Conservatives call for ‘indefensible’ road closures to end after generating ‘congestion’

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A total of 14 Tory MPs have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps demanding that the government “withdraws” the new road blockades installed across local council. The MPs say that the schemes are a “high-priced idealistic formula” which would generate “even more congestion” and increase pollution.

They have called the scheme “indefensible” and claimed the new programme has left “small businesses ruined”.

MPs to have signed the form include Tory headliners such as Steve Baker, Andrew Bridgen and Robert Halfon.

Chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel, Craig Mackinlay, also signed the letter after claiming the government needed to stop a “war on the motorist”.

He said: “Low taxes on fuel are a benefit to us all, unlike poorly thought through road schemes – of which there have been too many.

“We are calling on the government to stop the uncalled-for war on the motorist.”

The schemes have so far cost around £400,000 a day to implement with Mr Shapps set to release extra funding for new schemes.

The proposed road closures were first launched in the summer as part of the Emergency Active Travel Fund.

The proposals aimed to take advantage of a surge in interest for cycling and walking in major cities as residents desperately avoided public transport due to coronavirus fears.

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, motoring lawyer Nick Freeman warned that the new schemes were a “huge mistake” and needed to be ended immediately.

He claimed that the schemes had disproportionately aided cyclists which had led to “mayhem” on the roads.

He said: “They’ve made a huge mistake, a cataclysmic mistake which was so obvious. It’s got to stop. It needs to stop sooner, it needs to stop today.

“They are about to invest another £250million into these sort of measures. They can’t make knee-jerk, what appears to be populist reactions., They need to govern on the basis of accurate information.

“They must know before they do anything, well actually what are the effects of taking all this road space from motorists and freeing it up to cyclists who comprise like four percent of the roads.

“You don’t need to be Einstein to work out you’re going to cause mayhem because you’re going to take away double lanes and you’re going to make them single lanes.

“You’re going to double already congested traffic and that is going to cause massive problems that we are trying to eradicate.

“The priorities need to be free up road space, do everything in your power to keep traffic flowing steadily.”

To combat against the heavy backlash to the changes, Mr Shapps has revealed councils will not be able to proceed with any plans unless they can prove that the new measures have local support.

Mr Shapps has also warned that he would “not tolerate” any badly designed road closures and cycle lanes.

RAC Simon Williams said: “The fact that the Government gave authorities just weeks to introduce schemes for the reallocation of road space is a reason why some schemes aren’t working.

“Councils were told they did not need to consult – yet if they didn’t take the cash on offer, they risked missing out on it altogether.

“As the lockdown has eased, councils now have an opportunity to consult properly and we believe the Government should require that they do so for new schemes.

“This is important so local authorities can understand the impact that schemes will have on all road users and residents, and can improve the design of any new scheme accordingly.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) claims that cycling and walking schemes are popular and boost local businesses when they are properly implemented.

They claim that the scheme could increase retail spend by up to 30 percent as those who cycle along streets are more likely to visit than drivers.

DfT experts say the majority of residents also support plans to reduce road traffic and the reallocation of road space.

A spokesperson added: “No one should be in doubt about our support for motorists. This Government is investing £27 billion to upgrade our roads in our largest road improvement programme.

“We are at the same time promoting cycling and walking as they are beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing.

“But we have been clear we expect local authorities to engage constructively with residents to make sure any changes are right for everyone, including motorists.

“We will not hesitate to withhold funding from councils who do not demonstrate their schemes will offer genuine improvements – and we will be providing more information shortly on the conditions we will be attaching to future funding for Active Travel Schemes.”

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