Telecommuting 2000

Transport and the environment

Motor traffic is a major source of environmental pollution and "greenhouse" gases. 

Road building damages the environment in its land take and destruction of habitats, and also in its voracious use of non-renewable resources.


The main polluting emissions from motor vehicles are not falling fast enough to ensure that statutory air quality standards for particles, nitrogen oxides and ozone are met by the Government's target date of 2005.

Nitrogen dioxide, low-level ozone and particulates are associated with health problems, particularly respiratory ailments.

Pollution monitoring is carried out by local authorities. But in practice little is done to take action when pollution levels exceed health guidelines. In the UK there are over 100 streets where pollution has recently exceeded EC guidelines. And these are by no means only in the large cities, but in historic cities like Bath and Cambridge which were simply not built to withstand the levels of traffic they now experience.

Land take

Roads occupy some 3.3% of the UK's green and pleasant land. Recent public and private investment in roadbuilding has increasingly been moving away from big road schemes such as motorways and bypasses and into the roads infrastructure to support new housing developments.

With the government anticipating an additional 4.4 million houses to meet demand over the next few years, every effort needs to be made to minimise the road infrastructure demands.

Currently the preference in government and planning circles is for "urban densification". While this could reduce the total land take in rural areas, it would increase pressures on urban road networks. Also, the location of new towns away from railway stations condemns them to be car dependent, which must run counter to the overall aims of the government. Finally major road-building schemes are planned, and the Highways Agency has identified 60 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as being under threat from road development schemes.


In a recent survey the Council for the Protection of Rural England found that there are now very few places in England not affected by noise pollution, mainly caused by traffic. It is not just proximity to major roads that causes this constant backdrop of noise, but Rural England's almost total dependency on cars for access to work and services.


The facts on pollution

  • traffic is responsible for 25% of UK carbon dioxide emissions
  • greenhouse emissions from road transport rose by a quarter (27%) between 1985 and 1995
  • greenhouse emissions from road transport are forecast to grow by 37-47% between 1995 and 2020
  • Traffic accounts for around 60% of total emissions of nitrogen oxides.
  • In the mid 70ís, transport accounted for a little over a fifth of total energy consumption. In the mid 90ís it accounted for a third.

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