Letter: Tunnel delay good for democracy

Ironically-titled ‘People’s Transport Champion’ Stan Smith’s claim (‘Web Appeal Blasts Tyne Tunnel Delay’, 7th Sept) that a delay to the proposed road tunnel would ‘create more damage to the environment’ shows ignorance of the environmental issues surrounding car use, and an inability to imagine sustainable alternatives.

Engines running in tunnel queues can be solved simply by obliging waiting drivers to turn off their engines when the tunnel traffic lights turn red, as in some areas of Germany and Switzerland.  This would slash idling engine emissions at a stroke, and cost nothing.  It also costs £180 million less than a new road tunnel, and would reduce drivers’ fuel bills.

However, this ignores the urgent need to move people away from car use and on to public transport.  The Inspector who passed judgement on the new Tyne Tunnel inquiry acknowledged that the proposed tunnel would fail to meet this basic objective.

Instead of cynically branding Bryan Atkinson’s personal appeal action a ‘legal loophole’, Mr Smith should welcome citizens who actively participate in the legal and democratic process; the law is a key part of democracy.  As an astute politician and campaigner Mr Smith would no doubt use the same methods if it meant protecting the interests of drivers.

If we had more citizens who were willing to scrutinise and call to account those who claim to represent us we would have a more open and inclusive society that would demand a better and sustainable future for us all.

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