Boris Johnson’s government will reconsider its £ 27 billion road investment plan due to “fundamental” changes in travel patterns brought on by the Covid pandemic, the Transport Secretary said.

Grant Shapps said it was right to reconsider the road network expansion strategy – arguing that the increase in working from home and online shopping was unlikely to be “completely reversed” even if the economy is recovering from blockages.

“Over the past eighteen months fundamental changes have taken place in commuting, shopping and business travel,” the minister said in a written statement on Thursday.

Mr Shapps added: ‘The trends already underway in working from home, online shopping and video conferencing, which had all reduced travel rates even before the pandemic, have increased dramatically and appear unlikely to reverse. completely. “

The government will now review its National Policy Statement (NPS) for major highway projects “in light” of these commuting and shopping trends, Shapps said.

The move was greeted with caution by climate activists who had demanded that the government’s “outdated” road strategy be updated to reflect commitments to tackle climate change.

Transport Action Network had accused the Department of Transport (DfT) of ignoring the Paris Agreement, which commits the UK to taking action to limit global warming to well below 2C.

But the group is angry that the policy of major road projects is not suspended while the overhaul announced by Mr Shapps takes place. The transport secretary said the review would be completed “no later than spring 2023”.

Chris Todd, Director of Transport Network Action, said: “We have been asking Grant Shapps to reset the National Roads Policy for almost a year and a half. Having finally accepted the inevitable, he still struggles as the planet burns.

Mr. Todd added, “For the next two years, the existing policy… will remain in effect. It is simply unacceptable to refuse to suspend this.

“We need a moratorium on all road construction until such a review is completed. Quite simply, we need the Department of Transport to stop making it worse. “

Caroline Russell, Green Party transportation spokesperson, said: “The pandemic has changed ways of working, shopping and traveling and it is good that the government has recognized this in its decision to review plans for £ 27bn road construction – but they should halt plans immediately rather than wait to complete their review.

Despite the announced review, the government has made it clear that it has not committed to reducing the £ 27 billion budgeted for road construction and renewal under its Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2 ), defined in 2020.

Transport Action Network recently launched a lawsuit against the initiation of RIS2 spending on climate grounds. After a High Court hearing in June, the judgment is expected in a few weeks.

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