Transport minister Andrew Jones has said he is ‘not worried’ about the possibility that electric vehicles and autonomous cars could lead to more car use.
However the minister did reveal he was worried about a lack of skills in the transport sector, when speaking at a recent smart mobility conference.
The minister was asked by a delegate about ‘smart governance of smart mobility’, given that electric vehicles may bring down costs and autonomous vehicles could also increase the number of cars on the roads.
He replied: ‘I'm not worried about that, actually. I don't think we should be spending some time worrying about it. I think that if people wish to travel then let them travel, and I think the connected and autonomous vehicles will be a means for helping to address congestion.’
The LUTZ Pathfinder self-driving pod
‘I think our role here is to give people some choices so I don't want to get into a system of sort of transport rationing or saying…this journey is good, that journey is bad. That's judgemental, which I don't think is appropriate for government to be getting into. I'm not worried about that argument.’
Mr Jones said the Government would not take action to tackle a decline in multi-occupancy lanes. He said: ‘We are not going to determine what local authorities do with their lanes: that will be down to local authorities.’
The minister also told delegates: ‘I think the Government’s role is not to tell people what to do but it's to help people with choices.'
He added that ministers regularly talked at their meetings about ‘how we can just create the space for other people's ideas to blossom'.
Asked what was the biggest challenge the Government currently faces, Mr Jones highlighted the ‘growing challenge’ of skills.
He said: ‘We've won the argument I think that transport investment is a driver of economic growth and social progress – that argument I think has been comprehensively won.’
But, referring to new infrastructure projects of the kind announced in Wednesday’s budget, he said: ‘All of these things are placing great demands upon the capacity of our civil engineering businesses and sector to actually deliver what we need.
'So providing that clarity so they can skill up and scale up is part of the challenge. And I think skills is the area where I'm most worried.’