[Friends of the Earth]


Managing Newbury's Traffic to Reduce

Congestion and Pollution without a

Western Bypass

A Report by the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit, London,
for Friends of the Earth and the Third Battle of Newbury.

September 1995.

Supported by WWF-UK.

Please note that this is FoE's short summary of the original 1995 MTRU report. It is not the complete report.

Aims of the Study

This study aims to identify the traffic and transport problems in Newbury, and to explore options for solving them. The last few years have seen major changes in the government's approach to transport policy-making, locally and nationally. In particular:

The 'demand management approach'[1] used in this report addresses the basic need to travel, and is now an essential and accepted ingredient in the transport planning process. Neither the 1988 Public Inquiry, nor the 1995 Highways Agency Review considered demand management options for Newbury. The local Highways Authority is committed to such policies, but believes that much of Newbury's traffic is not local. They await an analysis to discover exactly where Newbury traffic comes from and goes to. Such an analysis, based on the Highways Agency's own data, is presented in the study and could be used to form the basis of a transport strategy for the town.


[1] Demand management options are not the same as traffic management, which accepts demand and seeks to re-route it, make it safer, slow it down or speed it up. Demand management addresses the basic need to travel. For example:
Could some other way of travelling be used?
Could better land use planning help?
Could a business use a local supplier of goods or could people use neighbourhood shops?
This approach is now embodied in Government policy through PPG13.


The Public Inquiry into the Newbury bypass consisted of a single objective, which was "to provide a high standard route between the Midlands and Winchester and the South Coast". The road scheme was never designed specifically to solve the traffic problems of Newbury. The relief of congestion to roads in Newbury from the bypass is variable. Applying the 1989 National Road Traffic Forecasts (NRTF) to the 1988 Inquiry figures, shows that the A34 in the centre of Newbury will be back at the 'intolerable' levels of today within five to ten years of its opening. In fact, the traffic levels on the A34 when the bypass opens would be the same as those at the time of the 1988 Inquiry. No reference to this change is made in the Agency Review.

[fig: predicted return of newbury traffic to same levels despite bypass]

For the purposes of this study, we have suggested that people would want, as far as possible, a reduction in the quantity of traffic on local roads in Newbury, improved quality of the urban area with less noise and pollution, and protection of the countryside around Newbury.

Traffic Analysis

The data used for this report were obtained from the Highways Agency. This is the same dataset that was used for the review of the Newbury bypass in 1995. There have been significant changes to the road network since the traffic survey was completed, with possible effects on A34 traffic. Since 1984, many major new routes have opened, eg the western side of the M25, the M3 extension and the M40 extension past Oxford to Birmingham which links to the A34.

The data confirm that at the time of collection, (prior to the 1988 public inquiry) most of the traffic in the Newbury / Thatcham area starts there (60%) or ends there (59%). 38% both starts and ends within the area. If this analysis is extended to the immediately surrounding area, these figures rise to 78% and 67%.

Although the Highways Agency claims that considerable through traffic is travelling along the A34 in Newbury, most of this is actually short or medium distance trips. According to the Highways Agency figures, just 5 percent of the traffic in Newbury is long-distance through traffic from Scotland, the North, and the Midlands to the South Coast.

[pie chart:all vehicles by destination]
[pie chart: all vehicles by destination]

A Package of Alternative Measures

A suite of 'demand management' measures would reduce traffic levels in the town far more effectively than a bypass. These measures should be adopted in combination as the purpose of a 'package' approach is that all its elements are mutually supportive. A 'package' approach could include, for example: The removal of heavy freight from the A34 in Newbury has a high priority in any strategy, to relieve the town of traffic congestion. The current rail service from Southampton, which serves the Midlands, the North West and the North, gives potential to further use of rail freight.

Newbury is facing further, significant increases in traffic, with or without the bypass. Many of the policies and measures proposed here will have to be implemented if future congestion is to be avoided.

It is important to make the reduction of traffic part of a positive process at the local level. This involves public participation and education. Two schemes illustrate this point: 'Headstart' and 'Travelwise'.


It is difficult to compare the costs of this package of measures directly with a 'bypass' (� 75 million), because the objectives are very different. Targeting expenditure directly at the major traffic flows, as these demand management measures do, is likely to be far more cost effective. Estimates of the costs of these various measures are made in the report.


  1. There is a wide range of opportunities for providing alternatives to traffic congestion in Newbury, whilst maintaining accessibility and reducing motorised traffic.

  2. None of these opportunities requires a second bypass as an essential prerequisite.

  3. The effects of local measures will be influential and cost effective, given the large proportion of local and regional traffic contributing to the present congestion.

  4. Considering the large bypass expenditure, it would be judicious to implement a package of lower cost measures and test how effective they were.

  5. Given the flexibility and low cost of these measures, there is a strong case for proceeding with many of them, without further modelling, and switch the resources to monitoring results instead.

  6. The pattern of long distance traffic may have changed due to the opening of other major road schemes. The bypass should not proceed without a thorough review, including new origins and destinations data and a traffic suppression / generation test, in line with Government Guidance.

  7. Final conclusions on the adequacy of the Highways Agency Review cannot be made because they refused to supply basic information which should have been publically available. The Agency failed completely to update the origins and destinations data.

  8. Any proposals or revised proposals should be based on clear objectives with widespread participation of the public, local transport providers and local business

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