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Consultants clash over effects of 'soft' engineering on traffic

TRANSPORT OFFICIALS were this week caught in the middle of a furious row between consultants Halcrow and Ecologica about how much 'soft' engineering will cut car traffic.

Both consultants have examined the effects on traffic levels of measures such as teleworking, company travel plans and safe routes to school schemes over 15 years with different conclusions.

Halcrow's report for the government's multi modal studies unit estimates that such measures would cut traffic by between 4% and 8%.

But the report Multi Modal Studies: Soft Factors Likely to Affect Travel Demand has been criticised by Ecologica. Its own report for sustainable transport group South West Transport Activists Round Table claims that such measures could cut traffic by up to 18%.

Ecologica's report, seen by NCE, accuses Halcrow of being 'deliberately sceptical'.

'Halcrow reaches its conclusions on the likely effects of soft measures by factoring in every possible negative, thereby arriving at a minimum expectation, which may be termed robust, ' Ecologica claims.

'It would seem perverse to base an entire multi modal study (MMS) strategy on a worst case assumption on the performance of all soft factors, especially if this locks the strategy into major road investment.'

Halcrow director David Bayliss hit back at the criticism and said he stood by his firm's report. He claimed that some of Ecologica's figures for cutting road traffic were 'implausibly high'.

'We aren't saying you couldn't achieve more but that anything above and beyond a certain level is aspirational. As professionals we have to be realistic, ' said Bayliss.

A spokesman from the government's multi modal studies unit told NCE this week that it would review its stance on 'soft' transport measures after seeing Ecologica's report.

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