'Transport debate' was always a sham

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The Independent Online
From Ms Rebecca Lush

Sir: Christian Wolmar's article "Has Mawhinney sold the greens down the river?" (8 July) shows that the former Transport Minister's "Great Transport Debate" was a sham. This is proven by his reinstatement of the Newbury Bypass and his cynical curtailment of the one-year review. However, it was a sham before then; Brian Mawhinney never found time for any "cosy chats" with direct-action groups.

Dr Mawhinney launched his debate by asking people to stop shouting and tying themselves to trees, stating that he was prepared to listen to, and meet, those with opposing views. He gained much publicity for this offer, while unpopular roads were still being bulldozed through.

Those involved in the direct- action protests against roads, which have made this issue what it is, were understandably cautious, but they still thought that it would be valuable to explain to the good Minister why this broad direct-action movement has risen up against the roads programme.

Letters were sent to Dr Mawhinney from the No M11 Link Campaign in east London, the Third Battle of Newbury, and from Road Alert!, the national information network for roads protesters. All were either refused or ignored. Dr Mawhinney did not meet with any of the direct-action groups that approached him for dialogue. In Newbury, he agreed to meet with a delegation in favour of the bypass, yet refused to meet four groups in the town who are opposed to the road.

By giving the go-ahead to a scheme more destructive even than Twyford Down, and ignoring direct action in the so-called "Great Transport Debate", Dr Mawhinney has shown that the Conservatives care nothing for the environment, and do not understand why people take to civil disobedience when a government refuses to listen.

Yours faithfully,

Rebecca Lush

Road Alert!

Newbury, Berkshire

14 July