Six reasons why HIF1 is not a viable project and should be paused
The proposed HIF1 Road Scheme is estimated to cost £300m and is an expensive exercise in road building that will just generate more traffic. It will not meet its stated objectives and is poor value for money at £33m per mile (£300m/9 miles).
Major projects like HS2 or Cross Rail invariably run over budget and never complete on time. Anything from 50% to double or triple cost is not unusual. HIF1 will be no different, with a possible overrun of £100m.
OCC claims it can ‘stop construction’ to prevent cost overruns potentially falling on the Council. We believe this is naive and a risk for the tax payers of Oxfordshire. Reliance on “no claw back clauses” will not work. ‘Stop work’ orders will result in a partly finished patchwork scheme that will be poor value for money and reputationally damaging for OCC.
The HIF1 scheme is financially risky and in the current climate cannot be delivered within budget or on time (March 2026). Now is not the time for OCC to borrow £30m (or more) for a road with interest rates expected to reach 6%.
Annual loan Interest servicing costs for HIF1 will be circa £2m pa. This is money that could be spent on children’s or otherwise services.
HIF1 does not reconcile with OCC’s climate policies and carbon reduction targets. Construction of the road will generate 288,000 tonnes of CO2 plus a further 23,000 tonnes annually from traffic emissions.
Failure to meet carbon reduction targets could have funding as well as environmental consequences.
HIF1 directly contradicts OCC’s Local Transport & Connectivity Plan (LTCP) recently approved by Council and is now official policy.
Non-compliance with Council policy will leave OCC open to legal challenge.
HIF1 claims it will ease traffic congestion but it will not. All evidence points to new roads filling with traffic soon after construction. Modelling predicts that with HIF1, average speeds on local roads will fall to 18 mpg by 2034 which is below current speeds.
Traffic congestion during construction 2023-2026 (assuming completion in schedule) will cause traffic mahem locally (Didcot, Milton, Sutton Courtenay, Culham, Abingdon, clifton Hampden and beyond).
HIF1 should be withdrawn to allow alternative sustainable transport infrastructure to be developed that will benefit everyone, not just car owners. Oxfordshire needs something better and far less damaging.
EXPERT OPINION ON SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT AND HIF1
A report by transport expert Prof. John Whitelegg (see text for link below) says the application is deeply flawed and should be withdrawn as the application:
- Fails to follow WebTag guidance in that there is no clear definition of need for a £300m funding decision.
- No discussion on the range of possible options
- No analysis on carbon emissions impact.
- In light of OCC, SODC & VOWHDC declared climate emergency it is perverse to pursue a policy of road building to expand highway capacity. The planning application is based on denial.
- There is no policy rational to achieve a model shift if this scheme proceeds.
John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute.
Previously Dr. Whitelegg was head of department of geography at Lancaster University and director of the university’s Environmental Epidemiology Research Unit.
He has written books and over 50 papers, including Transport for a Sustainable Society: The Case for Europe (John Wiley, 1993) and Critical Mass: Transport, Environment and Society in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 1997), and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy & Practice.
Professor Goodwin reports (7 March 2022)
- Traffic forecasts are based on inadequate and outdated inputs.
- (For example, the traffic figures fail to prove whether the junction on the Appleford Road (B4016) would increase / decrease traffic through Sutton Courtenay or that HIF would not exacerbate congestion in Culham, Clifton Hamden and Nuneham Courtenay)
- The Paramics model used fails to calculate induced demand.
- Consequently, any claims the scheme will reduce congestion and CO2 emissions are spurious (overstated)
- The decision of the Welsh Government to halt these costly road schemes should be followed.
- The current planning application is based on denial.
- Prof. Goodwin has pointed out that average speed will call from 23.4 mph in 2020 to 18.1 mph in 2034. (That’s £300m to get more traffic and congestion).
Professor Phillip Goodwin is Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy, Dept of Civil, Environ & Geomatic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Science.
He is the author of various publications including Smarter Choices – changing the way we travel (Report 2004, UCL), Building new Roads really does create more traffic (Article 2003, Applied Economics),
Professor Goodwin lived in Oxford for a number of years and is familiar with the area.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND COUNCIL POLICY
OCC, SODC and VoWHDC have declared a climate emergency, yet they all support this damaging road. This directly conflicts with their climate position and policies as well as the “Zero Car on Oxfordshire” Plan (produced by Oxford University) which they claim to support. This calls for better transport policies to mitigate the 154,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions (an under est.) which is 12 times OCCs own carbon emissions. Their position on HIF1 is one of denial.
The Oxfordshire Energy Strategy recognises that the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the county are road transport and house building (para 75)
The Planning Application (R3.0138/21) is seriously deficient and conflicts with the Councils policies in a number of important areas. The application:
- Conflicts with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Policy Guidance (PPG)
- It undermines legally binding national targets for reductions in carbon emissions and carbon neutrality
- Conflicts with the much-heralded Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – now ditched
- Conflicts with the emerging Local Transport & Connectivity Plan (LTCP)
- The Environmental Statement submitted does not comply with the Environmental Impact Regulations 2017
- No Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) has been made.
A Climate Change Position Statement should accompany the application outlining
In addition to traffic congestion, the HIF1 road will generate between 154,000 and 288,414 tonnes of CO2 omissions. The represents between 12 times and 22.5 times the Councils own emissions.
Add to these the annual CO2 emissions from road use (operations) over the life of the road. It is clear the combined impact of construction and road use on the climate is considerable and cannot be denied.