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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Environment warning over road plan
A66 single carriageway
The number of HGVs on the Pennine stretch is very high
Conservationists have condemned plans to upgrade the trans-Pennine A66 into a dual carriageway.

Transport Minister John Spellar announced on Thursday that 141m plans to create a continuous dual carriageway from Penrith to Scotch Corner should go forward.

Environmental group Transport 2000 has accused the government of preparing to "trash the countryside".

But Mr Spellar said the road-building project would be sensitive to the surrounding area.


This will add to Britain's already shameful record as the European country with the highest car use

Stephen Joseph, Transport 2000

Transport 2000 fears the road could spoil areas of outstanding natural beauty and increase congestion in the Lake District.

It also claims the announcement could signal an escalation in the government's new road-building programme.

Transport 2000 director Stephen Joseph said: "As world leaders gather in Johannesburg for the Earth Summit, the government is starting to trash more of Britain's environment.

"The A66 dualling will damage Sites of Special Scientific Interest, including some of international importance, and will also go through the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"Mitigation measures will not make up for this intrusion."

Environmental spending

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Spellar said: "Half of this road already has dual carriageway and that goes through some of the most sensitive areas.

"Why we are spending more on this road than we would need to just in engineering terms is precisely in order to deal with environmental sensitivity and to make sure we avoid any significant spots."

Transport 2000's Jane Parsler said people living locally had not taken in the huge impact the road would have on their lives.

She told the BBC: "In reality they don't realise that traffic levels are going to be doubled and that the environment they depend on in order to make a living, in a lot of cases, is going to be completely damaged and utterly destroyed."

70 deaths

Just under half the 50-mile (78 kilometre) stretch between Scotch Corner, in North Yorkshire, and Penrith, in Cumbria, is currently dual carriageway.

The accident rate on single-lane areas of the cross-Pennine route is above the national average, with more than 70 deaths in the last ten years.

The RAC Foundation said it supported the "long-overdue" decision to dual the A66.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The A66 has a dreadful safety record and many people, including the police, have been calling for the dualling for a number of years.

"This is a strategic east west link and the dualling will be a boost to road safety and indeed the economy."

'Appalling example'

The government announced plans for dualling after endorsing the findings of an A66 safety study.

But Transport 2000 has argued that it is possible to improve safety on the road with much smaller and lower cost measures.

It is estimated it will cost 141m to upgrade the road.

Mr Joseph said: "If they repeat this decision elsewhere, we could see a vast new road-building programme, with most motorways widened to eight, 10 or even 12 lanes and a lot of other new roads across Britain's countryside.

"This will add to Britain's already shameful record as the European country with the highest car use, and sets an appalling example to developing countries."


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See also:

22 Aug 02 | England
25 Jun 02 | England
30 Jan 02 | England
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