Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 56 - 59)




  56. May I welcome you to the Committee and ask you to identify yourself for the record please?

  (Mr Williams) Yes. I am Roger Williams. I am a transport planning consultant, formerly the Chief Transport Planner at Oxfordshire County Council.

  57. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction?
  (Mr Williams) Just briefly. First of all thank you for inviting me. My three recommendations in my paper arise from recent experience of introducing town centre pedestrianisation schemes in Oxford and in Henley. It is clear to me from that experience that local authorities need more help from central government if they are going to deliver the sustainable transport systems and the new vision for urban living that the Urban White Paper advocates.

Mr Stevenson

  58. What lessons do you think should be learned from the problems encountered when introducing the scheme in Henley?
  (Mr Williams) The main lesson is that the people of Henley, and I suspect many other more rural market towns, are just not ready or willing to give up their cars. They see any measures which interfere with the convenience of car use as anti-car. The car restraint seems to be totally out of step with lifestyle patterns and aspirations. That is why I feel quite strongly that a focus of attack to change people's attitudes is necessarily going to have to come from central Government.

  59. That tends to fly in the face of the concept of local transport plans.
  (Mr Williams) Certainly it is bottom up and top down, but we cannot ignore the need for the top down attitude change which is essential for the public to be prepared to accept these sorts of restraints. The reason why I believe there was a very different response in Oxford to the introduction of much more restrictive measures—a 20 per cent reduction in car travel to the city centre which occurred overnight, so car drivers were heavily penalised by the pedestrianisation scheme introduced there—and the reason why the bulk of the Oxford populace did not rise up and protest, was because the Oxford people had been educated by 50 years of discussion about how to solve Oxford's transport problems. There has been passionate debate about the construction of roads to solve Oxford's problems, but the conclusion after the lengthy debate has been that road building is not a satisfactory or acceptable means of solving Oxford's transport problems. I believe that process, which has been very public—there is discussion every week in the local press—has informed local people that sustainable travel is the way forward certainly for urban areas. Henley people have not had the benefit of that debate and therefore they are not educated and do not understand the real issues.

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