Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Leicester Friends of the Earth

INTRODUCTION

  The Department of Transport intends to widen the M1 motorway from Leicester to Leeds (junctions 21-42) to four lanes in both directions. There is also widening planned for junctions 6a-13 (M25—Luton), in fact preparatory work recently commenced on this section.

  The M1 carries a large volume of traffic (some sections up to 160,000 vehicles per day). There is congestion at peak times. The widening is proposed to "reduce congestion and improve both safety and journey time reliability". The proposed works are estimated to cost over £3 billion. However, it should be noted that road programmes frequently exceed their estimates by a factor of three!

BACKGROUND

  The Government's decision to widen the M1 motorway was preceded by various "Multi-Modal Studies" (MMS) commissioned by the Government several years ago (full details can be found at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_about/documents/divisionhomepage/032193.hcsp).

  The two MMS affecting the Midland section of the M1 were entitled "M1 North/South Movements in the East Midlands" and "West Midlands to East Midlands" (W2EM).

  At the outset, the "multi modal approach" to traffic management seemed very promising and forward-looking, but in practice it is difficult to reconcile the blatant discrepancy for the W2EM study, for example, between the findings of the relatively wide-spread consultation process, which came up with overwhelming support for public transport and other "soft measures" and very little support for major spending on highway measures (see two diagrams from the consultants' report overleaf) and the consultant's conclusions that, in the W2EM region, for example, a meagre £5 million should be spent on public transport, but a staggering £1,011 on highways!

  In view of the overwhelming public support for transport measures that do not involve major expenditure on road measures, the Government's decision to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers' money on widening the M1 can only be described as astonishing, not least because it also represents a complete U-turn compared to the White Paper on transport, which, basically acknowledged that we cannot build our way out of congestion!

  Interestingly, in addition to the above-mentioned inconsistencies, a recent DfT-commissioned report has cast serious doubts on the modelling techniques underpinning the MMS programme (see Appendix: copy of article from "Local Transport Today", 25 March 2004).

  West to East Midlands Multi-Modal Study reveals overwhelming support for investment in public transport and travel behaviour campaign.




SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

    —    The Government intends to spend an estimated sum of over £3 billion on widening the M1 motorway. The actual cost is likely to exceed this figure significantly.

    —    Studies have shown that new roads will simply attract more traffic until the congestion reaches its former level.

    —    The decision to spend such a vast amount of taxpayer's money appears to be based, at least in part, on dubious conclusions from studies that had in fact indicated overwhelming public support for transport measures not involving major expenditure on road infrastructure.

    —    The proposed widening of the M1 makes absolutely no contribution to the Government's target of reducing carbon emission from the transport sector, in fact it would make matters worse by attracting and generating even more traffic.

    —    The M1 widening scheme is very short-sighted and cannot be regarded as an intelligent solution that is fit for the 21st Century. The money earmarked for the scheme should therefore be invested in alternative measures, for example measures that would encourage people to travel less, that could make a real contribution to climate protection.

    —    The Environmental Audit Committee should call for an immediate re-appraisal of the M1 widening scheme, so that public opinion, the environmental impact, and a cost/benefit analysis with regard to carbon emissions can be addressed properly and thoroughly.

February 2006





 
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