M6 Proposed Toll Road
DEMISE OF M6 EXPRESSWAY WELCOME, BUT WIDENING STILL OPPOSED
The following is the Press Release from CPRE:-
Countryside campaigners CPRE (1) reacted with relief to the Government's announcement today that they will not be pursuing a scheme for a new M6 Expressway between Junctions 11A in South Staffordshire and 19 in North Cheshire. They are however very disappointed that a scheme to widen this section of the M6 will go forward in its place.
Such a scheme, they point out, would increase car dependence and encourage people to move further out of conurbations like Birmingham, the Black Country and North Staffordshire and then commute back in, which would conflict with the regional planning strategy for the West Midlands (2), damage the countryside and generate increased congestion in urban areas. It would also have impacts much farther afield in places like the Lake District, already suffering from unsustainable tourism, which would become an even more attractive venue for more people living farther away.
The Government have admitted that estimates of the cost of widening the M6 have increased to nearly £3 billion. This money could be much better spent on other transport schemes in the West Midlands and the North West such as improvements to public transport and measures to manage and influence the demand for travel, which are currently struggling for funding. A study (3) which reported in 2002 found no strong case for widening, but the Government seem to have ignored its findings.
The Government's decision is a far cry from their recognition in the 1998 Transport White Paper that there was a need to reduce the need to travel and encourage travel by more environmentally friendly means, and that road improvements should be seen as a last resort. The scheme will not be completed until 2017 - causing massive disruption in the meantime - by which time the government is likely to have brought in demand management measures that will make it redundant.
Peter Langley, Vice Chairman of CPRE West Midlands said: 'We are relieved that there will be no new Expressway carving through the countryside, but the decision to go ahead with widening is another example of government dogma that new road capacity is the answer to everything. Traffic congestion is much less severe on this section of the M6 than further south, yet the Government is pressing ahead with a scheme which will generate more traffic, encourage people to travel further and spread the blight of the existing M6 over a wider area of countryside.
In the long-run, we are painting ourselves into a corner where we will rely so much on our cars that there will be no escape from congestion.'
Lillian Burns, CPRE North West Regional Group transport spokesperson added: "CPRE recently published a joint report with the Countryside Agency that showed that new road capacity simply generates more traffic, and that reductions in congestion are rarely as great as predicted and only last a short time. The local access roads leading off the widened motorway would quickly reach saturation point with induced traffic. Nearly as many people opposed the widening as the expressway because they know that the only long-term effects will be more pollution, damage to the environment and local community upheaval."
North West: Lillian Burns 01625-829-492
Andy Yuille 01524-840-937
West Midlands: Peter Langley 024-7654-0211
Notes for Editors
(1) The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) exists to protect the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources in town and country. We promote positive solutions for the long-term future of the countryside to ensure change values its natural and built environment. Our Patron is Her Majesty the Queen. We have 60,000 supporters, a branch in every county, nine regional groups, over 200 local groups and a national office in London. CPRE is a powerful combination of effective local action and strong national campaigning. Our President is Sir Max Hastings.
(2) The West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy, published by the Deputy Prime Minister in June 2004, favours a strategy of concentrating new development as far as possible in the region's major urban areas and discouraging out-migration and long-distance commuting.
(3) The Government's Midlands to Manchester Multi-Modal Study reported in 2002. It revealed that traffic on the M6 in Cheshire and Staffordshire was within the capacity of the road. Although it eventually recommended widening the M6 to four lanes in each direction, it concluded that it was a matter of 'subjective judgement' whether this would be better than no widening at all. It specifically rejected widening to five lanes in each direction. The study also drew attention to the significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, contrary to government policy, which would result from an increase in road capacity.