Once again the debate at the core of UK transport planning has emerged, this time in the challenge set down by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). This champions the cause for sustainable transport and supports the claim that road building is inherently unsound. CPRE draws on evidence that new roads don’t achieve anything like what is claimed during the planning stages – the contrast with investment in other types of transport infrastructure is clear.
So, it appears that a programme of road construction doesn’t necessarily improve productivity, unlock jobs or growth and it doesn’t do much for the rural landscape. In fact, it seems that creating more road capacity generates more traffic. This might be a revelation to some but for many, it is simply restating what has been known for a very long time. More recently, the argument has shifted towards questioning the scheme appraisal process, democracy and the role of evidence but the two sides seem as entrenched as ever. However, it would appear that one side has the support of government and the other much less so.
If there is to be a shift towards properly sustainable transport policy, then it needs to be dramatic and permanent. It’s not looking too promising at the moment but recent debates about air quality all boil down to the same fundamental issues. Traffic is not good for people even if it essential for the economy; too much traffic and its associated infrastructure isn’t an inappropriate strategy for the future environment, economy or population.
These and many other topical issues will be discussed at the forthcoming Transport Practitioners Meeting in Nottingham in June. This is an opportunity for you to get involved so hopefully you will share your views with people from all parts of the transport spectrum – see you there!