Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by West Midlands Friends of the Earth

  West Midlands FOE would like to submit a short piece of evidence appropriate to this region and at the same time endorse the submission from Friends of the Earth; England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  West Midlands FOE has been campaigning on roads and carbon emissions within this region for a number of years.

  We are currently struggling with the huge road building plans for the region emanating from; not only the DfT but also from the West Midlands Regional Assembly through the Regional Funding Allocation, Local Authorities through the Local Transport Plans and possibly through the TIF process. It is very difficult to see how these proposals fit within the PSA as referred to in your invitation for evidence. A huge road building programme for this and any other region will not send out the correct messages to the general public that we are serious with respect to our climate change commitments in relation to transport. Indeed it is taking us in the completely opposite direction. There is only so much that technology can do in terms of reducing emissions from transport and it is to the reasons for why traffic is generated that we must seek long term solutions. This will come from an integrated land use and transport planning regime which places walking and cycling at its heart and catering for the single car user well at the rear of the hierarchy.

  The region is currently grappling, for example, with expansion of the M6 corridor, pressures for expansion of the M42 corridor, the expansion of not only Birmingham International Airport but also Coventry Airport as well as a series of smaller road building proposals right across the region. This at a time when we collectively should be making far more efficient use of our mature road network and investing in the provision of the alternatives and indeed measures which reduce our need to travel.

  The time scales over which these schemes are due to be in place are variable but many are well into the next decade and beyond. These schemes of course need long term planning BUT if we are indeed to meet our global commitments this is setting us all on the wrong course of action.

  We are living with the first pay as you go toll road, the M6 Toll, here in the West Midlands. Our experience is that this sort of scheme should not be repeated. We would not see this form of "demand management" as the most sustainable or equitable for the UK as whole. The M6 Toll is really about providing choice to pay for motoring for those who already have chosen to drive and does not create the correct conditions for people to choose to use public transport. Indeed in a region where 25% of households do not have access to a car it is to them that we should be seeking to benefit from our demand management measures. We also do not see the M6 Toll as a way forward in terms of the dangers that arise from the avoidance of the Tolls both in terms of transfer to inappropriate local roads or low usage due to the levels of toll especially for HGV's. Therefore we would support a much more comprehensive, variable and sophisticated road charging regime covering the entire road network of the UK. This could have far greater social and environmental outputs that the current M6 Toll regime. This, in harmony, with a greater variation in road tax and indeed a reintroduced fuel escalator could send the correct price mechanisms to attract people onto public transport, walking and cycling.

  We look forward to your response and would be prepared to present to your inquiry. We would finally like to thank you for this opportunity to contribute to this import topic.

March 2006

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