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Transport campaigners slam Manchester Airport road consultation

4 February 2013
Transport campaigners have highlighted major shortcomings in proposals for a new road between Manchester Airport and the A6 and called for consultation to be restarted, with updated information and alternative options included.

Reports and analysis commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) and the North West Transport Roundtable (NW TAR) have found that much of the data behind proposals for the £290 million scheme dates from more than a decade ago, and that alternative options have not been assessed since 2001.[1]

As a result of the new analysis, conducted by experts in planning and transport, officers from three regional campaigns have joined CfBT in calling for the process to be suspended while up-to-date information is collected and alternatives to the road looked at again. The A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road (A6-MARR) is being promoted by three local authorities: Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Cheshire East Council and Manchester City Council, and the first of two consultation periods ended last week.[2]

Problems exposed by the new analysis include:

1. Widespread use of inaccurate and out-of-date information to support economic and environmental forecasts


  • The strategic case, and much of the transport case, for the road relies heavily on SEMMMS (South East Manchester Multi-Modal Study), which was completed in 2001. Alternative options to meet the objectives of the scheme have not been considered since then.
  • Forecasts behind the SEMMMS study, carried out in the 1990s, predicted 10% traffic growth in the area up to 2011, when in fact traffic in Greater Manchester fell during this period and was flat in Cheshire East.
  • The business case ignores the impact of major strategic investment in public transport infrastructure in recent years, and many future developments, notably HS2 and the Northern Hub rail project.
  • Much of the data in the Environmental Scoping Report dates from 2003.

2. The business case fails to follow numerous planning and environmental requirements



  • Key national planning requirements for considering the environmental impact and design of the scheme are not followed, including on the loss of green belt, sight lines, noise pollution, landscape and ecology.
  • Climate change implications have not been assessed as required, nor the road’s impact on Greater Manchester’s commitment to reduce emissions 48% by 2020.
    Impacts on public health and air quality are not properly estimated, even though the plans would increase pollution in areas that are already in breach of legal requirements.

3. Claims of huge economic benefits have no credible evidence behind them



  • The business case claims benefits of more than £800 million resulting from the road. However, 90% of these turn out to be calculated from predicted time savings by drivers of cars. 70% of the total benefits are scheduled to appear after 2032.
  • The primary purpose of the scheme is to enable major developments around the airport, claiming the SEMMMS study as its basis. However, the full SEMMMS strategy actually depended upon urban regeneration and concentration, while these developments represent the opposite strategy and no estimate has been made of the potential economic damage to existing centres.

Sian Berry, Roads Campaigner from Campaign for Better Transport said:


"The councils behind this proposal have completely failed to make a case for spending nearly £300m of public money on their new road. Our analysis reveals that the figures they're using are over a decade old, and based on forecasts of traffic growth that has never materialised. They ignore huge changes in Manchester’s public transport picture in recent years, and now HS2 raises even more questions about the wisdom of promoting car journeys in the area.

"The reports clearly show there is no evidence this expensive road will benefit the local economy, but plenty to show it will damage the local environment and make pollution worse. By using obsolete data and failing to consider non-road options, the recent consultation isn’t fit for purpose. If we want to improve transport in the area, we need to go back to first principles and start again."

The business case for the road was published by Stockport MBC in November,[3] and CfBT and NW TAR commissioned transport and planning experts Keith Buchan and Alan Wenban-Smith to look at the proposals in detail. The Environmental Scoping Report and the climate and air quality impacts were assessed in separate reports by Jackie Copley from the Lancashire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Helen Rimmer, North West Campaigner for Friends of the Earth.



1. A combined report containing results from four separate assessments of the plans was submitted to the consultation by CfBT and NW TAR. The research was carried out by:


  • Keith Buchan, Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (on traffic and transport modelling)
  • Alan Wenban-Smith, Urban and Regional Policy (on the economics of the business case)
  • Jackie Copley, Planning Officer, Lancashire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (on the Environmental Scoping Report)
  • Helen Rimmer, North West Campaigner, Friends of the Earth (on air quality and climate change)

The full report document can be downloaded from the Campaign for Better Transport website.


2. Consultation website from the promoters is available on the SEMMMS website.

3. Business case documents are available on the SEMMMS website.

4. The North West Transport Roundtable (NW TAR) is one of eight regional roundtables which operate under the auspices of the Campaign for Better Transport.

Local comment on the road can also be provided by campaign group PAULA: (Poynton Against Unnecessary Links to the Airport)