Stop the largest ever road-building programme

by Transport Action Network

Stop the largest ever road-building programme

by Transport Action Network
Transport Action Network
Case Owner
Given the devastation new roads can have on local communities, we couldn’t stand idly by and not challenge England’s largest ever roads programme, especially at a time of climate emergency.
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Transport Action Network
Case Owner
Given the devastation new roads can have on local communities, we couldn’t stand idly by and not challenge England’s largest ever roads programme, especially at a time of climate emergency.
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This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: June 5, 2020

Department’s addiction to road-building challenged in historic legal case

After much preparation, and due to your generous support, our lawyers have been able to start proceedings against the Department for Transport’s £27bn Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2). T…

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Stop the “largest ever” roads programme

Who we are

We are a new national network with over 50 years of campaigning experience between us. We have formed to empower communities fighting destructive road schemes and bus cuts, in order to tackle climate change, reduce social inequality, improve air quality, and protect green spaces and nature.

England’s “largest ever” roads programme

We want to challenge Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2), published on 11 March alongside the Budget. Ministers described it as England’s “largest ever” road-building programme. It involves spending £27.4 billion by 2025 on thousands of miles of roads from Cornwall to Northumberland - at a time of climate and ecological emergency.

Help us take the Department for Transport to court

This February, the Court of Appeal ruled Heathrow expansion plans were illegal because the Department for Transport (DfT) had ignored the Paris climate agreement. In light of this historic judgment we wrote to the DfT to ask it to rethink  road plans but never even received an acknowledgement. Instead it went ahead and published RIS2. With your help we can make the Secretary of State for Transport answer to the High Court. 

We need to urgently raise £38,000 to launch a judicial review of the DfT’s decision to plough on despite the climate emergency. We know it’s a tough time to ask for money but legal rules mean allow just a few weeks to challenge this multi-billion pound decision. Otherwise the DfT will be unaccountable to the public and the planet. Each pound you donate could divert almost a million pounds from this unprecedented roads programme. 

If you are able to please donate, and please share this page far and wide. 

What are we trying to change? 

This roads programme is wrong on so many levels. Here are some of the reasons why we are asking you to help us to stop it.

Climate

Carbon emissions from transport have barely changed since 1990.  They are now 28% of domestic emissions, with about 91% of these from road traffic. We urgently need to reduce emissions year-on-year if we are to keep the earth’s temperature within safe limits of 1.5C. By building more roads and creating more traffic, RIS2 would take us in the wrong direction and lock us into an unsustainable future.

UK carbon emissions (DfT, 2020)

Air quality

Over a third of motorways and trunk roads breach air quality limits and Highways England, the DfT owned company that runs them, has failed to spend the £75m pollution fund given to it in 2015. While councils across the country have been seeking funding to improve sustainable travel, this government body has simply sat on its pot of gold. That’s because it has prioritised increasing traffic over breathing safe air.

Air pollution (NOx shown in red) is highest on busy roads (Highways England, 2017)

More than just emissions...

Cancelling the RIS2 roads programme would have many other benefits. While it has come at a terrible cost to lives and livelihoods, coronavirus and the resulting drop in traffic has let people and nature appreciate quieter, safer roads for the first time in years.


Local people demonstrate in Rimrose Valley country park in Liverpool, threatened with destruction by a RIS2 funded dual carriageway

RIS2 instead plans for a future of more roads and more cars, where traffic levels would nearly double by 2050. This would be devastating for people, green spaces and wildlife, making it harder to walk and cycle or to catch a bus. But above all it’s not what the public wants. According to a 2018 DfT report, “building more or even widening roads was generally not seen to be a viable long term solution” with people unwilling “to face the...disruption caused by work to widen roads” and believing “improvements would have little lasting impact on congestion anyway”.

What’s next?

We now need to go to the High Court to seek a judicial review of the decision to approve RIS2. This will be the biggest ever legal challenge to roads policy in history and the Government will have top lawyers defending it. If we did not appoint leading lawyers, we would hinder our chances of success.

Fortunately the same legal team that defeated the DfT over Heathrow has agreed to represent us at a discount. We must quickly raise a minimum of £38,000. This is to cover lawyers’ costs, court fees and the risk of being required to pay some of the DfT’s costs if we lose.

If we are able to raise more than this, funds will be ring-fenced to cover our wider costs for this case or any potential appeal, and to support local campaigns in using the decision through the courts and planning system.

Scaling back RIS2 to focus on maintenance would allow money to be diverted into public transport, rail freight, cycling and walking. We would have cleaner air and less risk of runaway climate change. With more funding local councils could finally tackle potholes on their existing roads. Please help us take the Government to court to enable this better future.

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Update 5

Transport Action Network

June 5, 2020

Department’s addiction to road-building challenged in historic legal case

After much preparation, and due to your generous support, our lawyers have been able to start proceedings against the Department for Transport’s £27bn Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2). The historic case, the biggest legal challenge to road-building in British history, comes as the Chancellor is considering an infrastructure boost in next month’s emergency budget. 

To date the Department has ignored the fact that building roads and increased traffic would scupper its chances of meeting binding climate change and air pollution targets. Air pollution has breached legal limits for over a decade while Greenhouse Gas Emissions from transport have barely changed since 1990. With 2020 set to be the hottest year on record, we cannot put off urgent action any longer. Even when all the evidence points to a need to change direction, the Department for Transport has been unable to kick its addiction to road-building. We believe that only a resounding defeat in the courts can shake it out of its stupor.

