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Roads to Nowhere

Widening the A453 would be a £160 million mistake

Sian Berry's picture

5 December: The Autumn Statement contained even more bad news than the Bristol and Kingskerswell ‘link roads’. Today we look at the resurrected A453 widening scheme.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Tuesday saw two of the most damaging local authority road projects in the DfT system approved ahead of time for government funding. My colleague Becca blogged about these terrible decisions this week, and you can read our reaction here, but several other big road schemes have also been resurrected.

Turning the A453 between the M1 and the A52 in Nottingham into a dual carriageway is part of the Highways Agency’s long-term programme of work, but has been left out of the priority funding list since budgets were tightened. However, planning processes have been carried out and a Public Inquiry was held in 2009. Ministers are now sitting on the results of that inquiry but could whip out the inspector’s report at any time and - if this is positive - approve the plans very quickly.

At the inquiry, campaigners pushed for alternative plans that would cut congestion on the road without resorting to yet another dual carriageway through the countryside. As CPRE says here: "Though described as widening, most of the dual carriageway would be off the existing route, ploughing through agricultural land in the Green Belt."

Local circumstances have also changed recently. Nottingham city has a new tram system, and evidence from the 2004-9 Sustainable Travel Towns project shows that a comprehensive ‘smarter choices’ programme could reduce traffic dramatically. The High Speed 2 rail line could also change things by cutting train times between Birmingham and Nottingham. However, these factors have been ignored by the Chancellor, and the Autumn Statement could mean the project is built as early as 2015.

David Thornhill with Nottingham tramLocal campaigner David Thornhill has been arguing against the A453 proposals. Along with other local people, he is determined not to let funding lead to building work without making sure alternatives are looked at again. Here are his comments on the news:

"At certain times of day the A453 can be congested and Nottinghamshire has never argued that 'do nothing' is an option. However, the hugely over-engineered £160m scheme is typical of solutions 40+ years beyond their sell by date!

"The road parallels the Midland Main Line (MML) from Nottingham to London. Electrification of that route offered the best value for money of any such scheme yet constantly gets ignored for funding. The MML is also the slowest main line from London to the north and has capacity issues, yet modest schemes to remove the speed restrictions and boost capacity are ignored for funding. The A453 scheme starts very near East Midlands Parkway station and that station could offer a P&R service to Nottingham, however the current service is poor and with zero resources such an idea is not even being considered.

"So every opportunity to deliver modal shift along the A453 has been ignored by the DfT and spending £160m on dualling the road is their only solution.

"Other modal shift schemes along the A453 corridor have been savaged by Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC). They pulled out of the scheme to extend Nottingham's tram (now going ahead as a Nottingham City-only project) to Clifton (on the A453) and did all within their power to sabotage the scheme. Immediately to the east of the A453 in West Bridgford an important cycle priority and safety scheme was recently axed by NCC after zero consultation, to give more road space to cars.

"And looking beyond modal shift, using figures from the now defunct East Midlands Regional Assembly, the £160m cost of the A453 scheme could instead deliver:

 

  • 4,500 affordable new homes or
  • 50,000 sub-standard homes brought up to modern standards or
  • 13,500 long term jobs created (construction jobs on a road are short term) or
  • 7 new average sized schools"

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