Monday, September 10, 2007

Traffic congestion: Tameside leads the way (& wants yet more)

A delicious irony appeared in national and regional press today. The Campaign for Better Transport (aka Transport 2000 - yes, they realised the millennium was 7 years ago) issued a press release about their research into government stats which illustrate some shocking facts about the ever-ongoing growth of congestion and car culture.

The government predicts that traffic will increase by 30% over the next 20 years, with 5.7 million extra vehicles being on the road by 2031. Is it any wonder then that Labour has done an abrupt volte-face since 1997 and is spawning a massive road-building programme?

And it seems that Greater Manchester is the worst area with - wait for it - Tameside showing the fastest growth over the past 10 years (38.6%). So what's Roy Oldham, got to say about it?:

"We have great amounts of cross-Pennine traffic as well as people making their way to the Peak District.

Over the past decade, thousands of people have bought homes in Derbyshire and the only way for them to get into Manchester is through Tameside - cars are nose to tail in the morning and evening.

The Peak District also has more than 21 million visitors a year, which further adds to congestion. We need better public transport systems with some regulation by the councils as well as park-and-ride systems which really work."

So it's the fault of the Peak District? It is surprising that Roy hasn't taken the opportunity to underline this is a reason why Longdendale needs a Bypass. But he's surely looking in the wrong direction, for the M60 and Ashton Moss provide part of the answer to this conundrum. And it's common sense to state that building extra road capacity generates extra traffic (though it's a fact hotly contested by the devious and thick-as-pigshit alike).

Need we also remind people that in 1980, Roy Oldham appeared at the Public Inquiry into the closure of the Woodhead railway line, lamenting that it would spell vast increases in traffic from across the pennines? We've blogged before about this before, but it's worth restating that this man now advocates a new road that will increase the traffic problems from that direction. Like his Party, he's also done a volte-face with regard to his position on transport.

What is at stake? Road transport is a key contributor to climate change through CO2 emissions: indeed, it's the only sector where the government predicts emissions will rise. Their response? To massively increase the road building programme. Roy Oldham and Tameside MBC clearly wholeheartedly agree.

But this cannot go on. Putting the discussion about solutions to one side, expansion of the road network cannot go on, neither can the increase in car ownership - or at least it cannot be allowed to. The way things stand is that Longdendale could turn out to be the crucible in which the battle over the future road transport policy is fought. Alongside our collective attitude to the environment. And alongside our attitudes to our collective green space (i.e. the National Parks). What else is at stake (and what underpins it all) will be discussed on this blog as time goes on...

No comments: