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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for January 6th, 2008

The £1,290 car delights Indians but horrifies the green lobby

with 5 comments

The Observer

“the People’s Car, designed and manufactured by Tata, is being marketed as a safer way of travelling for those who until now have had to transport their families balanced on the back of their motorbikes.”

As you read the article the “horror” appears to apply to emissions and safety standards. There is also analysis of how desirable a car is as a status symbol – and how the growing middle class is likely to snap them up.

Tata’s latest creation, the Nano, touted as the world’s most inexpensive car!

More pictures here

What is missing from the article is what it will do to demand for roads – and the impact on traffic and Indian cities. One of great legacies of the raj was a huge network of railways, which largely survive and flourish and are essential to both commuter and long distance travel. As we have seen in China, the rush to follow western societies into automobility is seen as a sign of modernity – but very quickly Beijing realized it could never build enough roads. India will now have the same hard lesson to learn and while it is investing money in highways there will be less for other critical infrastructure.

No doubt Tata will make a fortune, and a lot of people will be very proud and pleased with their new cars. But an opportunity will have been lost. And while a car may be safer for the user than a motorbike, I would be very surprised indeed if the toll of road collisions is reduced by putting lots of cars onto inadequate roads.

Here is more reaction to the Tata

UPDATE January 17 – Intelligent commentary on this story from Gwynne Dwyer in the Tyee. Duany made a similar point last night. It is the North American middle class that has created global warming, and the world’s poor trying to emulate them that is now rapidly making it worse. That is why we have to do something now to break the cycle of suburban land use and transportation.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 6, 2008 at 9:18 am

Posted in Transportation