A6-M60 Funding Application: notes from Goyt Valley SOS! for Department for Transport
Stockport MBC is applying to the DfT for £500,000 to work on an Outline Business Case for the A6-M60 Relief Road with the intention of bidding in June for nearly £500 million to build nine kilometres of road.
The Relief Road would devastate outstanding countryside and valued green space. Yet according to the recent Strategic Outline Business Case appendices, local congestion would be worse after 15 years than before the road was built. Green belt threatened by the road is within urban areas, whose residents would be adversely affected. Strong opposition to the road is therefore ensured through to construction.
The Strategic Outline Business Case (A6 -M60 Relief Road Scheme Working Draft), on which the bid for further development funding relies, is slanted, selective and, in places, sloppy. The £500,000 for further development and £500 million for construction would be a waste of public money.
The proposed dual carriageway would extend the A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road (under construction) through south-east Stockport from Hazel Grove to Junction 25 of the M60 at Bredbury. This would create a road linking J25 of the M60 to J5 of the M56. (See diagram. The solid red line is the road to the airport; the broken line would be the A6-M60 road.)
The A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road was given planning approval as a standalone project diverting traffic from the A6 north of Hazel Grove. The A6-M60 Relief Road is claimed to offer further relief to the A6 north of Hazel Grove as well as to the A627 from Hazel Grove to Bredbury and to local congestion more generally – despite the SOBC appendices (Appendices 6 – 9: Draft A6 to M60 Relief Road Scheme strategic outline business case) showing the wider benefits would be small and short lived. See over page for a map of the route.
Impact on the environment and local residents
The route would devastate the Lower Goyt Valley, a unique area of peaceful countryside reaching close to the centre of Stockport. The damage to the valley would be fundamental and irrevocable. The beautiful and tranquil Poise Brook Valley would also be ruined. The two valleys are enjoyed by local people and are essential for local wild life.
The route would destroy green fields between the Offerton and Bosden Farm housing estates and the top of Hazel Grove. Residents would suffer noise and pollution. They would lose the green lung provided by fields in an urban area with major roads close by. Buildings of Dial Park Primary School and Lisburne School (special needs) would be 100 metres from the new road.
Local residents in Lower Bredbury, Bredbury Green, Foggbrook and Torkington would also suffer from proximity to the dual carriageway. Traffic forecasting in 2003 said the relief road would carry 60,000 vehicles daily though Bredbury. Up to 50,000 of those do not currently go through Bredbury on local roads. The area already suffers the noise and pollution of the M60.
Despite the known threat to outstanding local valleys and woods, the recent Feasibility Study (A6-M60 Relief Road Scheme Stage 1 Report) and the Strategic Outline Business Case only provided the brief findings of a desktop study of environmental impacts. The proposed Outline Business Case would contain an environmental scoping report, ie summarising what a full assessment should look at.
Impact on traffic
The new road is primarily intended to channel traffic coming from the south on the A6 and A34 which wants to go east on the M60. It is bound to pour extra traffic on to the already overloaded M60. The modelling done so far has serious limitations, particularly because it excludes induced traffic. It shows that the new road would relieve the A6 north of Hazel Grove and the A627 from Hazel Grove to Bredbury. However, the modelling shows the new road would have limited impact on traffic speeds (page 257: Appendices 6 – 9: Draft A6 to M60 Relief Road Scheme strategic outline business case) and on congestion in the south of Stockport more widely, and these benefits disappear over time – eg at year 15 “permanent queuing” would have doubled from before the road was built (SOBC, Appendices 6-9, pages 240).
A number of roads would suffer increased traffic and congestion in the opening year, particularly the A6 south of Hazel Grove. Four junctions for the new road and its link roads in or near Offerton are likely to draw traffic into the area on roads that would struggle to cope.
Junctions for the route are proposed to include traffic signals on the carriageways. These are bound to create queuing both on the new road itself and on feeder roads. If, at a later stage in design, the traffic signal-controlled junctions are replaced by merge-diverge junctions with a much larger footprint, impact on local residents will escalate.
Local opposition to the A6-M60 road has a high profile. A petition of 7,061 signatures online and on paper opposing the new road was presented to the 30th November 2017 meeting of Stockport Council. The meeting voted by 43 to 14 to recommend further development of the road but 11 of 21 Labour councillors voting were against. Labour is the largest group on the Council and holds all Cabinet posts. At the November Council meeting several speakers who voted for the report, including the Council leader, said they were doing so in order to obtain further information about the road. Political support for the construction of the road is far from assured.
