LETTER: Newbury alternatives ignored

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FFrom Mr Stephen Plowden

Sir: Peter Agar's claim (letter, 11 January) that the Newbury bypass "has satisfied the due processes of law and consultation" needs some qualification.

The public inquiry was held in the late Eighties. It has now been officially acknowledged that the methods of traffic forecasting in use at the time were incorrect in a way which could seriously exaggerate the case for roadbuilding. The Highways Agency claims that it has reassessed the Newbury bypass - even though the committee set up to advise on new methods of forecasting has not yet reported - but refuses to publish its study.

The inquiry did not consider means of tackling the problems other than roadbuilding, but in recent months ministers have recognised the need for policies to make the best use of the roads we already have. In addition, the cost estimate submitted to the inquiry was too low. Last October, the Highways Agency sent Joan Walley MP a list of all the road schemes completed in the preceding five years for which out-turn costs were available. In every one of the 78 schemes, the original cost estimate had been exceeded.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Plowden

London, NW1

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