An #800 million list of transport funding priorities for the West Midlands has failed public transport and brought about a return to the road-building bias of the past, environmentalists claimed.
The list of 25 schemes across the conurbation and shire counties was requested by the Government last summer as a new way of allocating funds and introducing greater local responsibility for transport priorities.
However, almost half the projects involve some form of road-building.
Critics believe the Depart-ment for Transport's insistence on a framework which utilises benefit-cost ratios led to the 12 bypasses or other road schemes winning out over bus and rail.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth are angry road projects such as the Shrewsbury Northern Relief Road, Brownhills Bypass and Longbridge Link Road have been given added weight by the priority list with no public consultation.
The Government tasked the West Midlands Regional Assembly with finalising the list and it ratified the 25 priorities at a meeting on Wednesday.
Gerald Kells, West Midlands CPRE spokesman and an assembly member said: "The prioritisation has failed public transport schemes in particular.
"The benefit-cost ratios for road schemes will always be greater because small-time savings to a large number of drivers quickly add up.
"A scheme like the Shrewsbury is of particular concern. It will be very damaging to the local landscape and will go through the old Severn river bed which is an important place for local wildlife.
"One has to question what the relevance to the overall region this scheme has.
"We appear to be returning to the idea that we can solve our problems by building roads and, of course, that simply is not the case."
Councillor Roger Phillips, leader of Herefordshire County Council and chairman of the assembly's transport partnership, refuted the criticisms.
"I think we have produced the most mature response of any of the regions. But obviously the process is ongoing."
Chris Crean, from West Midlands Friends of the Earth, said the prioritisation process had been "unaccountable and closed" because of the tight DfT timescale.
"Local authorities have been forced into a process that excludes the people who these road schemes affect and we have no information as to how the environmental impacts of these schemes were analysed.
"There is an inherent bias towards roads with benefit-cost ratios and this methodology is a way in which the Government has been able to still exert central control."
The DfT refused to comment. Both the upgrade of Birmingham New Street and extending the Midland Metro tram network are included on the priority list but, because they will eat up virtually all the available funding, cash will first be sought through the DfT's separate Transport Innovation Fund, which is tied to the introduction of road user charging. ..SUPL: