How land at the side of Yorkshire's motorways could help tackle climate change

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Stretches of land running alongside motorways and major roads could be adapted to help in the effort to help the UK meet ambitious zero-carbon targets, according to a senior transport official.

Adam Simmons, Director of Road Investment Strategies at Highways England, said there were opportunities to use the so-called 'soft estate' along the edges of the major arterial roads to tackle carbon emissions, air quality and noise issues.

The soft estate is the term used to describe the natural habitats that have evolved along the edges of motorways and trunk roads and which offer a refuge for wildlife.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
How a 'Yorkshire bypass' on the A1 could help keep long-distance traffic off the...
Highways England is responsible for administering the nation's motorways and major A-roads. Pic: PAHighways England is responsible for administering the nation's motorways and major A-roads. Pic: PA
Highways England is responsible for administering the nation's motorways and major A-roads. Pic: PA

Mr Simmonds was speaking at an online webinar organised by Transport for the North on the future of roads and described the efforts his agency was making to meet the 2050 zero-carbon target set out last year by the Government.

He said: "I know Highways England own quite a bit of land either side of our network, the so-called soft estate. I think there are opportunities to look to manage that to help with carbon sequestration, or helping with biodiversity, even tackling air quality and noise issues. And I think that deserves a lot of a lot of thought and is something that we're thinking about."

Last summer, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Simmons said that while meeting environmental targets was a focus of his agency, which operates, maintains and improves England's motorways and major A roads, there was "no one silver bullet".

He said he wanted more electric vehicles to be used in the agency's fleet and to embrace low carbon technologies on building materials like concrete. But he admitted the biggest carbon emitter on the roads were vehicles driven by the public and a partnership with government was needed to lower their emissions.

Peter Molyneux, TfN's major roads director, said the strategic transport body wanted to see people in the North use their cars less and use more sustainable ways of travelling.

He said: "However, rail schemes can take years, if not decades to come to fruition. And with that in mind, many people in the North have little option for us to use their car, even if it is to get to a rail station.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We also want to understand how people will work together in the future. Will the traditional nine to five job become more obsolete in the north, as it has already done to a certain extent in London?"

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.