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The Newbury bypass has generated much more traffic than the Government forecast and has led to far more vehicle journeys in and around the Berkshire town, confirming that road-building is not the solution to Britain's transport problems, said Friends of the Earth. Today is the tenth anniversary of the start of construction work on the controversial road scheme, which opened in 1998.

A report, Movement Framework for Newbury, published in April last year by West Berkshire Council revealed that:

  • The Newbury bypass has generated considerably more traffic than forecast by the Highway's Agency (HA). In 1995 the HA predicted that by 2010 traffic on the new bypass would be in the range of 22,000 to 36,000 vehicles per day. But, by 2003 it was already at 45,700 in the central section, 42,000 on the northern section and 39,900 on the southern section.

  • Overall traffic levels - on the bypass and through the town - rose from 43,900 to 65,000 vehicles a day (almost 50%) between 1997 and 2003 north of the town and from 25,300 to 47,030 (over 80%) south of the town.

  • Traffic levels through the town fell initially after the opening of the bypass, but are now rising again. On the A339 north of Newbury, traffic levels on the average weekday fell from 43,900 in 1997 to 21,000 in 1999 but then rose 10% to 23,200 by 2003. In the town centre, traffic levels fell from 53,100 in 1997 to 39,100 in 1999, but rose 7% to 42,000 by 2003.

Friends of the Earth's Senior Transport Campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

"Road-building is not a solution to Britain's transport problems. The Newbury bypass has attracted much more traffic than the Government forecast and there are many more vehicle journeys in and around Newbury than there were before this road was built."

"The Government should be investing in long-term sustainable transport that cuts traffic, cuts pollution and cuts transport's contribution to global climate change. This means putting resources into better public transport, getting more freight on to rail and encouraging people to leave their cars at home. It also means scrapping plans to waste yet more taxpayers' money on short-tem road-building fixes."

Newbury Friends of the Earth co-ordinator, Adrian Foster-Fletcher said:

"The bypass was a mistake and should not have been built - we need to reduce traffic, not encourage it. Traffic in Newbury has only fallen by a fifth since the bypass opened, and levels are rising fast. If this growth continues, it won't be long until traffic returns to previous levels. The bypass has also attracted lots of traffic from the surrounding area and led to an increase in developments on the outskirts of the town."

Traffic facts

  • Traffic levels have risen under Labour, despite a promise by Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, to reduce them. Traffic levels are now over ten per cent higher than when Labour came to power in 1997.

  • The latest Government figures, published last year, reveal that motoring costs fell by six per cent in real terms since Labour came to power up to 2004. See Hansard: PQ by Norman Baker 24 February 2005 Over the same period the cost of traveling by train and bus has increased.

Some controversial road schemes in the pipeline:

  • M6 Expressway

  • The Thames Gateway Bridge

  • M4 (Gwent Levels)

  • Weymouth Relief Road
If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust