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Our vision for greener roads

As the Government developed its Road Investment Strategy, we challenged it to rethink the roads programme, and live up to its pledge to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

In Rising to the Challenge, we set out a joint green vision for the nation’s major roads developed in partnership with sixteen other environmental charities.

A sustainable future

There’s a lot of talk about technology and growth, smart motorways and ‘mile a minute’ expressways connecting new homes and jobs and growing the economy.

But what kind of strategic road network do we need for a sustainable future?

That’s the question our 2017 report Rising to the Challenge: a shared green vision for RIS2 sought to answer.

It presents three priorities for RIS2:

  • Fix it first: focus on the roads we have rather than building new ones
  • An integrated approach: redesign roads to join up better with local transport, walking and cycling.
  • Environmental leadership: deliver on CO2 emissions, air quality and biodiversity.

Our shared green vision

Roads have a huge impact on our environment and our quality of life. The second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) will shape that impact for years to come.

Our report shows how the road network can be enhanced not expanded, to be better for people and the environment.

The report includes examples of best practice in the UK and around the world to outline many ways the existing road network could be improved, including:

  • Stronger protection for landscape and heritage from road schemes
  • Tree planting to improve flood protection and cut pollution
  • Green bridges to connect wildlife areas across motorways and trunk roads
  • The use of quieter road surfaces to reduce noise pollution
  • Rollout of electric vehicle charging points
  • Better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and bus passengers
  • Priority for public transport at key junctions

Priority for public transport

Measuring success

The first Road Investment Strategy had targets on environmental performance and, thanks in part to the designated funds we helped secure, has begun to deliver some improvements, but there’s much more to be done.

We have proposed a comprehensive set of stronger measures for RIS2, which would help focus future road programmes on delivering a greener network.

We want to see progress from measuring activity to measuring impact: for example, the ecological status of waterways not just how many culverts have been upgraded.

And we want to see Highways England do more to tackle environmental problems at source: for example, using noise-reducing surfaces, instead of installing double-glazing.

These performance metrics matter because they are the basis on which Highways England’s work is monitored and they affect how spending is prioritised.

Working together

Our report would not have happened without the expert participation of fellow NGOs who contributed to the report and are backing its vision. 

British Horse Society; Campaign for National Parks; ClientEarth; CPRE; Cycling UK; Friends of the Earth; Living Streets; Noise Abatement Society; Plantlife; Ramblers; Sustrans; The Heritage Alliance; The Wildlife Trusts; UK Noise Association; Woodland Trust; WWF

Together they have shown not only the range of impacts that roads have, but the great potential to transform the strategic road network for the better.

By taking on board the expertise that environmental organisations have to share, the Government can develop a roads policy that lives up to the pledge to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

Better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and bus passengers