Road to ruin as South East plan fuels climate change

Transport Action Network (TAN) is strongly objecting [1] to Transport for the South East’s draft Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) which is currently being consulted upon until 12 September [2]. The draft SIP outlines the transport spending priorities for the region for the next 30 years. TAN is critical of the plan because it hides its true carbon impact and will increase, not decrease, traffic as it claims. The draft SIP also fails to do much to help tackle climate change.

TAN is calling for the draft SIP to be rewritten to make it compliant with the Paris Agreement and the need to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 (on 1990 levels) [3]. The plan will undermine this target with its 91 road schemes, over 50 of which it wants delivered before 2030. In contrast, public transport proposals are mostly going to be delivered after 2030 and are far less certain to be built. Active travel is largely left to local authorities which will result in delay and inaction in many areas. This will be bad for the economy, levelling up, equality, air pollution, public health and the region’s precious countryside [4].

Chris Todd, director of TAN said:

“This draft plan will be highly damaging for the South East and beyond. It will undermine the economy and waste public funds, while increasing traffic and failing to reduce carbon emissions fast enough. It’s like a slow-motion car crash, where the resulting destruction is inevitable.

“You cannot support a plan that contains 90 new roads, over 50 of which are to be built before 2030, and pretend everything will be alright. Especially when most public transport improvements are delayed or unlikely to happen. Everyone is warning that we need to take urgent action [5]. Parliament has said we are in a climate emergency [6], yet for TfSE it’s apparently business as usual.

“Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it. If TfSE is serious about improving things it needs to go back to the drawing board. It can’t continue along this road while the planet burns and suffers devastating floods.

“TfSE needs to ditch the greenwashing and the wishlist of road schemes. It needs to stop pretending these schemes will be good for all and prioritise public transport and active travel instead. The irony is that it accepts the plan fails to reduce emissions quickly enough but then does little about it. Unless TfSE is prepared to look at these issues again, there is little point in its existence. We’d be better off without it.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

[1] TAN’s concerns are outlined in this blog, which also links to TAN’s full submission

[2] TfSE’s draft SIP can be viewed online along with all the supporting documents. The consultation ends on Monday, 12 September.

[3] The Paris Agreement is an international agreement signed up to by the UK Government and was agreed to try and limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees. As part of this, Governments were tasked with setting a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target for 2030. The UK signed up to at least a 68% cut on 1990 levels. To date, transport emissions have barely decreased since 1990 – see page 15 for graph of UK greenhouse gas emissions (note the drop in 2019/20 was due to Covid and all indications are that levels have risen sharply since then). Note the NDC is not related to the 2050 net-zero target or the Climate Change Act 2008.

[4] There are many protected landscapes in the South East: the New Forest and South Downs National Parks and Chichester Harbour, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, North Wessex Downs and the Surrey Hills Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). However, the South Downs National Park would be amongst the worst affected by multiple expansions of the A27 at Chichester, Arundel, Worthing – Lancing, Brighton & Hove junction expansions, Lewes to Polegate and park & ride sites. All of these would increase pressure on the landscape with more traffic and pollution adjacent and through it, ruining tranquillity and increasing demand for more car parking.

[5] IPCC Sixth Assessment Report – press release (28 February 2022)

[6] Parliament declared a climate emergency on 1 May 2019


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