The threat of a new motorway carving through Cheshire and Staffordshire, which has haunted countryside lovers, environmentalists and supporters of sustainable transport policies for several years, has at last been lifted.
Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman MP had announced in the summer of 2005 that the government were commissioning the Highways Agency to carry out a feasibility study into the building of a tolled ‘express’ motorway to run roughly parallel to the M6 from the northern end of the Birmingham M6 Toll to near junctions 19 or 20 on the M6.
At the same time the announcement was made, the Department for Transport slipped out the results of the consultation it conducted on the concept of an ‘M6 Expressway’ and they revealed that less than 2% of the 9,500 respondents (not including petitions) were in favour of the idea. Yet the minister stated in his announcement that the consultation results were inconclusive!
Unexpectedly, in July 2006, Mr. Ladyman announced to the House of Commons 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.
We will continue to campaign hard to protect the countryside alongside the M6 from inappropriate and unnecessary damage, and M6 users from avoidable disruption.
For further information on the events leading up to the announcement see ‘M6 Expressway’ item on our Campaigns section.