Tuesday 24 September 2019

End of the road for Highways England

Highways England have, once again, served up the same tired old ideas for a bypass around Arundel.  Discussed for decades, there seems to have been little progress from a basic mind set that has been shown not to work over and over again.

A red route, a grey route, a purple route - as CPRE puts it, the options are every colour except green.

Road building always comes up against the same logical problems which have been pointed out many times throughout history.  An Arundel bypass is no exception. 

We can be sure of two things with all these proposals. 

First, there will be significant environmental damage.  No amount of deflection or belittling the environmental impact, will avoid this fact.  At a time when we should be demanding the large-scale rebuilding of nature, we are presented with proposals that force us in the opposite direction.

Second, these proposals will drive up car use and congestion.  More roads will bring more cars; it is unavoidable.  This has been shown many times in independent reports and government studies alike.  Claims that a bypass will relieve congestion are pure fantasy.  Traffic might be able to roar around Arundel, only to get stuck at all the other pinch points around Sussex.  Imagine all those current traffic hot-spots; now imagine them with 10% or 20% or 30% more traffic! More roads, more congestion and then more roads – a treadmill of a flawed strategy that is doomed to fail.

With this, of course, comes increased greenhouse gas emissions.  At a time when we must reduce our emissions to zero we see a transport sector who can only come up with old-hat proposals that drive us ever more quickly in the opposite direction.

This approach was out of date 20 years ago, when last a road building bonanza was muted.  It is truly antiquated today.  We live in a time of climate and environment emergency.  We now no longer have the time to procrastinate over antiquated strategies.
Increased environmental damage, increased congestion, increased greenhouse gas emissions, reduced air quality and a devastated landscape is the polar opposite of what we should expect at a time of climate and environment emergency.  These Arundel bypass options are more than a set of bad road proposals.  This is a failed transport strategy.  They represent a strategy that is in disarray showing that the governance structures for delivering sensible policy to drive society forward are simply not inplace. 

A fundamental institutional review is long overdue.  The Department for Transport / Highways England are working to the wrong agenda being focused only on a list of damaging road proposals.  They should be disbanded and a new, more strategic body established.  This must develop and implement the societal changes required to provide access to services and needs in ways that reduce transport and enhance the environment.  The undoubted skills of highways engineers, managers, planners, and others should be re-deployed in an access agenda that is fit for the 21st Century.  As a first step such a body should move quickly to reduce car use by at least 20%.

Failed transport strategy, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.  What we need is a fundamental re-assessment of our settlement and consumption patterns, so we have resource and access approaches that fit within environmental and climate limits.  The time for procrastination and excuses is over.

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