I was delighted to have been invited to speak today and I would like to thank ZipCar, Transport for London and London Councils for organising today’s event.
I’d like to talk briefly today about how it is now possible not only to imagine, but to begin to create, a world in which transport is cleaner and greener and one in which our cities and economies can keep growing but at the same time they can become less polluted, more pleasant places to live and work.
Polluted and congested
It was only in the 20th century that Henry Ford brought car ownership within reach of most people.
Mass car ownership changed daily life. People could move at speed, travel independently and access jobs and new leisure opportunities that were previously beyond reach.
But there have also been costs. First, climate change and air pollution. And, second, as car ownership has grown, congestion on the roads has increased.
As a result, today traffic in central London during the rush hour moves more slowly than it did in the 1960s and overall UK road congestion is among the worst in Europe - particularly in urban areas.
Looking to the future, the demands on our transport network are set to increase. The country’s population is growing.
And London is expected to boom to almost 10 million residents by 2030. As I’m sure you know, that’s the equivalent to absorbing the population of Birmingham and Glasgow in just 15 years.
But to accommodate more people and keep our economy expanding - we will also have to find ways to keep the country moving.
Better than owning
Improving and expanding public transport will be essential. That’s why – working in partnership with the Mayor and Boroughs – in London we are finishing the Thameslink upgrade, extending the Northern line and building Crossrail.
In fact, London is one of the few cities in the world where the use of public transport is growing compared to private transport. And I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate TfL on that very impressive achievement.
But as well as improving and expanding public transport, as today’s discussion shows, there’s the opportunity to do things differently.
Our vision for the future can be for a far more efficient and sustainable economy.
One where we own less, but what we do have is in use far more often and much, much less is wasted.
It has been called a variety of different names. The sharing economy, the peer-to-peer economy or collaborative consumption. But whatever the name, the broad principle is the same.
Access to many goods is actually becoming better than ownership.
Because instead of the responsibility of care, cleaning, or storage you simply use and pass on.
I believe that this model can be particularly helpful when it comes to rethinking what it means to “own” a car in big cities.
There are times when we all find having a car helpful - whether it is for a bulky shopping trip or in case of a family emergency. But the truth is that most cars spend more time parked than they do on the move.
For example, in London, the average car is in use for less than 45 minutes a day.
It turns many of our streets into giant car parks and it is bad for the environment.
According to IBM, over 20% of car pollution in major cities is caused by people looking for parking and the RAC report that millions of gardens have been paved over to provide off street parking.
More, better car clubs
That’s part of the reason why the percentage of households without cars in London has been growing since 1992. And that the proportion of carless households has been growing across the country since 2005.
At the same time, because people value the convenience that access to a car brings, interest in car clubs is growing. There are already over 130,000 members in London and more than 20,000 already elsewhere in England.
Car clubs have many benefits.
They make much more efficient use of the limited space available on the road. Estimates suggest that one rental car can take the place of 15 individually owned vehicles.
Car clubs can help save irregular drivers money – potentially around £3,500 a year.
The evidence suggests that pay-as you-go car use encourages people to walk and cycle more often and make more frequent use of public transport.
And car club vehicles tend to have lower emissions than the average car.
That’s why we are currently funding 48 car club and car sharing schemes through our Local Sustainable Transport scheme.
But I want to do more to accelerate the development of car clubs across the country.
We want to help improve the integration of car clubs with other modes of sustainable transport and for car clubs to be at the forefront of our ambition for almost every car and van to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050.
I opened an electric car club in Tower Hamlets last October. The scheme is run in partnership with the local housing association. It kills 3 birds with 1 stone – it cuts congestion, it is low cost and cuts carbon.
It’s an attractive model. One that combines the benefits of electric cars and provides its members with a truly affordable alternative to traditional car ownership.
I know Zipcar already offer their members the choice of the Vauxhall Ampera and there are other plans for low emission car clubs in the capital.
I think it is important that we learn from your experiences. Because I think there is real potential there. Looking to the future, you can imagine how a national ultra-low emission car club fleet could revolutionise transport.
I believe that the benefits for many people of a model that’s based on access to a car when you need it, instead of ownership even when you don’t, are clear.
I know there are challenges in the way that will need to be overcome. But I’m optimistic that we can do so together.
I look forward to discussing with you what needs to happen.
And thank you for listening.