Stockport Council’s proposition
The report backed by the November meeting of the Council set out a bewildering six-month timetable for achieving funding for preparing an Outline Business Case, completing the OBC and applying for Local Major Transport Schemes funding for construction in June 2018. In comparison, the preceding Strategic Outline Business Case was published six months late (in October 2017 instead of April) and without its appendices, which appeared in November. Stockport Council is applying for £500,000 for full funding for the OBC whereas the Strategic Outline Business Case (Financial Case) said that £4.4 million was required for the OBC and estimated it would take almost two years to produce.
The Feasibility Study (A6-M60 Stage 1 Study, page 89) preceding the SOBC said that further traffic modelling “would be appropriate” following the opening of the A6-Manchester Airport Road. The road to the airport would have major impacts on local traffic patterns. Such further modelling would be impossible within the timetable for the Outline Business Case, since the road to the airport’s delayed opening is set for June 2018. The timetable for modelling would also exclude information about housing developments proposed in the new version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, due in June 2018.
Limitations of the Strategic Outline Business Case
Volume 1 of the SOBC contains scant information about impacts on traffic and none beyond the opening year. There is nothing about the performance of the new road itself apart from the statement that the junctions would perform within acceptable parameters (page 38). Apparently the latter statement applies to the opening year (page 89).
Publication of the SOBC and its appendices (ie Volume 2) was separated. The SOBC went through Stockport Council’s Economy Scrutiny Committee on 2nd November without its appendices.
The appendices, like Volume 1, contain no information about the performance of the new road itself but they do have information about effects on traffic on local roads, including beyond the opening year. As previously noted, the statistics provided show little benefit to average traffic speeds in the opening year across the area and increased congestion and worse journey times by year 15.
Flaws in modelling: As noted, the modelling for the SOBC was carried out before next June’s opening of the new road to the airport. It used old, recycled journey information which was augmented by mobile phone data. Such data is unable to differentiate travellers’ modes of transport. Flat matrices were used which are unable to forecast induced traffic. Variable Demand Modelling is not a requirement for SOBCs, but could have been valuable because the new road aims to shorten times both on the new dual carriageway and on parts of the A6 and A627 – a situation likely to induce new journeys.
Economic case: The new road scrapes a “very high value for money” rating (BCR 4.07). The figure might have been less if all areas affected by the road had been included in the calculation. The new road could increase congestion in Macclesfield by drawing traffic from the south. Increased traffic up the A6 from the south will worsen congestion and already poor air quality in Disley, also likely to have been excluded from the calculation. New Mills could also suffer increased congestion, but is likewise unlikely to have been included. As noted, Variable Demand Modelling was not used. Induced traffic on the new road and, potentially, the A6 and A627, would be likely to increase congestion and reduce time savings – with consequences for value for money.
Sloppiness: Page 243 of draft Appendices 6-9 shows traffic modelling Screen Line 2 crossing A627 traffic in two places, which it should not do. The second crossing point is misnamed A626 Buxton Road in the traffic table 6.5, page 246. At this point the A627 and A626 briefly combine, which the authors seem unaware of. When the two flows of traffic are disaggregated, it becomes clear that the new A6-M60 road would increase traffic on the A626 through Marple, contrary to what Figure 2-28 shows on page 46 of SOBC Volume 1. Obvious errors for year 2039 southbound appear in Table 6.5 on page 246, which includes forecasts for the misnamed A626 Buxton Road.
The same diagram on page 243 shows a route for the A6-M60 Relief Road which is different from the route for which the published traffic modelling figures were done. The different route goes via Dan Bank, Marple rather than Offerton. It would appear that this different route was modelled, but it is not mentioned anywhere else in the SOBC or appendices. (Note: errors in the draft may have been corrected prior to submission to DfT.)
The £500 million A6-M60 road would destroy important green belt without offering a significant and sustainable improvement in local congestion. Figures for the new road itself have not been published but must be available. Induced traffic, which has not been modelled, is likely to be significant. Evidence already available indicates that the road would be an expensive failure.
Goyt Valley SOS!, 20th December 2017