Current local issues

Comment on local issues

Update on A21

by Richard Bomford

There is a proposed new bypass on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury and this has been controversial. The proposal is for a six lane dual carriageway to link the end of the Tonbridge bypass with the Pembury bypass.

The following is a more recent traffic forecast from the DOT than that which was used for the public enquiry into the A21 bypass.

Traffic Forecasts

Traffic forecasts have formed an important element in identifying emerging traffic and associated problems, and in assessing the value of particular road improvements. The Department of Transport produces national forecasts and makes local forecasts as necessary. The forecast growth in traffic is derived from forecasts of growth in personal incomes and in economic activity. The forecasts are kept under review; an Advisory Group assists with the work; the current forecasts are the best available reflection of current expectations about economic growth and existing policies.

On the current national forecasts, traffic in 2025 is expected to be between 53% and 83% higher than in 1996. This represents an annual growth of 1.5% to 2.1% per annum over the whole period. The rate of growth is decreasing over time as more and more households achieve saturation car ownership (over the last five years of that period, the growth is only 1.3% to 1.6% per annum).

This compares with historical traffic growth:

The forecasts are not targets. While the forecasts are used to identify traffic problems, this does not necessarily mean that road improvements result where problems are expected. Improvements have to be acceptable in economic, transport and environmental terms, both locally and over a wider area, as well as affordable. Although road improvements can induce extra traffic in some circumstances, road building is not the main contributor to traffic growth.

Road traffic levels have been driven in the past largely by economic growth. Any significant change in that relationship would have to flow from major changes in present policies, lifestyles and industrial practices.

Last updated 15 October 1996

As you can see they were already predicting lower traffic growths in October 1996 and the environmental initiatives of the previous Government, followed by the more stringent policies of the present Government, are going to reduce these forecasts even further. The latest forecasts from the Department of the Environment are that road traffic levels will rise by between 32% and 73% of 1996 levels by the year 2026. (The latest forecast from their website, last updated 13 October 1997.) There will be major changes in present policies, in fact, the government’s environmental policies will have failed if they do not result in zero or negative growth in traffic!

We have to put protection of the environment above all other considerations, without this we will have no planet to live on! The yearly rise in petrol tax is already starting to bite home. Major users of freight are turning to rail for longer journeys (Safeway send all freight by rail for distances over 160 miles) Park and ride is not a solution, in Canterbury it has only succeeded in pulling passengers off public transport! Local transport must be made frequent and reliable and also cheap enough to lure people away from their cars. Above all, we must not try to accommodate road transport by building roads to reduce journey times, any bypasses should only be built to improve the local environment (as in Lamberhurst) and they should not speed up traffic! If the A21 bypass round Pembury had been restricted to two or three lanes with a speed limit of 60 mph the traffic noise at the eastern end of Pembury would have been halved.

Richard Bomford

There is a lot more information on the A21 bypass on Andrew Lohmann's home page which you can read.

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Last Revision: November 17th. 1997