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Campaign group calls for greener roads and new way of thinking for engineers

The Campaign for Better Transport is urging for a fresh approach across the country’s roads with an emphasis on creating a network that is better for the environment and all road users, ahead of the government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS).

The Roads and the Environment:  Putting an innovative approach at the heart of RIS2 report produced by Campaign for Better Transport with support from the Rees Jeffreys Roads Fund shows practical ways that highways managers can adopt fresh strategies by highlighting examples across the globe.

By embracing best practice from around the world, the paper sets out a positive vision of how Highways England’s resources can be used to make the current road network safer, greener and more in keeping with its surroundings.

Those behind the report advocate an approach based on the concept of “green retrofit”. That is, a programme of retrospective review and enhancement of existing roads, with the aim of improving the environment for road users, while reducing the road’s impact on the environment. 

The leading charity and environmental campaign group highlights how new opportunities can be grasped. Innovations such as the RIS’s £300m environment fund; the Design Panel; best practice from bodies such as Natural England and the National Grid; and examples from the UK and elsewhere can all usefully be deployed to review and improve our roads.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are calling for a green retrofit of the Strategic Road Network. From green bridges over roads to green roofs for service stations, there is great potential to change roads for the better. As the government prepares the second Road Investment Strategy, we hope this report will help deliver the vision of a road network more in harmony with the people and places it serves.”

Examples of best practice to develop a greener approach to the strategic road network include:

  •  Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s sustainable motorway verge management, supporting biodiversity and producing feedstock for biomass
  • Los Angeles’ use of bioswales as an alternative to concrete drains
  • New South Wales’ design guidance for noise barriers
  • Green roof and low impact design of Gloucester M5 services.

Campaign for Better Transport also sets out a number of specific interventions and policy changes that combine to offer both a vision of greener roads and some practical steps to achieve its vision. It says Highways England could include environmental quality in its state of the network reports and develop a green retrofit manual bringing together best practice approaches to environmental enhancement of existing roads.

To ensure projects focus on greener roads, the reports says there should be a target for the percentage of mainstream Highways England budget spend on maintenance and environmental enhancement of the existing network, while all mainstream project budgets should include an allocation for environmental enhancements and maintenance.

Commenting on the report, David Hutchinson, chair of trustees for the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, said: “We hope that this report will help to inspire a new generation of highway engineers to think beyond the engineering basics and through high quality design make our main roads better for all.” 

To view the report in full, click here.