COMMUTING TIMES will soar by 40% within 15 years unless congestion charging is extended to the suburbs of Britain's major towns and cities, according to a transport study published this week.
Suburban population growth is set to raise average commuter journey times from 25 minutes to 35 minutes by 2021, says the report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC).
It concludes that congestion charging, alongside improvements in local bus services and a greater use of school and company travel schemes, could keep this increase in check.
The ITC's view is echoed in a new regional strategy for the south east, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister last week.
It recognises the 'significant and potentially crucial role' that charging can play and urges local authorities to make full use of their powers under the Transport Act 2000 to introduce charging schemes.
The south east regional transport strategy will form a key part of the region's statutory Regional Planning Guidance, which sets a framework for the use of land over a 15-20 year timeframe.
The ITC report recognises the suburbs as the most important population areas in the country. Some 21M people live in them and another 8M in the slightly more extended exurbs.
It expects population to rise to 31M by 2021.
But because suburbs were built around roads the dominant transport mode is the car.
The ITC report says current transport policy does little to change this emphasis.
'Land use policies tailored to the suburbs and exurbs are urgently needed, ' says the report.
INFOPLUS Access the ITC report and South East Regional Transport Strategy at www. nceplus.co.uk/magazine