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Job losses and petrol hikes have left us a nation up on the blocks

HIGH taxation and high unemployment have driven motorists to leave the car at home, new figures reveal.

We have become a stay-at-home nation at the weekends, with private cars being left at home, only to be used for vital trips.

Many who are leaving their cars at home are turning to public transport.

Passenger numbers on the Luas continue to grow, with a massive 2.1 million extra trips taken on the two Dublin light-rail lines in the last year.

The extension of the Luas Red Line in west Tallaght opened yesterday. The new 4.2km section is expected to bring total passenger journeys on both Luas lines to a record high of almost 30 million in a full year.

Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office on retail sales show that petrol consumption is down 10 per cent this year.

The fall is down to a number of factors, according to the Automobile Association.

Spokesman Conor Faughnan said there had been a general reduction in traffic volumes because of the downturn and job losses.

"According to the National Roads Authority there has been a fall-off in private cars on the national road network and an even higher fall in commercial traffic," he said.

"But another big factor is the series of price increases. The cost of petrol, much of it taxation, has been compounded by the relatively high price of crude oil.

"The Government got away with tax increases when oil prices were low, but the emergency budget of 2008 added 8c per litre in excise duty, then carbon tax of another 5c per litre. Then there were further tax increases in subsequent budgets imposed by the last administration."

It means there has been a change in the way we use our cars. "People tend not to change commuting journeys to work, but lifestyle and leisure trips have definitely been curtailed," he said.

The growth in sales of diesel car sales is also a factor. This year, diesels accounted for 70 per cent of all new car sales and it was a similar story last year.

Generally, retail sales declined sharply. The volume of retail sales are down by almost a quarter since 2007 and have fallen by 2.1 per cent in the last year. Last month alone they were down 1.3 per cent compared with the previous month.

Sunday Independent