Commons Gate

The major road network (HC 533-iv)

Transport Committee 20 Jul 2009

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Evidence given by:
3.20 p.m. CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Ralph Smyth; NECTAR (North-East Combined Transport Activists' Roundtable) Cynthia Games
3.50 p.m. Department for Transport Chris Mole, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Martin Jones, Head of Strategic Roads Division

Q255 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): The Protection of Rural England says you do not give much attention to, or your campaign is not to help those of us who live in urban areas. Is it not a fact that in reality the majority of the road building has now been done and what we are seeing is very often bypasses, like in my constituency, that will go through rural areas which will relieve major congestion in urban areas and that is what you are opposing?

Mr Smyth: No, it is not. We are very keen on promoting urban regeneration. For example, with the discussion on eco-towns we have been pushing for the need to regenerate urban areas rather than build new towns in the countryside.

Q256 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I can believe that, yes.

Mr Smyth: In relation to bypasses, most of the road building now if you look at the Government's recent announcement is for increasing the capacity of existing roads, because that is where the congestion is worse, rather than bypasses. It is interesting that a couple of weeks ago the Westbury bypass in the south-west was rejected by an inspector because he found that the case simply did not stack up.

Q257 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): So you are not opposed to bypasses of urban areas then?

Mr Smyth: We tend to be against new road capacity, yes.

Q258 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): So really you do not care about the congestion in the urban areas. Can I take you on to the high speed train. I hope when we come along with a plan for the high speed train that will leave London, go through the countryside and come into Birmingham and then go to Manchester and Carlisle and Glasgow that your organisation will not object to that.

Mr Smyth: It is rather difficult to say whether we will object to something in principle or not when we have not seen any plans.

Q259 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Did you object to High Speed 1?

Mr Smyth: There were discussions about the detailed design.

Q260 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): You did object to High Speed 1, did you not?

Mr Smyth: I think there were discussions about the detail of the design and where exactly it went, like many other groups.

Q261 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): So really you are objecting to new roads and new railways if they go through a rural area. What you are saying is we should manage on what we have got, is that not correct?

Mr Smyth: Certainly it is a good principle to make the best use of what we have already and in particular when there is pressure on government finances, but in relation to railways, for example, there is the Association of Train Operating Companies' report on Connecting Communities and that is something we very much favoured. Having the most number of people connected to the rail network at the cheapest possible price is a very good principle.

Q262 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): We cannot get down to specifics, but I suspect what ATOC were saying is that we should use disused railway lines.

Mr Smyth: Yes.

Q263 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Ms Games, on the issue of the North-East - unfortunately my constituency is placed in the North-West but it should be in the North-East - there is an issue on the A69, for example, and over the weekend we had a very serious accident which blocked the road on the Cumbrian/Northumberland border, or near enough. There is a demand for the dualling of the A69. What are your views on that?

Ms Games: NECTAR would very much view the A69, or something equivalent, as a key link to the North-West. We have just produced a report, Within Living Streets, for information about the links between North-West and Scotland because for the North-East it is very important that we have links to the North-West. We would like to see the North-West links improved.

Q264 Chairman: Does that mean you want more roads built?

Ms Games: That is a place where there is an argument for improvement, for more roads possibly.

Q265 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): There is an ongoing issue about whether roads should be dualled or single carriageways, especially bypasses, and I was fortunate to be told at the weekend that there is going to be a new bypass in Carlisle but I think it is going to be single carriageway. Have either of you got views about dual carriageways as opposed to single ones? Is it a big issue or is it just a minor one if you are going to build a road?

Mr Smyth: It depends what the purpose of that road is. Often it may be to bypass communities and in that case CPRE's position is if there is going to be a bypass then it should be to provide for existing traffic rather than to be for predicted increases otherwise it will simply lead to more traffic on that corridor, and although you might have a safety benefit at that place the increase in traffic along the corridor will mean more collisions and more risk overall.

Ms Games: With bypasses, sometimes dualling might be more effective but at other times it could be that these new roads are cutting swathes across communities and, therefore, we have to be very careful about managing communities and making sure that we are not creating new severances.

Q266 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I presume it is accepted that new roads tend to be safer than the ones that they sometimes replace or are not there and, in actual fact, we have a very good road safety record in this country. Surely putting a stop to building roads would mean that more people would die, is that not the case?

Mr Smyth: No, I disagree strongly with that. Given there is a certain amount of money to spend on transport, if that money were spent on, say, reopening railway lines, making better walking and cycle routes, that would improve safety, get most traffic off the road and give people travel choices. Spending that money on road building, by contrast, would give people fewer transport choices, it would increase road traffic faster than otherwise and, therefore, there would be serious disbenefits. The actual road itself might be safer for motor traffic but often there would be severance with people trying to walk or cycle and the figures you might be referring to of how many deaths per hundred thousand miles does not actually refer to the risks of people walking and cycling.

Q267 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): But it refers to the number of people, whether they be pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists or motorists, who are killed. There is no doubt that new roads tend to be safer. Is that not the case?

Mr Smyth: That is ignoring the fact that people might be scared off walking or cycling in the first place. How can we say roads are safe if you can only use them in a metal chassis?

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB