Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2002
400. You could not put a number of years on
it as to how much the delay would be for this reason?
(Mr Harris) There is a key issue to that, in terms
of trying to bring in some solutions, because in preparing the
evidence we felt that we needed to steer towards some practical
solutions here. The key message that is coming from professional
bodiesbecause we did not just survey our own membersis
that unified institute action is what is needed here. There are
already examples of good practice with the Institution of Civil
Engineers Skills Working Party and through the Transport Planning
Skills Initiative, of actually trying to bring together institutes
to try to drive forward solutions. The problem that we haveand
I will give you a very clear exampleis take a highways
department that does not have the skill, for example, to deal
with a lot of transport modelling, and its technical staff need
to go on crash courses to get on with the job; they can actually
be sent on that course and return to the office and apply that
skill in the workplace. For somebody who has to gain the confidence
of good public communication, they have been, in a sense, in the
back office and now they have to deal proactively with members,
with committees, with public meetings, and potentially manage
confrontation. That skill set cannot be handed over on a blueprint,
and that will take some time. So in answer to your question, I
think it depends on the type of scheme with which we are concerned.
If the shortage for an authority, for example, is a practical
one in terms of getting something builtin other words,
the go-ahead has already been given, there is a clear way through,
everyone wants itthen it is technical skill shortage. If
we are talking about being able to get some cogent messages over
to the public, then actually you could see a potential delay,
I suppose, of perhaps one to two years on key schemes whilst these
things are sorted out.
401. Public transport is seen as essential to
city centre regeneration. Do you see any evidence that it has
been effective and will be more so in the next 10 years?
(Mr Coates) I think things are moving in the right
direction. I ought to say that as an Institute we do not have
a completely comprehensive, accurate picture of what is going
on, so what I will say is a bit impressionistic. We are worried
that things are not going ahead fast enough; that the quality
of bus partnerships are not as widespread and as radical as they
ought to be; that where there are already partnerships, perhaps
either the bus companies or the local authorities are not delivering
the things that they promised. We have been talking earlier about
the railways. One of the concerns, apart from those you have already
discussed, is that the SRA in its plan has delayed some of the
schemes that would benefit provincial cities until after 2010,
and in terms of the funds for implementing the multi-modal studies,
half of those have been transferred to rail, so what will be available
to implement the multi-modal studies towards the end of the ten-year
period is less than we had been hoping. So we think there is a
need for a more active programme, and we think that probably it
will be helpful if the Government would not just leave it to the
local authorities, but would give them a bit more active lead.
We are all waiting to see what is going to be in the regional
transport strategies. If we are lucky, that may unlock the door,
because it will remove some of the rivalry between adjacent cities
and they may all try and get on with it, but we have not seen
any regional strategies yet, and the local transport plans will
then have to be revised in the light of the regional strategies.
It is all taking a long time, and so we are a bit sceptical about
achieving the improvements that we would all like to see by 2010.
402. Do you think that in the Government's 10
Year Plan its measures for success are the right ones? It talks
a lot about numbers of increased journeys in various areas. How
would you measure success?
(Mr Coates) We agree generally with what the Government
say. My colleagues may want to add to this. We think it is right
to look at the consequences of traffic flows, rather than traffic
itself, so to have a target for reducing congestion and to be
aiming to reduce pollution rather than traffic itself, but we
think the Government have not thought out the land-use objectives
clearly enough. It would be quite possible to reduce congestion
in the centre of a city and find that you have driven a lot of
business away to other places. That will not be consistent with
the Government's policies. It would be possible to get lots of
extra passengers onto the buses, but they are not people who previously
were going by car; perhaps they were not making journeys at all,
perhaps they were previously walking or cycling. Reducing bus
fares without improving the quality could have that sort of result.
What I am saying is that in looking at the outputs, we need to
look at what lies behind them, we need to look at why the passenger
numbers have gone up and what the mode shift is, and we need to
look at the spatial distribution of journeys and how that is changing.
Unless you look at those, you may end up with something that looks
good perhaps but actually is not.
403. Can we build ourselves out of congestion?
(Mr Coates) Not in cities, I think. On the inter-urban
road network there probably is a case for building extra capacity
and dealing with bottlenecks and junctions, for instance. We do
not object to the Government's proposals for adding extra lanes
to motorways. We think you need to look at that and do a proper
cost/benefit analysis and choose the option that comes out best.
We hope that is what the multi-modal studies will show.
404. Have you done any research on this?
(Mr Coates) Not ourselves, no.
405. 88 per cent of the respondents to your
survey believe that local authorities will not be able to deliver
the measures set out in the 10 Year Plan. What aspects of the
Plan will they not achieve, in your opinion, and how important
are they to the Plan?
(Mr Nutt) I think the response of members was that
there was interest in several respects. I mentioned earlier on
the whole business of land use and whether or not local authorities'
focus was felt to be on land-use interventions. 55 per cent of
the membership were saying certainly that it should be, and that
was the top priority, but when it came to looking at whether or
not the focus would be on that set of interventions then it was
felt by only 43 per cent that it would be. With some of those
gapsperception gaps, if you like, when it came to demand
management and charging in particularthere was a response
of just 21 per cent saying that it should be part of the set of
interventions employed, but when it came to looking at the local
authority representatives in that sample just 10 per cent of the
local authority representatives responding felt that charging
would figure in the set of interventions employed. So there are
some marked differences here. Referring to the earlier question
about whether there are any grounds for optimism here in relation
to public transport, I think it is the first evidence I have found
where we look at the public transport operators, the people working
within the operations world, and in their responses to some of
these questions they felt there was rather more ground for optimism
than some of the local authority officers. I can honestly attribute
that to the fact that these days quality partnerships that we
were talking about earlier on are becoming real, in a sense, operators
are beginning to put the likely consequence of quality partnerships
into their management accounts and consider them a substantial
part of their future.
406. 55 per cent of the respondents identified
the issue of land-use. Do you think that is perhaps one of the
barriers preventing local authorities from meeting their targets?
(Mr Nutt) I think the fact that there is a gap there,
in terms of what the professionals think they should be doing
as opposed to what they will do, is an issue for us to think about.
407. Are there other barriers that are preventing
local authorities from doing that?
(Mr Nutt) The particular barriers were felt to be
public opposition to some of the policies, the lack of political
will to implement against some of that opposition and so on. I
think that is a slightly changing picture. I myself have been
involved in research a year prior to this looking at local authority
officers' responses, and there is some evidence of change in this.
The whole business of whether or not the politicians and the public
are convinced by the Plan is material to whether or not people
think it will actually be implemented.
408. Do you think there should be more input
into local plans?
(Mr Nutt) I think one important question for usone
important question that this survey has posed to us as professionals
certainly in the Instituteis whether or not the professionals
themselves believe that the Plan can be delivered in this way.
We are going to explore this in a set of regional seminars later
in the spring with the RICS, ourselves and the Transport Planning
Society. We think there may be a need certainly to promote some
of the changing ideas here in transport planning and the set of
interventions at disposal to the professionals as well. Perhaps
we are not picking up on some of these changes to the right degree.
409. Finally, can I put it to you, if charging
were one of the ways of meeting the targetand obviously
there may be reluctance on the part of local authorities or the
local councils to introducing chargesshould the Government
(Mr Coates) Perhaps I could answer that one. I think
the right strategy for a particular locality is really for that
place, because what is appropriate varies from one to another.
However, there is a point that Mr Dawson made when he was giving
evidence earlier, which is that a lot of the worst congestion
is on the radial roads on the approaches to cities, and that affects
long-distance traffic and freight traffic as well as the local
traffic. We think that the Government should at least insist that
charging is properly looked at in the multi-modal studies, and
that it is taken seriously. We think it ought to be carefully
considered in the regional strategies, and that the Government
ought to be a party to that. So I think the answer to your question
is a qualified yes, the Government ought to get involved, but
the detail of it as it applies to a particular city should really
fall to the politicians and the population of the area.
410. Where you are talking about the radial
roads into cities, where the congestion is worse and it affects
a variety of types of traffic, do you think that it is on specifically
those routes that priority can be given to public transport through
bus lanes? Where local authorities are reluctant to do this, is
there a case for the Government stepping in?
(Mr Coates) If it is one of the Highways Authority's
roads, then of course the Government has a direct involvement.
I think that otherwise I would say that the role of public transport
improvements, including bus priority, is mainly for the local
411. Can I follow that up, because one scenario,
from what you are saying, is that there could be wide variety
between cities and local authorities in achieving the Government's
10 Year Plan, could there not?
(Mr Coates) Yes.
412. Have you worked out ways in which different
cities can be monitored in their success in contributing to the
Government's 10 Year Plan?
(Mr Nutt) I think that under the arrangements of the
local transport plan the mechanisms, if you like, already exist,
in that the local authorities have to produce the annual performance
report and report, as it were, on their success in meeting their
own objectives and their targets. There is a record built up over
time, annually, as to whether or not those targets are being achieved.
If the relationship between Government and local government is
such that local government can pursue slight changes to their
strategy, then one would expect to see the variety that Jim Coates
was talking about begin to emerge over time. That is going to
depend on that relationship and the extent to which they can make
changes to their strategies.
413. Is there room for fine-tuning those targets?
(Mr Nutt) I think there is almost by definition again
in this process the opportunity for Government to have an impact
on that, in that the judgements on the amount of finance to be
put forward into a particular area can be made on the basis of
the evidence of the annual performance reports. As I understand
it, that is the basis of that process, so annually you have that
414. In 1997 the Department of Transport and
the Environment were put together. Has that worked?
(Mr Coates) I suppose that as a former civil servant
in these departments I do not think it has worked quite as strongly
as one would have expected, in the sense that I do not quite see
the land-use planning and the transport planning parts of the
agenda quite so closely entwined as I would have thought. I have
to say, I have no inside knowledge of what has been going on in
the Department. There are things like the PPG13 (Planning Policy
Guidance) which are very much about bringing transport and planning
together. That document I think was prepared jointly by the two
sides. The fact that there are no land-use planning objectives
in the 10 Year Plan gives me a worry that it did not work as well
as it might have done.
415. In terms of land-use planning, could you
really be working on a ten-year scale, or is that too short a
(Mr Harris) In terms of immediate delivery of the
10 Year Plan, professional bodies have recognised the need for
a toolbag for the professionals actually to try to move forward
some of the land-use and planning assumptions that you will find
in PPG13. Mr Nutt mentioned the Transport Development Area tool
which the RICS are developing. That is something which we are
endorsing, which we believe that professionals in the wider transport
field should use. That brings it down to a local level. It fundamentally
looks at constructing denser development around public transport
and high-volume modes, very similar to the Dutch ABC land-use
approach of placing development strategically where public transport
can well serve it. There are a number of examples which have been
developed around the country, both in terms of freight movement
and in terms of the needs of passengers and local people. Those
have been evaluated and are going into a best-practice guide.
Through the promotion and understanding of those we would hope
that perhaps over the next one or two years local authority professionals
would be able to start to integrate these approaches. In London
that approach is almost endemic anyway, but it is now actually
putting it onto a professional blueprint, and I think it is quite
416. In terms of land-use planning, it is said
that substantial numbers of people have been drawn back to live
in the centre of Manchester and Birmingham and some of the other
cities, is that right?
(Mr Harris) Yes.
417. Do we have any idea how that changes their
transport behaviour in terms of how they travel, whether they
want cars, what they want from transport?
(Mr Harris) That really depends upon the type of person
they are, because obviously you may have students
Andrew Bennett: I am asking you what type of
people move back into those city centres.
418. Do you have any evidence?
(Mr Harris) We have not done any surveys.
419. Has anybody done anything?
(Mr Harris) We can certainly check on that for you
and send you a note about that. We can certainly find that out
for you. Having said that, though, I think the important issue
is the way the receiving planning authority treats the use. For
example, one authority says, "We will encourage living above
the shop and bringing people back into the urban centres."
One may say, "We are going to be adamant that these are going
to be car-free zones, these are going to attract sustainable-thinking
people about the way they travel, and these people will be sympathetic,"
so by the planning process they are limiting. However, there are
others who may say, "In order for this to work, we will have
to have underground car parking and we will almost have to bring
in the standards that you would expect in suburban areas."