With more people enjoying fresh air and wanting to ‘Build Back Better’, our challenge to road-building could not have been better timed. Hitting reset on the DfT’s roads plan will release billions to tackle the £16bn bridge maintenance and pothole backlog on local roads. And it will free up funding for alternatives to being stuck in traffic, whether cycleways for e-bikes or reopening railways. That’s far better for kick-starting the economy after the current crisis, while safeguarding our health and our environment.

The DfT is required to respond to our arguments within 21 days. Because of the case’s national significance, assuming the High Court grants permission, the legal challenge is expected to be heard by the autumn.

Shaun Spiers, Green Alliance’s executive director, commenting on our challenge said: 

“The government’s massive road building programme made no sense before COVID-19 and now it looks positively eccentric. The roads programme will stoke climate change and worsen air pollution, without cutting congestion. Let’s invest in broadband and sustainable transport instead, and redouble our efforts to cut carbon emissions and restore the natural world.”

Update 4

Transport Action Network

May 28, 2020

£90 billion roads programme uncovered!

While gathering the evidence to build our case for the High Court we have discovered that the £27.4 billion 5-year RIS2 roads programme is just the tip of the iceberg. We have uncovered documents showing that the Government plans to spend a total of £90 billion on trunk roads over the next 15 years to 2035. Then there’s all the other local road schemes it is funding which would take the likely total even higher.

We secured a great piece in The Times exposing this mega-roadbuilding spree. Please help us by sharing this news far and wide, so people are aware of what the Government are really up to.

This revelation and the need for more research to counter the Government's defence is why we decided to continue our crowdfunder when it ran out last week. We need to work hard to build the strongest possible case. The more money we can raise, the more research we and our lawyers can do and the greater our chances of success. Please help us by sharing the link to the crowdfunder as widely as you can.

We hope to be able to update you next week on some more interesting developments.

Update 3

Transport Action Network

May 14, 2020

Drive as much as you want to!

Across our cities roads are being closed while new cycle lanes and wider pavements pop up, promising to reset our relationship with cars. By contrast ministers have just started encouraging the public to “drive as much as you want to” to visit the countryside. 

So it was no big surprise this Monday, when we finally heard back from the Department for Transport (DfT), it refused to back down. In its response, it claims decarbonisation will be addressed “at a society-wide level” and its largest ever roads plan in fact “is a fully-integrated part of this wider effort to reach net zero emissions”. 

Lowering emissions with one hand by supporting active travel and increasing them by building thousands of miles of roads with the other. How could anyone describe that as joined up? Fortunately our lawyers have advised us we have an arguable case, meaning we plan to see (or should that be Zoom) the DfT in court. But we now need to do more research than originally planned to prepare, and well before the end of the month. To be confident we can file a strong case later this month, we need to raise another £7,000 in the next week. 

Anything you can do to share or support this effort is much appreciated. Please share this Crowdjustice page as much as you can, also the new video on our website, which explains why this case is important for so many.

After weeks of quieter roads benefiting nature and families venturing out together, this weekend will see traffic returning to our countryside. Worse still the Government’s roads programme includes half a billion pounds to plan massive new roads across our most cherished landscapes, including across the Pennines, Cotswolds and Wiltshire Downs. Of course some trips can only be made by car but now’s the time surely to be investing in alternatives, whether in town or country.

When we started our legal challenge we never imagined how many messages of support we’d receive or how timely it would feel to all of you who’ve been so generous. Many thanks once again for your support.

Update 2

Transport Action Network

May 4, 2020

The world is changing

When you have the President of the AA questioning whether we should be spending so much on new roads and suggesting that investing in broadband should be a higher priority you know things are changing.  Then we’ve had the head of the Committee on Climate Change, a body not normally known for its outspoken views, saying that the Government shouldn’t be investing in things that make climate change worse.  This is pretty strong stuff, but we cannot ease off the pressure just yet.

A huge thank you to everyone who has spread the word, donated, and shared the link to the Crowd Justice appeal. While we're absolutely thrilled to have raised nearly £30,000, we need to raise a minimum of £38,000 to cover our (greatly reduced) legal costs to take this case on.

The reason we have set ourselves a stretch target of £100,000 is that things could get more complicated and costly.  This could happen if we have to broaden the scope of our challenge or if we have to appeal, or defend an appeal by the Government.

Whatever happens the money raised will not be wasted as any surplus money will be used to support local groups, and to help bring other similar transport and climate legal challenges.

In the meantime, help the Government see sense, by continuing to share our appeal and support our campaign.  Many thanks.

Update 1

Transport Action Network

April 23, 2020

And we’ve launched!

Thank you SO much to you all for your donations. Each and every one has brought us closer to our target. In fact thanks to your amazing generosity, by the end of our first day (by happy coincidence the 50th Earth Day) we raised a THIRD of our initial costs.

At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, when many are worried about their jobs and the economy, that’s incredible. What we are hearing from the many supportive comments is that people don’t want the current road building madness to continue or for the pain of the current crisis to be for nothing. This is backed by a new survey showing the majority of the public are cherishing cleaner air while only 9% want a return to “normal”. 

We have also been bowled over by the excellent media coverage of our case, including The Guardian, Forbes, The Times (£) and The Telegraph (£). Leading NGOs like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and CPRE have tweeted their support, recognising the huge importance of this case for our climate and our countryside. Perhaps most importantly of all, the Committee on Climate Change has come out against road-building, having previously focused on the roll out of electric cars.

Finally just as we were about to send this, our lawyers told us the Department for Transport has asked for an extra week to respond. This is the second time in days it’s had to ask for more time! It shows the strength of our legal case and the rapidly growing public opposition to Road Investment Strategy 2.

We are tremendously grateful for your support. Please continue to share our appeal with your friends, family and colleagues. This will help us raise the remaining costs we need to issue our legal claim next month.

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