ARCHIVE: M6 Expressway / widening
ARCHIVE: this page contains historic information and has been retained for information only.
CPRE Cheshire Branch, two CPRE Regional Groups and National Office have been very active in challenging the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) concept of a new tolled, privately-owned and operated M6 Expressway running from north of Birmingham to either Knutsford or Lymm.
The DfT made their surprise announcement - that they were considering the idea of getting private funding to build a new tolled motorway - in mid-2004. A diagrammatic cross-section in the consultation document which was launched simultaneously depicted it as running parallel to but separated from the existing M6 line. CPRE Cheshire Branch reacted to this by issuing a press release which can be viewed here and the Branch Chairman, Richard Bass, wrote to a number of newspapers and was successful in getting his letter published in several of them. Cheshire Transport Campaign Group Chairman, Lillian Burns, was featured in television interviews.
In order to spread the word that a live consultation was underway, CPRE Cheshire Branch produced an information leaflet about the proposal which was handed out at the shows and which has been widely distributed. With CPRE National Office support, an improved version of the original leaflet was delivered to thousands of homes in the M6 corridor area, explaining the potential environmental dangers. (To see the leaflet, click here and to see the news release on the major leafleting exercise click here).
CPRE has been conducting an extensive series of informal meetings to discuss the proposal with a number of bodies and has urged as many individuals and groups as possible to make their views on the proposal known to government. We have also submitted our own detailed response to the consultation, backing up the National Office response.
The response to the consultation was overwhelmingly opposed: some 98% of individual responses (i.e. excluding petitions) did not want to see the proposal implemented - a response the Government labelled 'inconclusive'!. Despite this the Government announced, in July 2005, that they were commissioning the Highways Agency to continue to the next stage of assessing the toll road proposal.
We continued to work hard to influence decision-makers and appropriate professional groups through a variety of methods. As an example, a strong letter to Local Transport Today magazine, responding to an article based on selective and premature 'spin' supplied by the Highways Agency, can be seen here. This letter was printed in the September 29th 2005 edition of the magazine, which is one of the key publications for transport professionals.
The next move by the Highways Agency was to arrange a 'consultation event' in January 2006 at which more details of the proposal were given. CPRE National Office immediately put out a press release expressing the organisation’s dismay that the whole idea had not been dropped. CPRE Cheshire Branch followed up with a press release predicting turmoil and uncertainty for a long time to come as a result of the decision and by producing a briefing for the media, elected representatives and anyone interested in the matter.
Then, just as everyone's thoughts were turning to summer holidays, in July 2006 the Government unexpectedly announced that further studies had shown that the proposal for a separate, tolled road would be more expensive and require significantly greater land take than widening the existing route, and therefore that the Government will not undertake any further work on the concept of a separate motorway.
However, CPRE's relief at the end of this highly damaging scheme is tempered by concern about the Government's alternative.
The 2002 MIDMAN study, which CPRE participated in, showed that the existing capacity of the route would be adequate for many years to come. Yet the Government now proposes to spend c.£3Bn (£3,000 million!) of taxpayers' money on adding an extra lane to the existing route. CPRE believes that this astronomical sum would be far better spent on schemes to provide alternatives to encouraging more road use, and to manage travel demand.
The announcement also leaves many questions unanswered about the proposed way forward. It is unclear whether the Government now proposes separate new lanes, away from the existing carriageway - as was floated earlier - or to add a new lane immediately next to the existing ones. And if the latter, will it be necessary to demolish and replace all bridges, or can the cost and disruption be minimised by limiting the hard shoulder under the existing bridges?
CPRE will continue to campaign to oppose proposals which are damaging to the environment, expensive for the taxpayer and disruptive to users of the M6.