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The Road To Ruin

The M25, the motorway around London, opened in 1896. Today people call it the biggest car park in Europe. Every morning on the radio we hear about jams, and road repairs, and crashes, and which parts of M25 to avoid. One day soon we will hear “There is a traffic jam all the way round the M25 in both directions. If you are driving to work, we advise you to go back home”.

Winston Churchill described the car as the curse of the twenties century. This will probably be true of the next century, too. It can be very funny to compare advertisements for cars with the reality of driving them. Cars are symbols of freedom, wealth, and masculinity. But when you are stuck in a traffic jam, all cars are just little metal boxes to sit in. 

5000 people a year are killed on British roads, and 40000 are injured. For children road accidents are a major cause of death.

Cities and towns all over the world have a huge problem, and no government really knows what to do. For once it is not a matter of technology which is stopping us. If we want to build two-level roads, we can do it. If we want trains which can travel at hundreds of miles an hour, we can build them.

The problem is a question of principle. Should we look to road or rail for our transport needs? Should the Government, or private companies, control them? And either way, who should pay? The people who believe in roads say that cars represent a personal choice to travel when and where you want to. But on trains and buses – public transport – you have to travel when the timetable says you can. These people think that if you build more roads, the traffic will move more quickly, but research shows that if there are more roads, there will be more cars to fill them.

By 2010, the number of cars on our roads will double. Environmentalists are saying that we should put more money into public transport. Cars often carry just one person. If the public transport system works, more people will use it. If trains carry more people, the roads won’t be so crowded, and cars pollute the air more than trains.

By 2025, just to park all the cars in Britain will need an area larger than London.

One characteristic of the people of the 20th century is that we are race on the move. But it is just possible that soon we won’t be able to move another inch, and we’ll have to stay exactly where we are!

source : Headway Student's Book, Oxford University 

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