Review calls for reassessment of road schemes

A group of senior academics [1] has today published a report [2] on the future of road building in England. It has called for all road projects not in construction to be reappraised to ensure that they meet broader policy aims and in particular the need to rapidly decarbonise. It also called for greater transparency regarding decision making and publishing the underlying data.

The publication of this report comes ahead of expected consultations on the next Roads Investment Strategy (RIS3) and the National Networks National Policy Statement [3].

Rebecca Lush, roads and climate campaigner for Transport Action Network said:

“This is a very welcome independent scrutiny of the Government’s ideological obsession with new roads. It highlights that much more needs to be done to show how increasing road capacity fits with decarbonising transport quickly enough. The problem for the Government is that it doesn’t and neither does it fit with wider policy objectives to protect the environment and to reduce pollution to protect public health.

“The panel also highlights that there needs to be much greater scrutiny and openness to ensure that public money is being spent wisely. We’ve seen the recent disgraceful attempts by the DfT to withhold important information used to justify their position on decarbonisation [4]. This cannot continue and the way that information is manipulated by National Highways also needs a spotlight shone on it. We would agree with the panel that promoters are not best placed to provide impartial and accurate assessments of their proposals and that there should be greater independent scrutiny of this.”

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Notes to Editors:

[1] The Road Investment Scrutiny Panel consisted of Professors: Glenn Lyons, Steve Gooding, Jilian Anable, Nicola Christie, Zoe Davies, Stephen Glaister, Phil Goodwin and Karen Lucas, with panel secretary Andrew Crudgington. The project was run by the University of the West of England with a grant from the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.

[2] The full report can be found here.

[3] Consultations on the next Roads Investment Strategy (RIS3) (the national road building programme for the Strategic Roads Network for 2025 – 2030) and the National Networks National Policy Statement (the policy document that contains the Government’s roads policy) were due to take place in the Autumn last year. They are now expected soon.

[4] Professor Greg Marsden asked through a Freedom of Information request for the information that was behind the graph in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan back in March 2022. The DfT refused to provide it despite an internal review and the Information Commissioner ruling in his favour. At the last minute, after having lodged an appeal, the DfT capitulated and released the information last week on 12 January, 2023.


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