Written evidence submitted by the Arundel Bypass
Neighbourhood Committee (RSM0006)

‘Smart motorways’ – ‘all lane running’ or ‘ALR’ – were introduced as a cheap way of increasing capacity on the UK’s roads.   Smart motorways are not safe, but the overriding reason why they should be abolished is that an increase in capacity is exactly the opposite of what is needed to fulfil the UK’s obligations to reduce carbon emissions because of the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.

  1. Achieving net zero requires a reduction in car use

Many organisations fighting the Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies point out that the UK Government’s road-building programme should stop.   For instance, Green Alliance, ‘an independent think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment’, said in November 2020: ‘Decisions are still being made which are locking in high carbon activity for the long term.   For example, the Government plans to spend at least £14bn on new roads and expand the capacity of existing roads, which will increase traffic.   This is despite evidence that achieving net zero emissions requires a reduction in car use and ownership, even with an ambitious 2030 phase-out date for petrol and diesel cars.’[1]

The paper for Transport for Quality of Life by Sloman et al., ‘The Carbon Impact of the National Roads Programme’, July 2020, uses the carbon data reported by Highways England to make the first programme-level estimate of the likely carbon impact of RIS2 (Roads Investment Strategy 2).   It says in its Introduction:  ‘RIS2 will make carbon emissions from the Strategic Road Network go up, by about 20 mtCO2, during a period when we need to make them go down, by about 167 mtCO2.   …We therefore believe that it [RIS2] should be cancelled.’[2]

  1. What the latest government policy advice says

Those who attempt to guide policy appear to be listening.   The Government body called the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) in its ‘Green Book Review: Final Report’, November 2020,[3] says: ‘1.10.   Business cases frequently do not demonstrate necessary understanding of the proposal’s specific contribution to the delivery of the Government’s intended strategic goals (such as…Net Zero).’

On environmental degradation, in its November 2020 ‘Green Book Guidance’ the NCC says ‘Overall the NCC has found limited evidence of Natural Capital being considered in policy appraisal…failure to implement Green Book guidance across all relevant decisions should be urgently addressed given the Government’s wide-ranging environmental objectives, including their commitment to avoid further degradation of our natural assets.’[4]   Road proposals are relevant decisions.

Another Government body, the Public Accounts Committee, says progress on the environment is painfully slow.   Its Chairwoman, Meg Hillier, said in February 2021: ‘If the Prime Minister is serious about protecting the environment, the issue needs to be owned by the whole of government.’[5]   That includes the Department for Transport.

Another Government report, the Dasgupta Review commissioned by the Treasury, points out that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or an emphasis on economic growth – an important usual reason given for wanting new roads – is ‘wholly unsuitable for appraising investment projects and identifying sustainable development’. [6]    Yet Benefit Cost Ratios, based on supposed economic returns, are the main tool for appraising road schemes.

  1. The ‘Concrete Wall’

More examples of right thinking can be found in many other Government policy guidance documents.   But there always seems to be a stark mismatch between what the Government bodies say, and what they recommend should be done.   This is what I call the ‘concrete wall’.

The Government’s Climate Change Committee recently (December 2020) produced a paper ‘Local Authorities and the 6th Carbon Budget’.   It made the usual promising statements.   P. 81: ‘Constraining the growth in vehicle mileage is vital to reducing [carbon] emissions.’   P. 83, in bold: ‘Weighting funding towards active travel, public transport and digital infrastructure rather than road building would help deliver the modal shift required to counteract the likely increase in car use due to the Covid 19 pandemic.’   But nowhere in the paper does the CCC say Local Authorities should stop supporting road building – which increases vehicle mileage.

In April 2020 Chris Stark, the CEO of the CCC, said: ‘The government mustn’t be investing in anything likely to increase carbon emissions. I expect that video conferencing will become the new normal, and we won’t return to travelling the way we did.   I would spend the roads budget on fibre.’[7]

The CCC produced a paper in December 2020 called ‘Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget’.   The paper made no mention of road building.

  1. Conclusion  

How long will it take for the concrete wall to come down and for action to follow the words?   How long will it take for Highways England to realise that increasing capacity on our roads – such as by smart motorways – is directly contrary to what is required to meet the Government’s carbon reduction obligations?   How long will it take before the Roads Programme is cancelled and the money put towards Active Travel and better broadband, as suggested by the CEO of the CCC?

And will it be in time to save the villages of Tortington, Binsted and Walberton, and the ‘extraordinary’ wildlife area around them, threatened with destruction or massive impact by the Arundel bypass Grey Route, which is about to go through its planning process?

 

 

February 2021

 

Endnotes


[1] ‘Getting the building blocks right’, Green Alliance, November 2020.   https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/getting_the_building_blocks_right_report.php

[2] https://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/u/files/The%20carbon%20impact%20of%20the%20national%20roads%20programme%20FINAL.pdf.  

[3] Green Book Review, Final Report, 24.11.20, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-of-the-2020-green-book-review

[4] Natural Capital Committee, ‘Green Book Guidance’, November 2020, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/937652/ncc-green-book-advice.pdf.

[5] https://cedrec.com/r/news/0221-governments-progress-painfully-slow-on-protecting-the-environment

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52371140.