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Rush hour on the M6

Even had Government plans to widen the M6 been affordable, congestion would still be worse in 2025

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Policy rethink required to avoid worsening congestion


8th July, 2009

Building more roads is not the answer to worsening motorway congestion, according to new research from the Campaign for Better Transport, which advocates more low-impact solutions

Traffic congestion on major roads will significantly worsen unless the Government takes a tougher stance on roadbuilding, a new report reveals.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) research shows that shelved plans to widen the M1 and M6 motorways would still not have relieved Britain’s escalating congestion issues, with motorways and trunk roads still more clogged in 2025 than in 2003.

The Strategic Road Network Needs Strategic Policy Appraisal report calls for a policy rethink, with more attention paid to the impacts on major roads of shorter journeys and traffic around towns and cities, where 89 per cent of congestion occurs and where roadbuilding is not an option.

‘We cannot build our way out of traffic jams, so it’s time to be tough on congestion and tough on the causes of congestion,’ said CBT roads and climate campaigner Richard George. ‘No matter how wide we make our motorways, they’ll keep filling up, so we have to start giving people alternatives to driving if we don’t want the country to grind to a halt. If the Government were to follow our recommendations then all road users would benefit – and it would cost a lot less than roadbuilding.’

Written by Phil Goodwin, professor of transport policy at the University of West England Bristol, the report makes a number of low-impact practical solutions that would ease congestion:

‘Smarter choices’ programmes that included more advice and information on different ways to travel; better infrastructure and support for walking, cycling or using public transport – as well as cost adjustments to encourage uptake; prioritisation of road space for the most efficient or socially needy road users; dynamic traffic control (such as intelligent traffic lights); improved land use so there is less distance to travel for essential services; more support for the telecommunications systems that will allow people to work, shop and attend meetings from home.

The Government’s national plan for transport, Building Britain’s Future, was welcomed by CBT for was published on 29 June. Commitments to publish a national cycle plan, improving the electrification of railways and lowering emissions were welcomed by CBT, though it was critical of the billions still spent on roadbuilding and motorway widening. Forthcoming regional funding bids will include £4 billion for new roads.


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