This meeting was very well attended, and stimulated a number of interesting questions and comments at the end of the presentation. William Walton began his presentation by outlining the historical context for a proposed Aberdeen bypass. The original proposals stemmed back to the earlier part of the twentieth century.
He then asserted that there are two justifications for the WPR:
(i) an explicit purpose of removing cross-city vehicular traffic, especially heavy lorries, and
(ii) an implicit purpose of opening up large development opportunities on green belt land, for example at Countesswells and Kingswells.
He stated that a road can provide a corridor of development as well as a corridor of movement.
As far as the current proposals for the WPR are concerned, the full route has yet to be determined. A definitive route has been put forward for the central and southern sections, following consultation and the outcome of cost-benefits analysis, and consultation continues on the precise route for the northern section.
William Walton asked whether the WPR is justified. A sustainable transport study carried out by Oscar Faber in 1998, which looked at 20 different transport and land use scenarios, suggested that a WPR could remove 5% of peak time traffic congestion. The study's favoured option was a combination of the WPR, park & ride, bus lanes and cycleways. However the study did not consider the effects of development proposals. It also did not evaluate the effect of park & ride without road-building, or the effects of improvements to rail. Halcrow Fox were later asked to evaluate four different scenarios:
(i) "do minimum" at £70m.
(ii) roads based at £257m.
(iii) public transport based at £135m; or
(iv) fully integrated transport solution at £247m.
The favoured option was the fully integrated transport solution.
The development of the WPR has the backing of many, including the local authorities, the business community, the freight haulage industry, developers and the local press. William Walton believes that the WPR has, to some extent, become a taboo subject in that dissent is not invited and there is a presumption that the project is going ahead. However, a number of practical issues require to be addressed, including:- planning permission, compulsory purchase orders and side road orders. And, perhaps most importantly, the Scottish Executive has not yet committed funding towards building the road.
In conclusion, he questioned whether there is a need for the WPR, and whether it would reduce city-centre congestion or simply create additional trips associated with new development along the route.
Report by Marion Mackay.
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