New report shows roads create massive traffic growth

Road building often leads to much faster traffic growth than forecast, according to a new study commissioned by CPRE (1) and the Countryside Agency. (2) The report specifically highlights how the infamous Newbury Bypass failed, by generating massive traffic growth in the area. The Hastings Alliance welcomes the CPRE report, and believes it undermines the case for the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) being proposed by East Sussex County Council. The Hastings Alliance say that lessons must be leaned from failed and hugely expensive road schemes, and BHLR should be scrapped.

Researchers studied three controversial major road schemes of recent years: the A34 Newbury Bypass in Berkshire, the A27 Polegate Bypass near Eastbourne, East Sussex and the M65 Blackburn Southern Bypass in Lancashire.

They found traffic on these roads had already reached or exceeded the levels forecast for the year 2010. (3) And extra traffic, over and above the gradual increase happening everywhere, had flowed onto local roads as a result of the schemes, undermining the claim that the bypasses would reduce congestion. Campaigners against the BHLR fear that the scheme will also only bring very limited short term relief, and will create more traffic in the area.

The CPRE study (4) is one of the first to look at what actually happens once roads have been built. For all three schemes, there was above average traffic growth, increased development pressures on undeveloped land nearby and significant damage to landscapes (see case studies at the end of this e-mail).

At Newbury and Polegate the new bypasses did reduce town centre traffic. But the reductions were not as much as originally forecast, whilst traffic has increased on the bypassed roads and on the new bypasses. Highways Agency traffic data shows that the Polegate Bypass generated 27% additional traffic in the area one year after opening. (5)

Newbury has seen rapid traffic growth, with most of the freed up space on the old, bypassed road being taken by new traffic attracted by new development. This echoes the conclusions of a WS Atkins report in 2005 that traffic had increased on the roads around Newbury by 48% in just four years, whilst over the same period nationally traffic had grown by only about 5%. (6)

The Hastings Alliance believes that if built, the BHLR would generate more traffic than is currently predicted, will devastate the Combe Haven Valley, and be a waste of taxpayers" money. The Alliance believes the road should be scrapped and sustainable measures to reduce traffic growth, serve any new development and give greater travel choice should be developed and implemented instead.

Nick Bingham, Chairman of the Hastings Alliance said: “We welcome this important CPRE and Countryside Agency report, and believe it undermines the case for the Bexhill Hastings Link Road. New roads create more traffic and greenhouse gases, and damage the wider environment. We must learn from past mistakes, starting with scrapping BHLR”. END

Nick Bingham, Chairman, Hastings Alliance

Derrick Coffee, East Sussex Transport 2000

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