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4000km of New Roads Planned as Controversial M74 Approved for Glasgow

imc features | 02.04.2005 11:21 | Ecology

New Department for Transport predictions reveal that the Government are planning over 4000 kilometres of new roads by 2025. The alliance against road building, Road Block, says this is proof that the Government is not serious about tackling traffic growth and climate change (as it claims in the run up to the G8 summit in July). Campaigners say it's clear the government has abandoned previous pledges to implement an integrated transport policy and protect the environment. Currently there are over 200 planned and approved road schemes. Only last week, the Government gave the go-ahead to an additional 12 major road schemes totalling £1.4 billion.

Meanwhile the Scottish Executive has given the green light to the controversial £500 million M74 in east Glasgow. This is particularly significant becasue the M74 approval goes directly against the findings of a Public Inquiry Report published in March 2004. The 188-page report of the public inquiry savaged the scheme, criticising both the plan and much of the transport policy that lay behind it. The report was written by Richard Hickman CBE - one of the Executive’s own most senior and respected planners. The motorway he concluded should not be built as it would have potentially devastating effects on the local and wider economy, the local community, and would be of little actual benefit.

The announcement of the approval going against the public enquiry has drawn a storm of protest - with groups looking at legal challenges and activists gearing up for a massive campaign of direct action to oppose the motorway. Joint Action against the M74 (JAM74) a campaign network opposed to the M74 motorway has launched a beat the bulldozers pledge. Will Jess, Chair of JAM74 said “The Executive and the City Council have condemned Glaswegians to a legacy of air pollution and chromium contamination."

Comparisons are already being drawn with the M77 campaign, which saw thousands of protesters occupying trees in Pollok in 1994 and 1995. The M74 will be a six-lane motorway on concrete stilts cutting into the Glasgow - so not many trees this time, however campaigners point to the M11 protests in London as a model for how house occupations can be used to obstruct road building.

The next JAM74 meetings are 5 + 19 April, 7:30pm, Govanhill Community Centre, Daisy St, Glasgow.
Also see Road Alert Website | Road Rage Links | SchNEWS on New Roads

Transport already accounts for over 25% of carbon dioxide emissions and is the fastest growing source, and thus the most critical area to tackle. Currently traffic is growing at a steady 2% every year.

The new figures give the Assumptions that were used for the 2004 ‘Future of Transport’ White Paper, which outlined transport policy until 2025. Included in the assumptions:

- 4032 lane kilometres of new trunk roads by 2025 - £5.3 billion spent on new local authority roads by 2025 - 40% increase in traffic by 2025, including 74% increase in LGVs and 45% increase in articulated lorries, and 47% traffic growth in rural areas an average of 15% reduction in fuel prices - 19% fall in car purchase costs by 2025 Rebecca Lush of Road Block said: “These figures reveal the Government is just posturing when it comes to tackling climate change, and exposes the complacency of this Government when it comes to protecting the environment and tackling traffic growth. All talk of sustainable transport is blown out of the water by these predictions which reveal the Government is encouraging massive increases in traffic. Transport will become a battleground, exposing any Government talk on climate as a load of hot air” M74 Glasgow

In the public enquiry report Richard Hickman said: “The policy in support of environmental justice would be breached by the proposed road” . The impact on communities along the route would be “very severe” because they would be divided, polluted and assaulted by noise.

The M74 extension is also “in fundamental conflict” with the Executive’s aim of reducing road traffic, encouraging public transport and cutting climate-change pollution, Hickman argued. It would cause emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, to rise by 135,000 tonnes a year by 2020.

“This would be a significant setback to the achievement of the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases,” he said. And the few benefits that the motorway might be expected to bring were illusory, he added. The 20,000 promised jobs for areas around the road would mostly be stolen from elsewhere. “The overall economic impact in terms of employment appears to be largely a redistribution of jobs from other parts of central Scotland,” Hickman concluded in his report.

Rosie Kane, a Glaswegian Scottish Socialist MSP who took part in the anti-M77 extension protests in the 1990s said: “If the bulldozers arrive, I will be standing there side by side with the community,” she declared.

She accused ministers of taking “violent direct action” by allowing the motorway to destroy impoverished neighbourhoods. “They have blocked our right to social and environmental justice. If anyone’s being violent and brutal, it is them,” she said.

See also Audio Interview with Jam74 anti-road protester (2003)

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