‘Focus on modal shift and managing demand rather than road capacity’

The Government must place far greater emphasis on demand management and modal shift rather than increasing road capacity if it is to tackle climate change, argues Transport Action Network (TAN).

Although the Government has “thrown billions of pounds” at increasing road capacity through its Road Improvement Strategies, “congestion is projected to rise significantly”, warned the campaign group’s founder and director Chris Todd.

Demand management and modal shift would not only reduce congestion but also benefit the economy, he argued.

He also called for the majority of funding to go on maintenance and renewal and adapting to climate change to improve resilience and reliability. “We have a £20bn local road and bridge maintenance backlog while a good proportion of the SRN [strategic road network] is coming to the end of its life and needs renewing,” he told LTT.

“Also, with extreme weather events becoming more severe due to climate change, changes to infrastructure (such as drainage) need to be made to make our roads more resilient.”

Todd is not reassured by the new road improvement strategy’s commitment to “improve environmental outcomes”.

“The biggest environmental issue that needs action is climate change, yet user and wider emissions are being sidelined and ignored,” he said. “Despite the spin, we suspect the funding splits will be similar to RIS2. Given the huge road schemes they want to build, such as Lower Thames Crossing, capital expenditure will likely consume around half of the RIS3 budget (the same as RIS2).”

Shortcomings in active travel provision, local community severance and air and noise pollution will get worse without significant increases in budget, said Todd. “There is no plan, for example, to reduce noise across the whole of the road network, which was one of the biggest benefits of lockdown. Yet unless we have traffic reduction and/or lower speed limits these sorts of issues (noise and roadkill) are just going to get worse.”


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