Transport for London’s boss has admitted there are not enough incentives to get people out of cars and onto public transport, with the problem expected to become worse in the coming years.

According to Mike Brown, commissioner at Transport for London (TfL), the capital’s population is expected to grow to 10 million by the early 2030s, up from 8.5 million today, with an extra five million journeys being completed across the network by 2040.

“London is an unwelcome place to walk or cycle, and the tube and bus services are increasingly congested and indirect. That means there is often no attractive or appealing alternative to people than getting in their cars, particularly in outer London,” he told delegates at a Policy Forum for London event dedicated to discussing the future of transport in the capital and the South-East.

He added: “Car dependency has some real impacts – it has contributed to an increase in poor public health, congestion is at dangerous levels, and in some parts of our city, demand has been worked out for decades on the basis of car ownership rather than cycling or using public transport.”

Brown wants 80% of all journeys completed in 2041 to be made on foot, by bike or using public transport compared with an equivalent figure of 64% today. An environmental need coupled with the city’s congestion problems is part of the rationale for TfL pushing the use of public transport more, with Brown citing a report from traffic information giant Inrix published last November, which claimed that the capital is the most congested European city.

According to a later report from Inrix, Londoners spent 73.4 hours stuck in traffic jams last year, and the mayor’s office claimed that 9,000 Londoners die prematurely as a result of long-term air pollution caused by diesel vehicles in the capital. Meanwhile, 438 schools are in areas that exceed legal air-quality limits.

“Improved public transport is the single greatest contribution to improving walking and cycling because people need to walk or cycle to get to their public transport hub very often,” he claimed.

He said TfL is in the process of upgrading bus route software “to ensure we can optimise journey times so people will get on the bus rather than getting in their cars”, while he added that the proposed Silvertown tunnel in east London will be built with public transport in mind from the outset: “The new Silvertown Tunnel is important, not to our roads but to our connections in the east of the city. So it’s a public transport project, not a road project.
 “At the moment, there’s only one bus route that goes through the Blackwall Tunnel due to capacity constraints, but the new Silvertown Tunnel will allow 36 buses an hour to pass through.”

He concluded: “Passengers don’t actually care who runs the services or manages the roads, they just want to be able to travel easily and affordably.”