Friday, 21 February 2014

Roads – back to the same old future

With its draft National Policy Statement on roads and rail, the Government seems to be lurching back to a road building approach, already out of date in the 1990’s when it last raised its head. 

We are told that road building is needed as an engine for growth, that there will be almost a 40% increase in traffic, and that we must tarmac over the countryside in order to stay competitive.  Forgotten are all the lessons about how more roads generate more traffic, increase congestion by moving it from one place to another, damage the economy through reliance on an insecure resource, not to mention all the ecological, social and climate change issues.

The consultation, needing responses by 26th Feb, is carefully framed to steer people away from the important questions, guiding you towards making comments on how to limit the damage from decisions that seem to have already been made.  Nowhere is this more outrageous than in the approach to climate change.  The statement simply takes the impact of new road development on climate change out of the process altogether.  Thus one of the most damaging aspects of transport strategy is specifically removed from consideration.  The justification given is that other Government policies will 'offset' the increase in carbon from new roads.  Given that the country has to deliver 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions (on 1990 levels) by 2050, what area of economic activity is going to deliver far more than 80% reduction in order to offset the environmental failure of road travel?  

The disconnect in government at present seems incredible.  At a time when extreme weather events, driven by climate change, are hitting the country more and more frequently, government still seems immersed in second level issues like road building rather than addressing the real issues affecting people and their environment.

The consultation on the National Road and Rail Networks National Policy Statement ends on 26 Feb (next Wednesday) and I would encourage people to take a look and express their views.  The whole philosophy behind this document is really bad news for the environment and will allow a massive increase in roadbuilding while virtually removing our ability to challenge any new proposals.  Please see the Campaign for Better Transport's web site and use the CBT's form to send in an objection - it only takes a minute to do.  Also, a letter can be sent via the CPRE's website.  Both websites have pre-drafted words for you to use which you can alter as you see fit if you want to.

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