When the Beeching cuts removed thousands of miles of train tracks and thousands of stations in the 1960s, it left may rural communities with no option but to drive. This is when CPRE started to take issue with the roads being built: not only were they destroying landscapes, ruining tranquillity and polluting the air, but the congestion issues got worse.
Eighty years of empirical studies and official reports since then, all agree that building roads actually leads to more traffic, rather than relieving it, because when more roads are built, more people are encouraged to drive and they drive more often. It’s known as ‘induced traffic’.
Despite this, the government is now proposing to build its way out of congestion with the biggest road development programme since the 1970s. The commitment is popular with MPs, given that many of their constituents are suffering from congested roads. But will it work?
To answer this question, CPRE commissioned a comprehensive independent study of the impact of new roads on traffic, the landscape and economic growth1.
The report – The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus – found the most comprehensive evidence to date that building new roads is not the solution. It shows that road schemes:
- Generate more traffic
- Lead to permanent and significant environmental and landscape damage
- 69 out of 86 road schemes examined had an adverse impact on the landscape –destroying ancient woodland and mature hedgerows
- More than half damaged an area with national or local landscape designations for landscape, biodiversity or heritage.
- Show little evidence of economic benefit to local economies
- And crucially, they also fail to provide any congestion relief
The conclusion? We need a major overhaul of national roads policy. We need truly sustainable transport policies, founded on the principles of smarter travel: reducing the need to travel; increasing travel choices; and maximising efficiency through new technology.
We are calling on government to make road-building the last resort. Directing house building to suitable brownfield sites would reduce the need to travel, providing at least a million new homes close to jobs and services; reopening closed rail lines and stations would encourage a shift from road to rail; and investing in public transport and safer cycling routes would reduce car journeys.
We are not short of evidence in the Peak District of road building schemes which will not deliver what they promise. We know that our arguments are not popular with the people who live in areas blighted by heavily congested traffic, nor with people who spend hours in the same traffic jam year after year.
But this is our corner of England. It is ours to protect. And we have hard evidence to prove that these schemes rather than solve the problems will actually make them worse. We cannot build our way out of congestion.
If you would like to support our campaign, to prevent more of our precious landscape being obliterated by roads, please donate what you can.