In a gaffe worthy of his ill-fated predecessor, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling pronounced that
"Britain isn't big enough for us to be pouring more and more concrete over its green and pleasant land."
Mr Darling would be well advised to establish the facts relating to his new job before making such pronouncements.

Firstly, concrete is no longer regarded as a suitable material for road building due to its poor surface quality and increased noise levels. Tarmac is the prefered material — somewhat worrying that our new Transport Secretary hasn't even noticed this whilst driving around the country.

Secondly, pro-rata, Britain has far fewer motorways than all other major European countries, and none of those countries are even remotely 'covered in tarmac'.

These three graphs compare motorway length with population and land area for countries across Europe.

Motorway Length (km) (1999)

Ireland  94
Luxembourg  115
Finland  467
Greece  500
Denmark  861
Portugal  1252
Sweden  1428
Austria  1613
Belgium  1682
Netherlands  2360
United Kingdom  3421
Italy  6453
Spain  8257
France  9303
Germany  11427

Length in itself is not indicative of anything specific — we obviously need to take into account the population and land area of each country.
 
Motorway km per million inhabitants (1996)

Ireland  22
Greece  45
United Kingdom  57
Portugal  72
Finland  84
Italy  112
Germany  138
France  142
Sweden  150
Netherlands  152
Belgium  165
Denmark  167
Spain  186
Austria  199
Luxembourg  277

This shows the UK to be the third worst in Europe in terms of motorway length per person, and serves as a graphic indication of the real reason our motorways are congested.
 
Motorway per 1000 square kilometres (1999)

Ireland  1.4
Finland  1.4
Sweden  3.5
Greece  3.8
Portugal  13.6
United Kingdom  14.2
Spain  16.4
France  17.1
Austria  19.2
Denmark  20
Italy  21.4
Germany  32
Luxembourg  44.5
Belgium  55.1
Netherlands  57.5

The UK is sixth worse in terms of motorway per area. Note that in relation to its land area, the Netherlands has four times as much motorway length as Britain, and it is certainly not 'covered in tarmac'
 

Our green and pleasant land

The myth about motorways covering the country in tarmac is hysterical scaremongering engendered by anti-car campaigners who would be delighted to see the UK as a third world country in terms of transport. These new age luddites would like nothing better than to see us all to go back to using the horse and cart.

England — The Photographic AtlasThe reality is very different and is best illustrated by a wonderful book called "England The Photographic Atlas". This is published by Getmapping.com and uses aerial photographs from a millenium project to create a photomosiac of the entire country. (Similar books covering Scotland and Wales are in the pipeline).

The immediate impression that the book gives is that England is still very much a green and pleasant land.
Turn to any page and the overwhelmingly dominant colour is green. Even in cities, the combination of parkland, gardens, roadside verges, and trees result in a distinctly green tinge.


 
England — The Photographic AtlasThe sample photo on the right shows the M4 around junction 14 in Berkshire. The fields that were there before the motorway was built are still there, and the countryside is still as green and lush as it was when the Romans built the road that has since become the barely visible B4000 running parallel to the motorway on its northern side.

On the 1:36000 scale photos like this which are used for much of the country, it can be seen how the width of a motorway is far less than the width of the average field. In fact you could put half a dozen motorways across most fields and still leave room for fluffy bunny rabbits to hop about.

We wonder if those who claim the country is being 'covered in tarmac' are looking at small scale maps of large areas on which the width of roads is grossly exaggerated to make them obvious. On a 1:10000000 scale wall map of the UK, a motorway may be shown as being 1mm wide. This equates to 1km, when in reality motorways are only about 32m wide — 1/30 of their apparent width on a map. Surely no-one could be so stupid as to believe that thick lines on a small map represent real tarmac on the ground?
 

This is a photograph of the M6 near Penrith in Cumbria taken from a somewhat unusual perspective — the cockpit of an RAF Hawk T1 from 208 Squadron RAF Valley flown by Flying Officer Jules Thurston. The aircraft is carrying out a 4G turn, Penrith is behind the outer right markings on the canopy, and you can just about make out the M6 running top to bottom on the right amongst all the green countryside. It's a very different impression of the width of the motorway to what you get at ground level.
Photograph © Antony Loveless 2004. Reproduced by kind permission.

 
Many people have a gross mis-conception of the impact of roads on the environment due to anti-road propaganda from environmental groups, and the fact that they only look at the road, not at the much larger green fields either side of it. In reality the impact of roads is minimal. Most of our motorways have, like the M4 and M6 above, been in existence for decades — the suggestion that they have 'destroyed' the countryside through which they pass is nothing but hysterical ranting.

A three year study by the University of Surrey on the environmental impact of the Newbury Bypass has shown that it has actually protected the environment. See our Press Release 318.

Birds of prey are often to be seen hovering over motorway embankments. This indicates that the embankments serve as a nature reserve and provide an excellent hunting ground as they are rarely if ever disturbed. They are the modern day equivalent of hedgerows.

