DIRECT ACTION PROTESTS WILL INCREASE M1 COSTS, SAY CLIMATE CAMPAIGNERS
A network of climate change activists have declared their intention to step up protests against the controversial £5.1 M1 widening programme. In a week when the spiraling costs of the widening schemes have come under scrutiny, campaigners believe that additional expenses due to protest activity have not been included, and will drive costs up further.
The Government is proposing to widen the M1 motorway from the M25 to Milton Keynes, and from Leicester to Leeds, in a series of sectional schemes (1). Recently it was revealed in a Government report (2) that the total cost of all these M1 Widening schemes has risen to £5.1 billion, equivalent to £43 million per mile (3). This is comparable to the annual rail budget for the whole UK of around £5 billion (4).
Activists campaigning against climate change have identified the M1 as a focus. They have hung banners (5), picketed Highways Agency exhibitions, blockaded the offices of contractors (6), and held other protests. There have also been attempts to stop work on the current widening scheme around Sheffield, although these so far have been prevented by huge police operations (7). This is part of an increasing national wave of direct action targetted around climate change, much of which has been inspired by the “Camp for Climate Action” held in September 2006, when hundreds of activists attempted to close down Drax coal-fired power station in Yorkshire (8).
The huge protests against the Newbury Bypass in 1996 give an idea of the additional costs that protest activity can add to a road scheme. The construction costs of the 10-mile Newbury scheme were over £100 million (9), whereas policing costs accounted for another £5 million, and private security (including fencing and lighting) added another £23.7 million (10). Thus, protests can be seen to have increased total costs at Newbury by nearly a third. If this pattern were repeated with the M1, total costs for all the schemes would be in the region of £6.7 billion.
Activist Chris Hooper said :
“The M1 schemes are totally unacceptable at a time when we need to be reducing traffic for the sake of the climate, not encouraging it to grow. We will oppose these widenings at every stage and turn back the bulldozers; a wider M1 is far too costly in both economic and environmental terms, and must be stopped.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS :
1. See http://www.highways.gov.uk/ for more detailed descriptions of schemes.
2. In Appendix 12 of Review of Highways Agency's Major Roads Programme, a report by Mike Nichols for the Department for Transport, March 2007 – available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/nicholsreport/nicholsreport
3. As reported, for example, in the Observer, 6/5/07 – see
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2073611,00.html. (The Observer quotes a figure of £21 million per mile because it counts total lane miles, not motorway miles!)
4. As quoted in the Times, http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/article1290116.ece
5. See http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/10/354854.html
6. See for example http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2007/03/366214.html
7. Reported at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/6559839.stm
8. See http://www.climatecamp.org.uk/press.php for press releases and media links for the 2006 Drax protests.
9. Note that the basic construction costs themselves (at least £100 million) were significantly greater than the original Highways Agency estimate of £74 million.
10. Quoted in a 2000 report by the Major Projects Association, available at http://www.majorprojects.org/pubdoc/630.pdf