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Stop the Birmingham Northern Relief Road
BNRR/Friends of the Earth target banks
by Thomas Oppenkowski 21 February 2000
Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigners targeted banks in the city centre on Saturday, February 19th to protest against the financial backing by a consortium of British, Japanese and American banks to build the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (BNRR).
The action involved FOE campaigners erecting a toll booth and barrier in front of the Halifax on New Street and handing out "tickets" to those visiting the bank, as well as to passers by.
Midland Expressway Limited (MEL), the prospective operators of the £700 million road, are seeking funding exclusively from the private sector. This is more than double of the original estimate.
The construction costs will be shifted to the users since the new road will be a private toll road.
Andy Pryke, of Birmingham FOE, explained that the BNRR would cut through two sites of special scientific interest, the Chasewater Heath and Blythe Valley. He said: "This doesn't generate new investments, but moves it around from the inner city to the green belt."
Andy Pryke explained that MEL is owned by Macquairie Bank of Australia and Autostrada of Italy, the latter of which run the only profitable private toll road in Europe, a link between FIAT factories in Italy. Another Autostrada toll road in the USA has allegedly gone bankrupt recently.
Friends of the Earth claim that the BNRR will take money out of the city and into the green belt, which contradicts government plans to rejuvenate inner cities. FOE also state that the traffic congestion problem will not be solved, but merely shift gridlocks around the region back onto the M6, M5 and M42.
Brett Rehling, Transport Campaigner for Birmingham FOE said: "Not only do banks risk their customers' money, but road users will find they are paying good money just to shuffle traffic jams around. When you add in the destruction of 27 miles of greenbelt, everyone loses."
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