Roadbuilding plans fundamentally flawed, research finds

20th March 2017


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Transport ,
  • Management

Author

Stephen Dunlop

New roads increased traffic and greenhouse gases, damaged wildlife and designated environmental sites and did not produce the economic benefits proponents used to justify their construction, analysis of data from England's highways authority has found.

The research, by consultants Transport for Quality of Life Community Interest Company (TfLQ) for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), examined official data from Highways England for 86 completed road schemes.

The effects of schemes were measured using Highways England’s Post Opening Project Evaluation (POPE) data one to five years after they opened. Roads completed between 13 and 20 years ago were also scrutinised to assess long-term impacts. These were: the A34 Newbury bypass; M65 Blackburn Southern bypass; and dual-carriage ways on the A46 between Newark and Lincoln and A120 between Stansted and Braintree dualling.

The analysis found that traffic increased more on new roads than background traffic in the surrounding area. Roads completed eight to 20 years ago experienced a 47% increase in traffic, and more than doubled on the M65 Blackburn Southern bypass.

All new schemes put pressure on adjoining roads, and reductions in journey times were found to be negligible. During peak time, the median time saved was 90 seconds, while journeys were 60 seconds shorter during off-peak periods.

More than half of the road schemes analysed harmed protected landscapes and designated sites, including national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, ancient woodland and historic places.

The new roads also increased greenhouse gas emissions, the research found. Fifty-four road schemes opened between 2002 and 2010 and cumulative emissions from them reached 8 MtCO2 in 2015.

TfLQ said its estimates for emissions were conservative due to the complexity of comparing what would have happened to traffic levels without the scheme.

Biodiversity was damaged in a large number of cases analysed. This was due to various factors, including route choices, failure to identify or implement mitigation measures, lack of maintenance or vandalism. For example, lapwings overwintered in an area that was destroyed by the construction of the M40 J15 Longbridge roundabout. No mitigation was planned for the loss of habitat, and money requested by the local authority to contribute to the cost of new habitat did not materialise. Lapwings have now been wiped out in the area, the research found.

The great crested newt population near the A6 Alvaston improvement scheme declined from around 300 to less than ten. The population of the protected species was underestimated, resulting in replacement ponds being too small. The new ponds were also badly designed and dried out several times, the report states.

The government has pledged to increase annual spending on the strategic road network from £1bn in 2016 to £3bn by 2020/21. Highways England is expected to publish a consultation this month on potential schemes.

Ralph Smyth, head of infrastructure and legal at the CPRE, said: ‘This landmark research shows that any benefits from road building are far smaller than thought but the harm much worse.’

Instead of giving three times more funding to the road building programme, the government should invest in a strategy that puts quality of life ahead of the car, he said. This should include reopening old rail lines, harnessing new technology to make more efficient use of road space and promoting new housing on brownfield sites closer to jobs and services.

‘Building ever bigger roads should be the last resort, not the default choice,’ he added.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring organisation the RAC Foundation, said: ‘This report highlights some home truths. We are a congested island with a growing population and expanding economy. Few of us battle daily congestion on the roads and railways through choice but necessity; because we need to get to work, get the children to school or get to the shops.’

These essential journeys could be made shorter and easier if land use planning and transport are better aligned, closely linking housing, business and retail development, he said.

He added that the Highways England programme is mainly about adding capacity to already congested stretches of road, rather than contemplating entirely new roads.

‘Where new routes are on the table, for example the badly needed new Lower Thames Crossing, we would expect their designers to take on board the lessons from this report,’ he added.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close