New roads fail to ease traf­fic or lift economies, say re­searchers

The Guardian - - FINANCIAL - Gwyn Topham The study found new roads in­creased con­ges­tion and harmed the coun­try­side

Roads built in Eng­land have largely failed ei­ther to re­lieve con­ges­tion or boost lo­cal economies, ac­cord­ing to what cam­paign­ers claim is the big­gest ever in­de­pen­dent re­view of com­pleted schemes.

A study of 86 road schemes com­mis­sioned by the Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Eng­land (CPRE) found that most roads in­creased traf­fic while de­stroy­ing the coun­try­side.

The re­search, draw­ing on the gov­ern­ment’s pub­lished eval­u­a­tion of com­pleted road schemes, was pub­lished as High­ways Eng­land be­gins con­sul­ta­tion over fund­ing new roads.

The bud­get for road­build­ing is due to triple to £3bn an­nu­ally by the end of the decade un­der the road in­vest­ment strat­egy an­nounced in 2014. The gov­ern­ment says its strat­egy will en­cour­age eco­nomic growth and sup­port a “free-flow core net­work” of mile-a-minute jour­ney times. But the CPRE said the re­search showed that road­build­ing over the past two decades had failed to de­liver on sim­i­lar aims.

Re­searchers found that traf­fic in­creased much more rapidly in ar­eas with new roads, putting pres­sure on ad­join­ing roads and giv­ing neg­li­gi­ble re­duc­tions in jour­ney times. Only one in five road schemes pro­moted as a boost for lo­cal economies demon­strated ev­i­dence of any such ben­e­fit. Mean­while, most of the schemes an­a­lysed harmed pro­tected land­scapes, while at­tempts to pro­tect rare an­i­mals and plants were not al­ways suc­cess­ful.

Shaun Spiers, chief ex­ec­u­tive of CPRE, said that in an­nounc­ing the big­gest road­build­ing pro­gramme since the 1970s, the gov­ern­ment had “junked the ev­i­dence … sa­loon bar pol­i­cy­mak­ing won the day.”

Ralph Smyth, head of in­fra­struc­ture and le­gal at CPRE, said: “This a pro­gramme that will for­ever fail on its own terms, pro­duc­ing a de­press­ing, self­per­pet­u­at­ing cy­cle of more and more roads that do lit­tle for the econ­omy and harm the coun­try­side.

“This land­mark re­search shows that any ben­e­fits from road build­ing are far smaller than thought but the harm much worse. Rather than look­ing to the past, the gov­ern­ment must in­vest in a for­ward­look­ing mo­bil­ity strat­egy that puts qual­ity of life ahead of the car.”

High­ways Eng­land said: “The strate­gic road net­work is vi­tal to the suc­cess of the UK econ­omy; we sim­ply can­not op­er­ate with­out mov­ing peo­ple, ma­te­ri­als and goods around by road. The im­prove­ments … will en­sure our roads con­tinue to op­er­ate safely, ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively, and are ca­pa­ble of meet­ing the de­mands placed upon them in a sus­tain­able man­ner. Our pro­gramme also fo­cuses on up­grad­ing the cur­rent net­work.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.