Lead­ing econ­o­mist’s re­port rec­om­mends a cut in clas­sic us­age from 2030

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Mur­ray Scul­lion

Acon­tro­ver­sial re­port is­sued by the Cen­tre for Eco­nomics and Busi­ness Re­search (CEBR) says that clas­sics as we know them could be off our roads within the next 23-28 years.

The re­port was pro­duced in an ef­fort to tackle Bri­tain’s traf­fic-choked roads, ac­cord­ing to the chair­man of the CEBR. But re­search for How to Abol­ish Traf­ficJams has un­cov­ered wor­ry­ing news for clas­sic car own­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the CEBR, clas­sic cars could be seg­re­gated onto dif­fer­ent roads from other road users by the 2030s. The re­port also sug­gests that the only fos­sil-fu­elled ve­hi­cles on the road by the 2040s could be lim­ited-mileage clas­sics.

The CEBR has ad­vised both the Con­ser­va­tive and Labour par­ties in the past, and its founder and chair­man, Pro­fes­sor Dou­glas McWil­liams, was chief eco­nomic ad­viser to the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try and IBM. McWil­liams him­self owns a Jaguar XJ- S and an As­ton Martin DB6, and will be com­pet­ing in next year’s Paris to Pek­ing run in his Bentley S1. He says: ‘As a clas­sic en­thu­si­ast I’m cer­tainly not en­thus­ing about any of these poli­cies. We will see the end of the car as we know it. But we have to soon start mak­ing pro­vi­sions for clas­sics.

‘Roads are funded by fuel, and once fuel is gone, we will find our­selves in the sit­u­a­tion where roads are funded by users. ‘In this study, we’ve made pro­vi­sions for clas­sic driv­ers, but haven’t pro­vided a so­lu­tion. I’d even go as far as to say that in the fu­ture, dur­ing a time of au­ton­o­mous cars, in­ter­est in clas­sics could go through the roof.

‘The big­gest dan­ger to clas­sics is ac­tu­ally fuel-re­lated. By 2040 there might be no fuel sell­ers. Threat to the clas­sic in­dus­try comes from there as I doubt any gov­ern­ment will sub­sidise fos­sil fu­els. In terms of eco­nomic in­ter­ests, fuel com­pa­nies won’t have fuel for sale un­less they’re mak­ing money.

‘I pre­dict that be­tween 2030 and 2050 there will be no fuel sta­tions left. This may not af­fect ul­tra-high- end col­lec­tors who can af­ford to own their own petrol sta­tions. But some­thing needs to be done for own­ers of Mor­rises, Tri­umphs and MGs.’

The re­port al­lows the pos­si­bil­ity that there could be oc­ca­sional ‘clas­sic car days’ when they are al­lowed to be used on the public road sys­tem with­out road user charge.

The clas­sic world has widely crit­i­cised the re­port. Sir Greg Knight, chair of the All-Party Par­lia­men­tary His­toric Ve­hi­cle Group, says: ‘Aca­demics and boffins for­get about some­thing that’s es­sen­tial – public opin­ion. Un­less the public agree, there’s no point. No demo­cratic gov­ern­ment will ban peo­ple from driv­ing cars.

‘The peo­ple who have writ­ten this re­port have taken logic a step too far. Driver­less cars should be a sup­ple­ment, not a re­place­ment.

‘I do not see Par­lia­ment tak­ing this up. Any gov­ern­ment, no mat­ter what its poli­cies, want to take the public with them.’

FBHVC com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, Ge­off Lan­caster, says: ‘I was sit­ting in my gar­den read­ing this re­port get­ting more and more de­pressed at each page I turned. Sud­denly in the dis­tance came the un­mis­tak­able rum­ble of mul­ti­ple Mer­lin en­gines and a Lan­caster bomber flew over es­corted by two Spit­fires. This lifted my spir­its and I re­alised that I would be glad not to be around to wit­ness the dawn­ing of this brave new world where her­itage is so cal­lously dis­missed. I don’t see any clam­our­ing to de­mol­ish Wind­sor cas­tle be­cause it has an un­favourable en­ergy rat­ing.

‘There has been an in­creas­ing num­ber of pre­dic­tive re­ports and sim­i­lar state­ments from politi­cians. I’d say there’s a lot of grand­stand­ing go­ing on. The au­thor of the re­port is happy to make pre­dic­tions far into the fu­ture, at a time when he won’t be ac­count­able for what he’s said.’

Clas­sics like this Mor­ris Ox­ford Se­ries VI could be re­duced to be­ing used on spe­cial roads by the 2030s.

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