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Berryden roads scheme shows Aberdeen as Scotland’s pariah city for sustainable transport

Published 09 April 2020 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has submitted its objection to Aberdeen City Council’s £26 million ‘Berryden corridor improvement’ road scheme. Our full objection is below, but can be summarised as:

  • Urban road-building is inconsistent with national transport policy, and is grossly out of touch with climate change priorities.
  • The scheme will not resolve congestion, merely move it to other parts of the city.
  • It provides no priority for public transport.
  • It features substandard cycle provision.
  • It will negatively affects pedestrians.

Transform director Colin Howden said:

“We’re disgusted to see Aberdeen City Council press ahead with this scheme. There has been zero progress in improving conditions for walking, cycling or public transport in the city, yet the Council can find £26 million for an urban road-building scheme that would have been outdated thirty years ago. Clearly there’s no Climate Emergency in Aberdeen.

“The city has already had over a billion pounds on new roads lavished on it by the Scottish Government in recent years. Yet the promised improvements for sustainable transport that we were told would be ‘locked in’ as a result of this roads spending has simply not materialised. Instead, we have a council promoting new urban road-building. Aberdeen really is Scotland’s pariah city in terms of sustainable transport.”

 

Our full objection follows:

We request that our objection to the ‘Berryden corridor improvement’ project be registered.

A road building project, which aims to provide increased capacity for private motorised vehicles in a dense urban environment, as the ‘Berryden corridor improvement’ does, is not consistent with national transport and planning objectives and fails to effectively address the challenge of reducing congestion along the Berryden corridor.

The National Transport Strategy, which was published in February 2020, identifies four main priorities for the transport systems in Scotland, to reduce inequalities, taking climate action, helping deliver inclusive economic growth and improving health and wellbeing. The ‘Berryden corridor improvement’ project fails to address any of these priorities.

Especially in the context of the climate crisis, moving forward with a proposal that increases space allocated to private motor vehicle appears ill-conceived and contrary to Scotland’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2040. Furthermore, we strongly question the claim that the scheme would reduce congestion along the corridor, while simultaneously providing additional capacity to reroute traffic from the city centre. These two aims appear to be contradictory to each other. Additionally, the scheme to reduce traffic in the city centre core should aim to reduce motorised traffic rather than simply displacing it.

The assumption that the dualling of the corridor will lead to reduced congestion also relies on outdated modelling and assumptions that have been proven to be unfounded. New road building schemes induce demand and rather than discouraging travel by private car, the added capacity that this scheme provides will encourage more people to drive. Especially in the context of large recent expenditure on other road-building schemes in and around Aberdeen, such as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route or the Haudagain Roundabout scheme, this is a misallocation of scarce public funds. Instead these funds would see a better return on investment in high-quality active travel and public transport infrastructure, ensuring that these remain competitive with private vehicle use.

The proposed scheme claims to provide improvements for public transport and active travel and while it does include additional provision for walking and cycling the overall benefits of the scheme to people walking, cycling or using public transport remain questionable. While the scheme claims that it will improve bus journey times by reducing congestion, we have set out above why we believe that the predicted reduced congestion will not materialise. Additionally, the proposal does not include any measures to actively prioritise public transport over private vehicle traffic, such as bus priority lanes.

Equally the proposed scheme provides few added benefits for people walking and cycling along the corridor. While the scheme does include improvements for cyclists by providing shared-use paths or on-road cycle lanes along the corridor, the designs in this proposal do not follow best-practice and do not provide adequate facilities to encourage new or more vulnerable cyclists to cycle along this corridor.

The scheme also provides little improvement to the experience of pedestrians along this route. On the contrary, the proposal to share space with cyclists in the Maberley Street to Hutcheon Street section of the scheme will make walking in this section less attractive and the widening of the carriageway will make crossing the road more difficult and dangerous, especially for those with mobility issues.

Overall, the ‘Berryden corridor improvement’ project is unlikely to provide significant benefits for those users who should be prioritised in an urban environment, namely pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users and may even affect them adversely. Additionally, the scheme is unlikely to deliver the envisioned reduction of congestion. Transform Scotland therefore strongly objects to this proposal.