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Roads to Nowhere

Expert to review M6 business case on behalf of national groups

25 May 2007
For the first time, an outside expert will be advising the Government on whether an expensive motorway widening proposal makes sense. A coalition of national environmental and transport groups, together with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council [1], have instructed national transport expert Professor Phil Goodwin [2] to examine the business case for the widening of the £2.9 billion M6 through Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Professor Goodwin`s report will go straight to ministers to assist decision making on the scheme. When the scheme was discussed in a 2002 study [3], the widening was costed at £670 million but its cost has now quadrupled to £2.9 billion, making it the most expensive road scheme ever proposed.[4] Professor Goodwin will examine the robustness of the Highway`s Agency business case for the widening, examining the impact the scheme would have on:

 

  • traffic growth
  • climate change
  • the local road network
  • regional development
  • the environment, including landscape, noise and ecology impacts

Rebecca Lush, Transport 2000’s roads and climate campaigner, said:

 

"We welcome the opportunity for Professor Goodwin to examine the case for the M6 widening ahead of the ministerial decision and are grateful for the Highways Agency`s openness in this process. The widening could have enormous implications beyond its financial costs, such as the cost in terms of extra traffic, more carbon emissions and increased local noise and air pollution, and we hope the minister will read Professor Goodwin`s report carefully before committing £2.9 billion of taxpayers’ money to it."

The business case is expected to be submitted to the Government for consideration in the autumn, with Professor Goodwin`s report going to ministers shortly after.

Notes to Editors

[1] The project is being managed by Transport 2000, the national environmental transport campaign organisation. The partner funders include Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, CPRE, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sustrans, and Woodland Trust. The coalition of groups wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport asking for permission to examine the business case for the M6 widening, and have been cooperating with the Highways Agency to review the business case when it is ready. The Highways Agency has welcomed this outside scrutiny

[2] This study will be carried out by Phil Goodwin, professor of transport policy at the University of the West of England, a highly respected expert on transport modelling and appraisal. He has a long career in transport studies, including being head of the Transport Studies Unit at Oxford University (1979-1995) and a professor of transport policy at University College London (1996-2004). Professor Goodwin chaired the Panel of Advisors for the transport White Paper, A New Deal for Transport, in 1998. He was also a long-term member of the Standing Advisory Committee of Trunk Road Assessment, and co-author of its reports on environmental appraisal (1992), induced traffic (1994) and economic impacts (1999). His biography is available online: http://www.transport.uwe.ac.uk/staff/phil.asp

[3] The Government-commissioned West Midlands to North West Conurbations Multi Modal Study (Midman) in 2002 examined road and public transport options for the corridor.

[4] The scheme was originally costed at £670 million when Midman reported in March 2002, but had risen to £2.9 billion by 20 July 2006, when Transport Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman made a ministerial statement. If approved by ministers, the scheme would be the single most expensive scheme ever. Currently the next largest scheme approved by ministers is a section of the M1 widening, approved at £1.9 billion. The Government`s motorways and trunk roads programme is currently valued at around £12 billion.