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Ministers Urged to Switch Investment from Road-Building to Broadband


The climate change adviser to the UK government is calling for a switch from investment in road-building, to broadband.

The government has planned to invest £28bn in the building of new roads across the UK in order to ease congestion.

However, the Committee on Climate Change says it could be much better for the economy to invest in fibre optics - as well as it being cheaper and better for the environment.

The government’s plans for building roads assume a 1% yearly growth in demand for travel. However, the head of the AA recently forecasted a fall in transport demand as people would not fully return to their previous travel habits after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, told BBC News: “The government mustn’t be investing in anything likely to increase carbon emissions. I expect that video conferencing will become the new normal, and we won’t return to travelling the way we did.

“I would spend the roads budget on fibre. You would get a huge return to the economy with people having better connections.

“You would save people’s time and increase their productivity”.

The committee has also consulted with a psychologist with regard to whether the public is ready to accept such a drastic change in their lives:

“At first, people are resistant to the changes,” said Stark. “But then they get used to the new situation, they see the benefits, and they can be reluctant to change back again because they see the drawbacks of the way things were.

“A lot of people will say ‘I don’t want to do that much travelling in the future’”.

According to Stark, the longer the lockdown goes on, the more the change is likely to stick.

Mr Stark also warned that the government should not give unconditional bailouts to fossil fuels struggling with the current situation:

“If we were in the world of bailouts, then one thing to consider now is what strings might be attached to bailout packages. For dirty industry there might be (environmental) strings. That could be a key condition for the aviation sector, for instance”.

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: "Roads are crucial for connecting people, places and businesses, with freight logistics businesses depending on the road network working effectively to get goods in the right places.

"But we recognise that broadband is also crucial, and that is why at Budget we set out a record commitment of £5bn to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband. Obviously we are focused on limiting the short-term health and economic effects of coronavirus, but we are still committed to delivering on our climate change targets”.

Harry Pererra
Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in journalism and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and the environemtn. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.

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