Headlines: July 27th, 2005

Local authorities and the Government are being urged to look at alternatives to more road building to tackle Britain’s transport problems. The call comes today from the Campaign to Protect Rural England on the eve of the deadline for councils to submit their five-year transport plans.CPRE says new Government figures show that the cost of new road building has spiralled with the estimates for 96 national and local road schemes having increased since they were first approved and the bill for 39 national road proposals going up by 1.3 billion pounds. It is highlighting statistics that show constructing one mile of motorway costs an average 23 million pounds with a mile of dual carriageway coming in at 12 million.

In spite of those figures and the fact that the Transport White Paper recognised that road building did not offer a long-term solution to today’s transport problems, says the CPRE the new Five Year Local Transport Plans about to be delivered to the government by local authorities will include proposals for more roads.

Paul Hamblin, CPRE’s Head of Transport Policy, said, “Ministers and many local authorities continue with plans, which will see more tarmac laid over green fields. These figures show that there is a high price to pay, for the taxpayer as well as everyone who cares for our countryside.” CPRE says the Government has been quick to act on rising costs in the railways and it wants firm action to ensure that limited public funds are not squandered on large road building projects. Instead the campaigners want greater investment in sustainable measures such as public transport, safety schemes and improvements for walking and cycling.

The CPRE is pointing out that of 80 national road schemes, costs have risen in 41 cases and gone down in only 2, while in 71 local road schemes, costs have risen in 55 cases and again have fallen for only two projects.

Paul Hamblin said some increases in costs might be justifiable but we were seeing significant increases for many schemes and it appeared that once approval was given for new roads, costs escalated. With local authorities bidding for more road schemes this needed to stop, he said.

He added, “It costs just over 46,000 thousand pounds to introduce area wide traffic calming. By concentrating funds on big and increasingly expensive infrastructure, too many people are losing out of the potential benefit of effective traffic management. Communities are told too many times there isn’t enough to go round and they will need to wait in line.”