Local Transport Today is the authoritative, independent journal for transport decision makers. Analysis, Comment & News on Transport Policy, Planning, Finance and Delivery since 1989.

800 issues on, has roads policy changed much?

Margaret Willmot Salisbury SP2
26 June 2020
 

Congratulations fir your 800th edition: the article that looked back to that first 1989 edition made interesting reading. But it’s depressing how little some things have changed, as some transport planners in the provinces – and indeed at the heart of the DfT – still seem to be stuck in the Roads for Prosperity mindset of all those decades ago.

Wiltshire is a case in point, as reported in your previous issue (‘Wiltshire creates team to lead M4-South Coast road upgrade’ LTT?29 May), and referred to in Pat Kinnersly’s follow-up letter. 

As a resident of the county I despair of the council’s road-centric approach that seems to pay such scant regard to its current economic situation, the latest thinking on encouraging modal shift, the climate emergency that the council acknowledged in 2019 and its alleged aspiration to make the county carbon neutral by 2030. 

Support for Wiltshire’s roads programme will cost the county millions in the years ahead – the report to Wiltshire Council’s cabinet in May, which you covered, was a little vague on the precise amount, saying that “schemes ... have the potential to require as yet undetermined contributions from the council.”

The council was rightly taken to task by a member of the public enquiring whether its road plans were the right approach when we should be considering a better use of roads with more public transport, car sharing, working locally or from home and more long-haul freight going by rail. Wiltshire responded that it had to spend the money in this way because the DfT funding stream required it to do so.

Elsewhere, there are an increasing number of hopeful pointers to the way ahead. The suggested reforms of transport appraisal to support the decarbonisation agenda is an example (“Transport appraisal ‘at odds with decarbonising transport’” LTT?12 Jun). 

However, changing the direction of a car-obsessed county, backed by an equally roads-focused DfT, seems somewhat akin to changing the course of an ocean liner. I don’t think we have another 30 years to get this right, so we must hope that the pace of change towards a truly sustainable transport system will speed up – and soon.

 
 
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