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Campaigners call for £3 billion for ‘green retrofit’ of main roads

23 September 2014
A new report is calling for £3 billion to be invested in a range of 'green retrofit' improvements for existing roads in the upcoming Road Investment Strategy.

A new report by environment and transport groups including Campaign for Better Transport and Campaign to Protect Rural England is calling for £3 billion to be invested over the next five years in a range of 'green retrofit' improvements for existing roads in the upcoming Road Investment Strategy, which will be published by the Government this Autumn.

England has one of the lowest rates of bus use and cycling in the EU, while 3 million people are exposed to noise levels from roads above international standards and biodiversity continues to decline. The Better not bigger report outlines many ways our existing road network needs to be updated to help tackle these problems, including

  • green bridges to reconnect habitats and landscapes that have been severed by major roads
  • design changes to reduce the visual and landscape impact of roads, including lighting
  • new barriers and better management to reduce traffic noise
  • safe crossings and routes to increase walking and cycling
  • new smart technology to help reduce disruption, through better speed control and information
  • priority measures for buses and coaches, particularly near key junctions and urban areas

Sian Berry, Roads and Sustainable Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“The Government’s Road Investment Strategy needs to focus on how existing roads can be improved, not on building road capacity. Compared with £15 billion for new road capacity, £3 billion is a small amount to pay for the huge impact of cleaner, quieter roads, more efficient public transport and continuous green spaces. We need only look at Holland for inspiration, where hundreds of schemes have reduced the impact of roads and re-connected vital sections of countryside to benefit wildlife and people alike.”
Ralph Smyth, Transport Campaign Manager, Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“England's roads are a generation behind countries like the Netherlands and not just in relation to cycle facilities. While the Dutch now have over 600 green bridges across their roads, a measure increasingly copied in Eastern Europe, we have barely a couple. Our motorways already have the most lanes on in Europe, so why is the Government still thinking of making them bigger still? This would not only be devastating for the countryside, it would make driving increasingly nerve-wracking for drivers."

The impact of these relatively small developments to the roads that currently cut through natural habitats and public pathways will be exponential for the surrounding residents, wildlife and public transport users, and will help make sustainable travel a more realistic choice for many.

Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Research Manager, Campaign for National Parks, said:

“Millions of people visit National Parks every year, eager to experience their unique qualities, peace and tranquility but too often their enjoyment is spoilt by traffic noise and unsightly, dangerous roads. The measures in this brochure show how many of the negative impacts of existing roads could be reduced. Implementing this green retrofit programme would demonstrate that the Government takes its responsibility towards National Parks seriously.”


Notes to Editors
1. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

2. Better not bigger report: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/Roads_Retrofit_Proposals_FINAL_Sep2014.pdf

3. Environmental and transport groups contributing to the report and joining in the call for a green retrofit programme are:
Campaign for Better Transport
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Campaign for National Parks
Friends of the Earth
Healthy Air Campaign
Living Streets
UK Noise Association
The Wildlife Trusts
Woodland Trust
National Express

3. The Highways Agency’s Road Investment Strategy is due to be published in December 2014. An outline is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/roads-for-the-21st-century. £15 billion of the total funding available for the strategy is capital expenditure, and the £3 billion suggested for the 'green retrofit' would come from this capital expenditure budget, representing 20% of the total.

4. Defra Noise Action plan for roads describes noise levels from UK roads:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/276237/noise-action-plan-roads-201401.pdf