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Roads to Nowhere

Invest in sustainable transport not big road schemes

23 February 2010
Campaign for Better Transport urged politicians to reject siren calls from business voices urging billions to be spent on big new roads, and instead follow new evidence [1] [2], showing that traffic can be cut by small-scale smart travel measures.

Richard George, roads and climate campaigner of Campaign for Better Transport said:

"As the British Chambers of Commerce calls for unaffordable and destructive roads, new evidence shows that smart local transport measures can tackle traffic problems now. Travel plans for schools and workplaces combined with good information and local cycling improvements have cut car use in target towns and massively increased cycling and bus use. We want the next government to invest in just this type of sustainable transport, not massive road projects that lead to bigger, wider traffic jams"

The reports analysed the impact of a pair of Department of Transport schemes designed to increase walking, cycling and bus use in targeted towns, which received funding for infrastructure and public education. By contrast, value for money forecasting for new road schemes has been thrown in doubt by Highways Agency’s own research [3]

Campaign for Better Transport’s Improving Everyday Transport manifesto [4] outlines how sustainable transport planning reduces traffic congestion, reduces carbon emissions and benefits communities, all at a tiny fraction of the cost to taxpayers of unnecessary road building.

Notes to the editors:
[1] The “Sustainable Travel Town” demonstration project report released 22 February 2010 was prepared by an independent research team to assess transport initiatives in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester to promote increased walking, cycling and public transport use between 2004 and 2009.  Bus use in these areas is up between 10 and 22 percent, while bus use is declining in similar towns.  Similarly, the report shows an average increase in cycling of 27 percent, while cycling across England has been declining steadily for 30 years. The reports also showed significant declines in car use (down 9 percent), driving distances, and traffic volumes (down 2% overall and between 7 and 8 percent for town centre areas.  A summary of the evaluation is available.

[2] “The Cycling Demonstration Town programme has been a major success, with all six towns achieving their aim of getting more people cycling, more safely, more often,” according to The Department for Transport in a report released 22 February 2010. The report and further details are available from the Department for Transport 

[3] In January, Campaign for Better Transport revealed Highways Agency research that showed how the claimed benefits of new roads don’t work in practice, and some roads actually create new problems. The research cast doubts on the value for money of road building and coincided with warnings from the Department for Transport that regional authorities should expect substantial cuts in their transport budgets.

[4]  Campaign for Better Transport’s Improving Everyday Transport manifesto