 

Lack of investment in roads

The UK motorway network suffers from chronic congestion because successive governments have utterly failed to build enough new roads to match traffic demand. The CBI have stated that £10 billion is needed just to to get the backlog of road repairs and building cleared. Rather than admit this failure, the government constantly tries to lay the blame on drivers for daring to want to drive from A to B.

Road length & Traffic Volume 1976-1996

Key % length increase
% traffic increase
length added
 Motorways  50%
128%
1071km
 A Roads  4%
66%
1643km
 Non-trunk roads  12%
41%
32682km
Data source: Warren Springs Laboratory

 
The blindingly obvious solution to eliminate congestion on motorways and trunk routes is to build more roads, and stop throttling the country's economy by maliciously constricting roads, and penalizing drivers in every conceivable way.
 
 

New motorways needed

The ABD calls on the government to immediately bring the UK's motorway network up to at least average European standard by implementing a massive expansion programme.
Our motorway network needs to be at least doubled in size. All motorways must be free from tolls — whether toll booths or electronic spying systems.

Here are our proposals for new motorway routes:
Click the map on the right for a larger map showing new routes in red. All routes are approximate.
 

RouteSummaryDetailsMiles
M1London – EdinburghExtend M1 to Edinburgh. Re number existing A1(M) north of Leeds. Upgrade rest of A1 up to Tyneside to motorway. New motorway using A68 corridor to Edinburgh.80
M7Edinburgh South WestTo run from south of Edinburgh, south-west past Biggar, to connect with the existing M74, and thence the M6.35
M10POLO — Proposed Outer London OrbitalAs proposed by the ABD in May 2001 — see our press release 286.
Channel Tunnel – Royal Tunbridge Wells – Gatwick – Guildford – Reading – Luton Airport – Stansted Airport – Harwich. Renumber existing M10 as A5(M), A5183 back to A5 as it was, and number POLO as M10.
200
M11LincolnshireExtend north to the Humber Bridge105
M12East CoastLondon to Norwich. Upgrade existing A12 were practical.93
M14UpgradeUpgrade existing A14 from M1 to Felixstowe to three lane motorway.-
M17NorfolkM1 – Grantham – Kings Lynn – Norwich – Great Yarmouth130
M23SussexExtend south to new M27 near Brighton.15
M27South CoastChannel Tunnel terminal (Folkestone) to Truro. Connect with M5 at Exeter. Upgrade A38 in Devon. New bridge over Tamar.230
M30Basingstoke – DevonUpgrade existing A303 where practical. Connect to extended M27 north of Lyme Regis.80
M34Oxford – SouthamptonUpgrade existing A34 where practical.56
M36Southampton – BathTo connect with new M39 Bristol orbital45
M39Bristol southern orbitalTo link M4 and M5 passing south of Bristol.40
M4ExtensionExtend west to bypass Carmarthen.15
M41West Midlands western bypassTo link M5 to M6 by passing west of Dudley & Wolverhampton. Will relieve M5 and M6 through West Midlands, and complete West Midlands orbital.31
M42UpgradeUpgrade A42 between Tamworth & M1 to motorway.-
M43M50 – PeterboroughM5/M50 junction – Banbury – Northampton – Peterborough. Connect with extended M11 and new M17 east of Peterborough. Will act as primary SW to NE link, and thus relieve M42 around Birmingham.100
M50ExtensionExtend West to connect with extended M53.13
M53Welsh borders Extend existing M53 south to the M4 between the Severn bridges and Newport. Alternative route to M5/M6 for SW to NW traffic. Provide high-speed link between North & South Wales.120
M54ShropshireExtend west to meet extended M5318
M556M6/M56 linkLink M6 junction 19 to M56 junction 8. Main route into Manchester from the south.5
M64Trans-PennineTo run south-east from M6 near Kendal in Cumbria, bypassing Kirkby Lonsdale and Settle, then pass either east or west of Bradford and connect with M62.52
M65Trans-PennineExtend East to connect with new M64 north of Keighley11
M66ExtensionExtend North to connect with M6510
M67Manchester – Sheffield Using A628 corridor. Extensive tunnelling and split carriageways to minimize impact through Peak District25
M68Carlisle – TynesideUpgrade existing A69 where practical.47
M73Central Scotland North-South linkAn entirely new motorway (the existing M73 would become part of the M81 - see below).
The new M73 would run some 20 miles east of Glasgow, between the M74 near Larkhall, and the M80 at Junction 4. This would allow north/south traffic to bypass the Glasgow area completely, and in particular the badly designed M73/M74 junction near Uddingstone, and the A80 past Cumbernauld.
(This is not shown on our map.)
22
M77Glasgow – AyrExtend to Ayr29
M81Glasgow orbitalOrbital route around Glasgow, to include the Erskine Bridge, and the existing M73.55
M85Scottish East CoastExtend North East from Perth – Dundee – Aberdeen75
M9ExtensionExtend to Perth25
Total MilesTotal miles of new motorway (excluding definite upgrades)1762

 
In addition many improvements need to be made to existing trunk roads in the form of upgrades to dual carriageway, graded junctions, and bypasses. See our page on Britain's Baulked Bypasses for an extensive list.
 

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