Mon 27 Jun, 2011

For immediate release 27 June 2011

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's Royal Opening of the M74 Northern Extension, the Scottish Greens, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Transform Scotland reiterated their view that the new motorway will worsen Glasgow's environment, do nothing to tackle congestion or unemployment, and that it remains a poor use of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said:

"This is a dark day for Glasgow. Successive Scottish Governments have ignored the evidence and blundered on with this scheme. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been blown, along with the chance to build a city designed around people and their needs. A fraction of this vast sum could have delivered major public transport improvements, and to make the city easier to cycle and walk around.

"Sadly this won't be the last unjustifiable roads scheme the other political parties force through. Aberdeenshire still faces the threat of a bypass which has been designed to increase traffic and support building over the green belt, and Scotland's national finances are being skewed to prepare for a replacement for a bridge that doesn't need to be replaced. Successive Ministers have tried to sound green, yet not one of them has had the courage to stand up to the roads lobby and instead to put Scotland first."

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

"The Public Local Inquiry into the M74 project in 2005 considered the transport, environmental and community impacts of the new road and ruled strongly against building it, yet Scottish Ministers approved construction anyway. That remains one of the worst environmental decisions since the beginning of devolution. This new road will, as the Inquiry stated back I 2005, have 'very serious undesirable results' and any benefits will be limited, short-term and ephemeral.

"Half of all households in Glasgow do not have access to a car, so this new road will do little or nothing to help them. Instead, it will increase air pollution and carbon emissions – the project's own environmental statement confirms this. The new road is completely at odds with Scottish Government commitment and targets for cutting carbon emissions, and will make it more difficult for Glasgow to tackle its considerable air pollution problems in the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games."

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

"The M74 will not solve traffic congestion in Glasgow, it will instead generate more traffic. At best, the road will provide temporary congestion relief, with the extra road capacity being filled with new traffic. What we do know from the independent public inquiry is that the M74 will undermine public transport investment, increase pollution, worsen social exclusion, and damage efforts to tackle climate change.

"The advocates of this project systematically misled public debate by making wild claims that the road would generate tens of thousands of new jobs. In the event, the public inquiry concluded that most jobs created would be at the expense of other areas around Scotland. We will be pressing the Parliament to ensure that proper, independent analysis is done on the impacts of this project in order to ensure that public funds are not in future wasted on misguided vanity projects such as this."

The M74 Northern Extension will be opened tomorrow by the Duke of Gloucester, currently 20th in line to the throne.

The Public Local Inquiry report found that the "traffic benefits of the project would be [...] limited, [...] uncertain, and (in the case of the congestion benefits) probably ephemeral". This finding was based, amongst other things, upon the report of the Scottish Government-commissioned Central Scotland Transport Corridor Studies - M74 Corridor; MVA, May 2002. Despite the fundamental limitations of the terms of reference of the M74 corridor study, the Final Report published in May 2002 served a very useful public interest purpose in highlighting the fact that the combined effect of the new road and the overall background trend of traffic growth would be to create in 2010 "a [road] network which is more congested (even with the additional capacity provided by the M74) than in 2000. As well as severe queuing at a number of points, there will be a decrease in overall traffic speed."

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