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Roads to Nowhere

Plans launched for Thames crossings and Manchester Airport road

Sian Berry's picture

30 October 2012: Public consultations have started on two major zombie road projects in London and Manchester.

The 'SEMMMS' Manchester Airport Relief Road and new East London Thames crossings were named in last year’s National Infrastructure Plan and are among the largest and most expensive road plans in the Going Backwards report we published last week. Both are zombie’ projects that appeared in the 1990s Roads for Prosperity programme and were later dropped.

The proposals will touch the M56 and A102 trunk roads so will be considered as 'Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects' and go through the new streamlined planning process for major projects, which has been designed to be completed in just six months from start to finish. However, before submitting their plans the authorities promoting them need to carry out consultations with the public.

If you will be affected by either of these projects, please respond to the consultations online or in person – there are much better ways to help solve existing transport problems in the areas.

Cover of Manchester Airport Link consultation documentThe SEMMMS Manchester Airport Relief Road

This is being promoted by Stockport council, which is holding a series of exhibitions between 3 November and 1 December and has an online questionnaire for responses until 25 January 2013.

The project would create 10 km of new dual carriageway through greenfield land between the A6 in Stockport and the M56 near Manchester Airport, and the last official cost estimate was £290 million. The council is refusing to release an up-to-date business case for the road, despite getting the go-ahead for funding from the DfT, but it is understood that the final cost may already be much higher.

Campaign group Poynton Against Unnecessary Link roads to the Airport (PAULA) represents residents in nearby Poynton, Bramhall and Hazel Grove and will be attending the exhibitions and providing attendees with more information and some searching questions to ask the promoters.

Manchester Airport Link Road consultation website: http://www.semmms.info/a6/consultation/

Map of possible thames bridgeNew river crossings in East London

A new tunnel between the Greenwich peninsula and Silvertown, along with a new ferry at Gallions Reach, are being proposed by Transport for London and a consultation on the projects was launched yesterday. The cost of the tunnel is estimated at £600 million, while the ferry link would be £150 million. Additional options are also put forward, including replacing the ferry with a fixed road bridge, which would put up the total cost by another £450 million to a grant total of £1.2 billion.

The inclusion of a ferry or bridge at Gallions Reach resurrects the zombie of the Thames Gateway Bridge, which was cancelled after a public inquiry in 2008. You can read some of the conclusions of the inspector at the last inquiry in a summary provided on our website here: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/system/files/inspector_report_summary.pdf

The Thames Gateway Bridge inquiry was an almost unique example of (more than usual) democratic planning. As our summary says: "In an unprecedented arrangement which should be a model for future public inquiries, the opponents were assisted by expert advisers. These advisers were paid for by the promoters under a deal struck by the Green Group in the Greater London Assembly with the Mayor who needed their support to secure approval of his budget. TfL provided £65,000 for the opponents; its own budget for the Inquiry was around £4 million.

As a result, the inspector received a lot more useful information from objectors during the inquiry, and accepted most of the arguments put by opponents, who included Campaign for Better Transport (then called Transport 2000), Friends of the Earth and a large number of local people and groups. It will be interesting to see if the current Mayor can be persuaded to repeat this pioneering example and provide funds to help opponents of the plans again!

Friends of the Earth has already condemned the new plans because, just like the bridge, they will lead to more traffic congestion, noise and air pollution. The group's London campaigner Jenny Bates said "A world class city like London deserves a modern, clean and efficient transport system – not these outdated and damaging proposals."

The campaigners will be providing leaflets with key information for objectors and organising a series of public meetings. Get in touch with Friends of the Earth via the link above to find out more. Exhibitions will be held in the local area from 17 November to 15 December, and the consultation will accept responses via email or its online feedback form until 1 February 2013.

Thames crossings consultation website: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings/consultation