mayfield, Gurranabraher and Togher. They were supposedly designed to deal with modern needs, yet within a few short years, all three were lacking in space. Rooms originally designed as storage areas were being turned into offices and parking was becoming an issue. Expensive refurbishment was required.

Anglesea Street Garda Station was designed as the new divisional headquarters, but it became unsuitable soon after it opened. The cells never housed a single prisoner but were used instead for storage. Office space was at a premium from the get-go and the parking facilities were totally unsuitable and couldn’t cater for the large number of official vehicles and private cars.

Government foresight was lacking elsewhere too.

When I retired in 2015, I bought a new Mazda CX5. I had never owned a diesel car before then, but I was advised by the Government that they were better for the environment. They even reduced the road tax to encourage us to get on board. I was delighted, so much so that I replaced the Mazda in 2018 with another one.

But as soon as I parked it in the driveway, Eamon Ryan was telling me to get rid of it. Suddenly, it was bad for the environment, and I was responsible for polluting the atmosphere, melting ice caps, and killing penguins.

Then road tax went up again and now they say I’ll have to get rid of it in a few years. How did they not see that coming?

They are now warning us that families could be forced to abandon their second car. Senior Government sources have said limiting the overall number of vehicles on roads and looking at the second family car would all be in the mix if the targets of carbon emissions are not reached.

Call me an old cynic, but based on previous experience, I’m not expecting good news.

I have little faith in Government long-term planning, so I don’t expect them to hit their carbon emission targets by 2030. I don’t expect people to give up their second car without a fight either though, unless they provide an efficient public transport system in rural Ireland, which is something Minister Ryan should be really targeting.

He would get a lot of kudos and could make a significant impact on his beloved environment too, but we’re a long way off that yet.

Almost three-quarters of all journeys in 2019 were made by car, and according to Social Justice Ireland, the lack of reliable public transport in rural areas means that households are more reliant on their car to access basic services and to commute to and from work and school.

This is contributing to the country’s carbon footprint, especially in rural areas, where we don’t have a viable alternative.

I would happily survive without a car, if it were possible. I would save a fortune for a start.

I remember writing previously about the cost of owning a car and AA Ireland’s 2019 survey of motoring finances concluded that running a family car for a year costs €10,593.26.

That was three years ago, so we can assume it has become even more expensive since then, with the rising price of fuel - so who wouldn’t want to ditch the car?

Through no fault of their own, most couples in rural Ireland need two cars, but now the Government is threatening to make their lives even more difficult by taking us back to the 1960s.

When I was a child, we got luminous armbands to keep us safe as we walked home from school in the dark because there was no street lighting. We walked everywhere in all weathers. We had no central heating either, so we had lots of blankets on the bed at night to keep us warm, but I’m thankful for that experience.

It was a good grounding for what lies ahead.

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