Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



Andrew Bennett

  60. Do you know of any fares outside London; can you give us any examples of fares outside London?
  (Mr Rickett) You want details of particular fares outside London?

  61. Do you happen to know any of them?
  (Mr Rickett) Do I happen to know them?

  62. Yes?
  (Mr Rickett) Well, I know what I pay to go to certain parts of the country, yes.

  63. Would you like to give us an example?
  (Mr Rickett) I am not sure what it would add, if I told you the fare to Ipswich, or Saxmundham, or Leeds, or wherever. But if you want further information, the information that the Department has had on historical movements in fares, particularly the unregulated fares, then I am sure we can provide it for you, and why we made that assumption in the 10 Year Plan.

Mrs Ellman

  64. So you have learned no lessons from what has gone wrong?
  (Mr Rickett) As I say, I think it is too early to conclude, after ten months, that the assumption that we made in the Plan is wrong.

  65. At what point in your Plan will you be assessing what is actually happening on the ground?
  (Mr Rickett) We have said, publicly, that we will review the Plan in line with every Spending Review, which implies every other year.


  66. We have got a problem, you see, Mr Rickett. On the one hand, you say to us, "These are assumptions, and, of course, we must have the right to change the models," which is not only sensible but acceptable; but then we are looking at a Plan that makes a number of very firm assumptions. It says, for example, you have not made an assumption about the timing of the introduction of local charging plans, but you have assumed £2.7 billion is going to be available because of charging schemes. Now what assumptions are we to accept, how did you arrive at that figure, because if they are all general assumptions how have you assumed that £2.7 billion will be available?
  (Mr Rickett) We made an assumption about the number of schemes that would be introduced, based on what local authorities were telling us in their Local Transport Plan submissions, and we included those assumptions in the Plan. Clearly, local congestion charging schemes we envisaged would be introduced towards the latter part of the period, partly—

  67. On the basis of the money that you think you have made available through Local Transport Plans already?
  (Mr Rickett) Partly because we had only just introduced the powers, and partly because we wanted to see improvements in public transport before they introduced congestion charging. So those schemes are all back-end-loaded, in the Plan. It is an assumption; if that assumption looks to be wrong then we will change the assumptions in the Plan. I have to say that the effects of local congestion charging schemes are largely local and they will fall on local authorities, and it will be, in the first place, for them to decide.

  68. Yes; but David Begg, for example, who is the Chairman of your Commission for Integrated Transport, said that, with a fair wind, London, Bristol and Leeds would have introduced major road user charging schemes by 2010, and only Nottingham would have a workplace parking levy scheme. Now that, frankly, does not seem to fit in with the figures in your assumptions, does it?
  (Mr Rickett) We have 35 authorities in the Charging Development Partnership, and at the time all those authorities were expressing some interest, but differing degrees of interest, in introducing these schemes.

  69. But there is a bit of a gap between that and the 20 charging schemes that you appear to be assuming will be on stream?
  (Mr Rickett) As I say, there were 35 authorities in the Partnership, they were the people who were expressing an interest in introducing it; it was against that background that we assumed eight congestion charging schemes and 12 workplace parking levies. As I said, if those schemes do not go ahead, the impact will be primarily local; and I am not sure that we would necessarily adjust our Plan, we are not necessarily going to remove the incentives on local authorities to introduce such schemes by saying that if they do not go ahead we will provide them with lots more money, for instance.

  70. I see. It would knock hell out of the whole of your Plan, but you would not be too unduly worried?
  (Mr Rickett) No, it would not, no. The effect of those schemes was to account for, the Plan said that there might be a 22 percentage point reduction in congestion across the road network as a whole, turning a 15 per cent forecast increase into a 6 per cent reduction, and about 1.5 percentage points of that was due to the local congestion charging scheme; so, at a national level, the impact is not very great. It is at a local level that local authorities lose the reduction in congestion, they lose the improvement in bus services that that would provide, they lose the incentives to walk and cycle and use public transport that the charges would create, and they lose the revenue to invest in public transport.

  71. But that would not really affect the overall Plan, that would only affect all these little local authorities?
  (Mr Rickett) No, it would have significant effects on the analysis that we did, it would have significant effects in the areas where these schemes were not introduced. What I am saying is, where does it leave you, if you change the assumption.

  72. I think we are still trying to work out what the assumptions were?
  (Mr Rickett) The assumptions were that eight major cities would introduce congestion charging schemes, and another 12 would introduce workplace parking levies.

  73. And you think that is realistic?
  (Mr Rickett) We are reviewing the Plan, we will review that assumption. It was realistic at the time because we had 35 authorities expressing an interest.

Andrew Bennett

  74. Is it realistic now then?
  (Mr Rickett) There must be some question as to whether we will get that level. Authorities no doubt are waiting to see what will happen in London. That is understandable. If it takes three to four years to introduce a local congestion charging scheme then we still have some time before we have to say, "This assumption is no longer realistic." We will be reviewing it, in the review, I am not going to reach a conclusion here. I understand your view; it is something that we will...


  75. I am glad that you get the general impression I understand that; not altogether a satisfactory reply, Mr Rickett?
  (Mr Rickett) No, I got the impression that you do not agree with the assumptions in the Plan; that is the impression I got.

  76. If I knew what the assumptions were; I am actually just asking questions. Once I am sure that I know what your assumptions are, why you reached them and whether they are realistic then I will be very happy to tell you whether I am pleased with them or not, and you will not need to ask a second time.
  (Mr Rickett) I thought I had answered it, but you said be short, so I am not going to repeat it.

  Chairman: No, no; okay.

Mr O'Brien

  77. Mr Rickett, in the 10 Year Plan provision was made for inclusion into the transport arrangements for inland waterways and the maritime ports. Now that they have been transferred away from your Department, are they a feature in the 10 Year Plan that we are talking about now?
  (Mr Rickett) It is the responsibility of the British Waterways Board for canals, not necessarily all of the navigable and coastal waterways, that we are talking about. I do not see a problem in co-operating with DEFRA in delivering what we envisaged in the Plan; they have as much interest in making use of the transport capabilities of canals as we would, partly because, if you can shift traffic off roads, or wherever, onto waterways then that, presumably, has some environmental benefit.

  78. So how do you co-ordinate then with DEFRA and your Department; who are the link people?
  (Mr Rickett) In the way that we work with all sorts of other people, as we were discussing earlier, at the beginning of this session. We work with them just as we work with the Forward Strategy Unit, or the Treasury, or anybody else. It helps that they used to be part of the Department, because we know all the people, and so that makes it easier. But I do not see a problem.

  79. Tell me how it makes it easier then, because here we are looking at transport, the 10 Year Plan, and there is no reference whatsoever to waterways; you did say you are responsible for maritime ports, in your opening remarks, and so how far—
  (Mr Rickett) Sorry; no reference where?

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