Green Party and Friends of the Earth claim governmentâ€™s road building plans will lead to worsened air pollution
Air quality campaigners have criticised the UK governmentâ€™s plans to spend Â£15 billion on 100 new road improvement schemes and adding 1,300 miles of extra lanes to motorways and A-roads.
The likes of the Green Party and campaign group Friends of the Earth believe building roads will encourage more traffic and lead to worsened air quality in the UK, and have urged the government to instead invest in public transport infrastructure and making walking and cycling safer.
It follows the coalition governmentâ€™s announcement this week (December 1) of further details in its â€˜roads revolutionâ€™ proposals â€“ first revealed in 2013 â€“ which will include 84 new schemes such as a tunnel to tackle congestion close to Stonehenge in Wiltshire on the A303 and improvements to junctions on the M25 motorway around London.
The Department for Transport described the plans â€“ part of its first ever Road Investment Strategy â€“ as the â€˜biggest upgrade to roads in a generationâ€™.
Transport minister Patrick McLoughlin commented that the plans would â€œdramatically improve our road network and unlock Britainâ€™s economic potentialâ€, allowing people to â€œtravel freely, creating jobs and opportunities, benefiting hardworking families across the countryâ€.
However, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion, Caroline Lucas said the new road schemes were â€œeconomically questionable as well as environmentally recklessâ€, adding that government studies have shown that â€œroad building simply does not reduce congestionâ€.
In addition, the Green Partyâ€™s local transport spokesperson Caroline Russell said: â€œIf you build roads you get more traffic clogging up our towns cities and villages, adding to road danger, air pollution and congestion. The government should be investing in our public transport infrastructure and buildingÂ convenient networks of cycling and walking routes rather than creating more traffic jams.
â€œThe more we learn about the damaging impact of diesel pollution and physical inactivity on our health, the more urgent the need for this change in direction and priorities becomes. The Â£100m offered for cycling is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions being spent every year on roads while walking does not even get a mention. If the government is serious about creating jobs and supporting a sustainable economy they should be seizing the huge opportunities available from investing in new, less carbon-intensive transport technologies and looking to reduce our need to travel by car.â€
Friends of the Earth (FotE) also slammed the governmentâ€™s â€œout-of-date thinkingâ€ on transport as â€œtackling congestion by building or widening roads was discredited decades agoâ€.
In addition, the campaign group criticised Chancellor George Osborneâ€™s Autumn Statement this week (December 3) for serving up â€œmore environmental gloomâ€ by failing to include provisions to tackle air pollution in the UK.
FotE senior campaigner Jane Thomas said: â€œInvestment in transport is urgently needed, but the priority must be better trains, buses and cycling facilities, not an expensive road-building programme that will cause more traffic and air pollution and make it harder to tackle climate change.â€