Headlines: November 7th, 2008

Planners and transport experts are being told today that strongly held views on road development have been coloured by personal experiences, popular beliefs, comment in the media and propaganda rather than facts. In what it calls a ‘myth busting paper’ the RAC foundation challenges commonly-held opinions on the subject.

The paper, ‘Myths and exaggerations about roads and road building in Great Britain’ tackles head on 11 specific views. Stephen Glaister, the Foundation’s Director said common perceptions were too often wide of the mark and said this could be revealed by checking available facts. “Road building if well designed can be a cost effective way of improving mobility for all, without having a material effect on climate change,” he said.

‘Mr. Glaister added, “It is essential that sensitively designed new road capacity features alongside plans to develop housing, utilities and public transport in response to the UK’s future population growth.”

Today’s report dismisses the argument that new road capacity simply fills up with traffic and says new road capacity would generally reduce congestion and travel costs. It counters the view that building roads will have a significant effect on climate change so long as wider policy measures are introduced alongside road development and argues that vehicle technology has reduced traffic pollution significantly. It also points to the fact that roads occupy less than 2 per cent of the surface of Great Britain and says most roads are local streets and lanes. Motorways and trunk roads in England carry 32 per cent of all traffic while taking up a very small surface area and it says roads are efficient users of space in comparison to the railways.

On other topics it points out that Britain is not unusual in relying on roads, says building roads will benefit low income groups, argues that road traffic does pay its way and that the construction industry does have the capacity to accommodate a substantial increase in road building. It also argues against the view that building new roads is too costly and finally dismisses public transport as a real alternative to the private car.