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£3bn needed for green highways improvements

A new report is calling for £3bn to be invested by the government in a range of 'green retrofit' improvements for existing roads.

The report, by environment and transport groups including Campaign for Better Transport and Campaign to Protect Rural England, calls for the £3bn to be invested over the next five years and included in the upcoming Road Investment Strategy, which will be published by the government this autumn.

The Better not bigger report outlines many ways our existing road network needs to be updated to help tackle these problems, including; green bridges to reconnect habitats and landscapes that have been severed by major roads; design changes to reduce the visual and landscape impact of roads, including lighting; new barriers and better management to reduce traffic noise; safe crossings and routes to increase walking and cycling; new smart technology to help reduce disruption, through better speed control and information; and priority measures for buses and coaches, particularly near key junctions and urban areas.

According to the report England has one of the lowest rates of bus use and cycling in the EU, while three million people are exposed to noise levels from roads above international standards and biodiversity continues to decline.

Sian Berry, roads and sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The government’s Road Investment Strategy needs to focus on how existing roads can be improved, not on building road capacity. Compared with £15bn for new road capacity, £3bn is a small amount to pay for the huge impact of cleaner, quieter roads, more efficient public transport and continuous green spaces. We need only look at Holland for inspiration, where hundreds of schemes have reduced the impact of roads and re-connected vital sections of countryside to benefit wildlife and people alike.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England echoed these sentiments and pointed to the Netherlands as an example of what to aspire to. Transport campaign manager, Ralph Smyth, said: “England's roads are a generation behind countries like the Netherlands and not just in relation to cycle facilities. While the Dutch now have over 600 green bridges across their roads, a measure increasingly copied in Eastern Europe, we have barely a couple. Our motorways already have the most lanes on in Europe, so why is the Government still thinking of making them bigger still? This would not only be devastating for the countryside, it would make driving increasingly nerve-wracking for drivers."

PSE asked the Department for Transport for comment but they had not responded by the time of publication.

(Image: c. David Bigg)

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