Bigger roads cut pollution – study

Road-building can help cut car emissions by reducing congestion, according to a new study commissioned by the European Road Federation.

The study coincides with environmentalists protests over road-building projects attracting the bulk of EU transport funds for Eastern Europe – a policy they say contradicts the EU’s sustainability goals. Of the 177bn euros in EU structural funds allocated to Eastern European countries, 53% is going to roads and motorways, 30% on railways and 10% on public transport.

But according to the group representing the European road sector, improving and extending road infrastructure can substantially reduce car emissions and does not cause traffic to increase.

Turning a narrow winding road into a modern two-lane one can bring down emissions of CO2 by 11%, NOx by 75%, CO by 67% and NMVOC by 68%, the study, carried out by the SINTEF group, found.

“More investment in road infrastructure is needed to remove bottlenecks, avoid city centres and complete missing links which together cost billions every year in lost fuel and undoubtedly contribute to the sector’s environmental footprint,” ERF said, drawing attention to “the inescapable fact” that worldwide road-building continues and 70m road vehicles enter the market every year.

Friends of the Earth said that expanding road capacity would lead to a rise in greenhouse emissions and lock Europe into a carbon-intensive transport future. The group called on the EU to revise the draft funding plans.

Magda Stoczkiewicz of CEE Bankwatch Network said: “The EU should spend less on roads and more on alternatives to cars. Railways and public transport, which have suffered from chronic under-investment in central and Eastern Europe, emit three times less carbon dioxide than cars.

“Building road infrastructure inflates transport demand just as printing money creates inflation, and already the Czech Republic and Lithuania have more cars per person than rich Denmark.”

Europe’s car industry is bound by a voluntary agreement to reduce emissions to 140g/km by 2008, but it is unlikely to meet the target given progress to date.

FoE Europe’s Martin Konecny said: “The Commission must now take firm steps to prevent seven years and billions of Euros being lost to energy-intensive development.”

Goska Romanowicz

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