Relief roads - A timely report

Congestion in Harrogate.
Congestion in Harrogate.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has produced a timely report which questions the use of relief roads as a solution to traffic congestion (The Impact of Road Projects in England).

Thirteen relief road schemes were analysed by independent consultants who found:

l New roads generate more traffic

l The promised reduction in congestion did not occur: median journey times hardly changed with savings of only 90 seconds during peak periods.

l All new road schemes put pressure on adjoining roads.

l 69 out of 86 road schemes examined had an adverse impact on the landscape. Just to remind you, the favoured route of the chairman of the steering committee investigating possible relief roads for Harrogate is through the Nidd Gorge.

l Of the 25 road schemes which were justified on the basis that they would benefit the local economy, only five had any direct evidence of economic effect at all.

The CPRE are calling on the government to make road building the last resort. It advocates investing in public transport, safer cycling routes, park and ride, and encouraging a shift from road to rail as cheaper and cleaner ways of reducing car journeys.

The reason for North Yorkshire County Council’s eagerness to build relief roads around Harrogate is obvious. In 2014, the former Chancellor George Osborne announced a £15 billion ‘Road Investment Strategy’, trailed as the biggest roads programme since the 1970s, claiming that there was ‘strong evidence that transport investment, including in roads, can improve productivity and GDP’.

NYCC didn’t want to miss out on its share of the dough but now the CPRE investigation shows the claim is false, I hope it has the integrity to change its mind and go for the sustainable transport initiatives that the CPRE are advocating. The report is available at

Geoff Foxall

Chairman, Starbeck Residents Association