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Investment in motorways is worsening congestion say campaigners ahead of government roads investment strategy

Campaign for Better Transport asks for greater investment in cycling

An alliance of 17 environmental groups has urged the government to focus on improving existing roads and motorways rather than building new ones. The Campaign for Better Transport has also warned that without a long-term vision, the second roads investment strategy (RIS2) risks continuing a “piecemeal” approach to cycling and pedestrian improvements.

The Department for Transport is currently in the research phase for the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) which will set Highways England’s funding priorities for the period 2020-2025. 

Pointing to a Campaign to Protect Rural England study from earlier this year which found evidence of new roads creating more traffic, the Rising To The Challenge report says that RIS2 should treat increasing road capacity as a last resort.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Government’s Road Investment Strategy needs to focus on how existing roads can be improved, not on building new road capacity. Our joint report sets out a clear case for a greener RIS2. With a focus on green retrofit and better integration with the rest of the transport network, Highways England can reduce the impact of roads to benefit people and the environment alike.”

The report sets out three key principles for RIS2:

  • Fix it first – focusing on making improvements to the existing network, including green retrofit
  • An integrated strategy – including better links with local and non-motorised transport
  • Environmental leadership – prioritising cutting carbon and air pollution, and protecting the landscape and biodiversity

The report also recommends “considerably enhanced investment” to achieve the aspirations outlined in the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

Roger Geffen MBE, the policy director of Cycling UK, which is a member of the alliance, said: “Current Government emphasis on investing in motorways and trunk roads is misplaced, and worsens the problems of congestion, pollution, road danger and physical inactivity. Instead of forcing councils to pick up these problems, the Government should shift the balance of funding towards cycling and clean transport solutions at a local level.”

Among the group’s recommendations is that Highways England should introduce training programmes and quality audits to ensure that best practice in cycling provision becomes “part of business as usual.”

It also suggests adopting the five principles used by the Dutch when designing cycle infrastructure: coherence, directness, attractiveness, safety and comfort.

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