LETTERS : Road building programmes: reforms, respect, restraint and a n ew report

From Mr Stephen Plowden Sir: You report today ("Road plans thrown into jeopardy", 20 December) that the Department of Transport is to formulate new criteria for appraising road schemes which will take account of their traffic-generating effects. But the neglect of traffic generation is not the only, and perhaps not the most serious, defect of the present methods of appraisal. Of at least equal importance are the national traffic forecasts, which provide the input to the whole evaluation procedure, and the failure to compare road building with any other measures.

In May 1989, the Department of Transport took advantage of the very rapid growth of traffic produced by the Lawson boom - a growth that has not been sustained - to revise its long-term traffic forecasts upwards. Later that year, Chris Patten, then Secre t ary of State for the Environment, described the new forecasts as unacceptable. They are, in fact, physically impossible: neither the roads currently planned, nor any other feasible road-building programme, would provide enough capacity for them to be rea lised.

In towns, the alternatives to road building include a whole range of traffic restraint and calming measures, as well as better provision for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. Such policies in towns would have some dampening effect on traffic growth outside; they should be supplemented by lower and better-enforced speed limits, the abolition of tax concessions on company cars, the restriction of heavy lorries to a limited network of motorways and other selected roads, higher fuel prices (which are alreadycoming about) and perhaps some form of road pricing, especially for lorries.

The impact that these reforms would have on the level of traffic and its rate of growth cannot be predicted precisely, but it would be major. The only sensible course is to implement the reforms and to observe their effects, and in the meantime to imposea moratorium on all road building designed to increase capacity. Some bypasses can be justified by the relief that they would bring, even given present or reduced levels of traffic. The moratorium would not apply to them, but even bypasses should not bebuilt unless there are no other means of bringing relief, and unless they are accompanied by traffic restraint within the bypassed towns, to ensure that the relief is permanent.

Yours faithfully, STEPHEN PLOWDEN London, NW1

20 December

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little