Senior figures in transport planning have written to the Government urging a new approach to infrastructure and planning and a switch in emphasis on investment to cities and a Smart Growth approach.
The letter, signed by 32 transport professors and backed by the Transport Planning Society and Royal Town Planning Institute, says current planning policies could store up future traffic problems rather than encouraging growth. An integrated approach is needed and city-based investments are more likely to stimulate growth than inter-urban roads which simply generate traffic.
"We want the letter to be seen as a friendly and constructive initiative to raise the level of debate and get these arguments out into the open," said TPS chair Keith Buchan.
"Our aim is to encourage the secretary of state to recognise what smarter transport and land use planning could achieve if placed at the heart of policy. We do not want to see the UK slipping back into the dead end of trying to build our way out of congestion."
The letter says UK traffic growth is levelling off and the basis for major infrastructure spending is changing, says the letter.
The real potential for investment in connectivity and accessibility is where it can unlock employment, as with city rail schemes, but the UK is actually fairly well connected already.
Expanding the strategic road network would simply generate more traffic and cities are not equipped to cope with any more so road building would simply fuel congestion.
The letter calls for smart demand management to make best use of existing infrastructure.
"On land use, changes to policy could well store up traffic problems for the future rather than encouraging economic growth," it says. "In reality, good transport and land use planning has prevented congestion and supported the economy, not held it back."
It concludes with a call for integration of transport planning and consistency of policy on infrastructure, land use, operations and prices.
"The number of signatories shows a strength of feeling that better policies are out there to help meet the economic imperative and create the cities, streets and countryside we want for the future," said one of the signatories, Greg Marsden, professor of transport governance at the University of Leeds.