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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



  80. In this report, in the 10 Year Plan that we have got before us; there was, but it is not now, because it is not your responsibility?
  (Mr Rickett) No, no; the 10 Year Plan talked about increasing the proportion of water-borne freight, it talked about the potential for increased traffic on the larger navigable rivers and canals and on the tidal stretches of major rivers, it talked about enhancing the Freight Facilities Grant, covering inland waterways, and to extend it to short-sea shipping. And we remain responsible for administering the Freight Facilities Grant, as well as for ports and shipping policy generally; we have just to work with DEFRA on the inland waterways, that is all.


  81. I think we may have to come back to you about that too. Perhaps you would like to give us a note on how you see the way that you are working and who is doing it and what the responsibilities are and the division of responsibility?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes; sure.

Mr O'Brien

  82. Can I just ask, how far does the responsibility for inland ports stretch in your Department then?
  (Mr Rickett) We are responsible for coastal ports.

  83. Yes; how far inland do they go?
  (Mr Rickett) I do not know whether we define our responsibilities.

  84. Could we have that also included in the note?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes.


  85. Can we have that in the note?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes.

Miss McIntosh

  86. Will the Select Committee be consulted on the review of the Plan?
  (Mr Rickett) I rather welcomed this inquiry because I thought you would be giving us the benefit of your views before we completed the review, and then no doubt we will have another discussion when we have completed the review and published the results.

  87. It does seem a rather fast-moving feast, and we are being consulted on the Plan but you are reviewing the Plan as we speak.
  (Mr Rickett) Well, we are not going to reach conclusions on the review until June, July, or whenever the Spending Review is . . .

  Andrew Bennett: I would not rush.

Chris Grayling

  88. Or we are some two years in?
  (Mr Rickett) No; we are just over ten months into the spending of the Plan.

Miss McIntosh

  89. What is the status of the Multi-Modal Studies, and what regard have you had to the fact that now you have got more elderly people driving, living longer, driving more, and more women drivers on the road, and the fact that, I do not want to pre-empt your answer but the road studies will probably be completed before the rail studies, is that correct, with the Multi-Modal Studies?
  (Mr Rickett) No. The Multi-Modal Studies are multi-modal, they cover all modes.


  90. You did actually say, at one point, Multi-Modal Studies determined road projects?
  (Mr Rickett) Only that any decisions on roads are now largely determined by Multi-Modal Studies, because we have taken the view that you should look at other modal solutions before you reach a decision that a road is needed. But that does not mean that Multi-Modal Studies are only about roads, they are multi-modal.

  Miss McIntosh: Can I just turn to the evidence that you submitted in writing, whereby you say that the Department, or the Government, is not prepared to fund the poor performance of individual rail companies and the interests of their shareholders. Are you aware that, on an analysis that was given by BBC News Online, on 14 January, 2001, I believe, looking at the accounts, 18 out of the 25 Operating Companies, ten of them are facing losses to a total of £120 million?

  Chris Grayling: It is 2002.

Miss McIntosh

  91. I thought it was 2002, I stand corrected. If that is the case and if the fact that your whole Transport Plan, as the Secretary of State told the House this week, depends on over 50 per cent being financed by the private sector, what hope is there of getting these Train Companies to invest, in particular, in the new trains and the new services that we would all like to see?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes, some Train Operating Companies have obviously had a difficult year, as, indeed, has the rail industry. I think it is too early to say that the difficulties those TOCs have experienced this year are going to have a long-term impact on their subsidy requirements, there may be no impact at all, that is something that the SRA obviously will need to discuss with the companies.


  92. So that means you think this year is a one-off, is that what you are saying to us?
  (Mr Rickett) I rather hope that we are able to improve performance on the rail network and that, indeed, this year does prove to be a one-off. It is also the case that, in some cases, these Train Operating Companies are parts of larger groups, and it does not follow that the difficulties they have had on the rail side will necessarily, as I say, impact on their overall subsidy requirement; but I am aware of the position.

Miss McIntosh

  93. Chairman, assuming that the problem was more than just this year, and it has gone on, I would imagine, for 18 months, because we have had the flooding, we have had two rail disasters, we have now had also fewer people travelling on the rail, and we have now got a strike on top; assuming that it was not just to last for one year, but the question remains, Mr Rickett, what are the implications for the over 50 per cent of the private investment on which the Department's Transport Plan depends, if the rail Operating Companies are not in a position to make the investments?
  (Mr Rickett) That is a sort of hypothetical question, that says, if they need more money, they need more money. Our assessment is that it is too early to say that it will have a long-term impact on their subsidy requirement; this is something the SRA will need to continue to discuss with the Train Operating Companies.

Dr Pugh

  94. I have three questions; one general, two quite specific. You have been questioned repeatedly by members of this Committee on the realism of some of the assumptions underpinning the Plan, and, as I have listened to you, the common response has been, "We must keep this under review, we must reconsider, it is the process of review." Is there not something odd about that situation; ought you not, at this stage, be able to robustly defend the assumptions made in the Plan itself, and, if not that, be able to set quite specific interim targets, particularly for things like bus use, so you can actually identify whether or not these assumptions, at an early stage, turn out to be correct?
  (Mr Rickett) I do not think I have said that, because we are going to review the Plan, or review assumptions in it, or review targets in it, that implies that we are going to change any of them.

  95. Can I move on to a specific question then. The Plan suggests that there will be a 17 per cent increase in traffic, but a 6 per cent increase in congestion. Given those figures in the Plan, what do you suppose is going to happen to the traffic; are people going to make fewer journeys, are they going to be more spread out, or what? The national traffic is increasing by 17 per cent.
  (Mr Rickett) Yes; as I said at the beginning, we are forecasting a 17 per cent increase in traffic. The Plan involves additions to road capacity, which clearly has an impact on congestion; it involves improvements in public transport, which will take passengers off the road; it involves some traffic restraint measures of the kind we were discussing, the local congestion charges and the workplace parking measures, and so on; and these have the effect of improving congestion, despite increases in traffic.

  96. So you are assuming people will spend less time travelling, they will get to their destination more quickly?
  (Mr Rickett) The reduction in congestion on the national road network implies some small saving in time.

  97. A final question; do you think congestion can be measured with precision?
  (Mr Rickett) Phil Goodwin, who is sitting over there, has written a very interesting critique of our measure of congestion; the measure we have used is measurable, it is forecastable, it bears some relationship to what road users say they think congestion is, which has something to do with time lost. Road users also tend to go on about the variability and unpredictability of road journeys as being an important feature of congestion. We are going to go on using our measure, but we are perfectly open to suggestions that we should use other indicators to ensure that we properly capture the objective.

  Chairman: (You can ?) always review those along with the other reviews.

Andrew Bennett

  98. You told us that 1.5 per cent of national congestion reduction was going to come from the local charging schemes; where is the rest of it coming from?
  (Mr Rickett) There is a table in the Background Analysis which will give the answer, or at least the only answer I can give, to that, on page 32, in Figure 16, which shows the contributions of the various parts of the Spending Plan to reducing congestion. Because you just cannot simply add them all up and get to the number, because these are not additive measures, if you add two together you do not get twice the effect, as it were, you may get multiples of the effect. What this table does is it shows you what happens if you do not do certain parts of the Plan, so it shows you how much of the reduction in congestion you lose if you do not do that part of the Plan. And that, I think, is probably the only analysis I can give you at this stage.

  99. So if the Government's plans for urban regeneration do not work, how does that affect congestion?
  (Mr Rickett) I am not at all sure. Sorry; if you mean the Government's policy of trying to contain the spread of development and redevelop brownfield land in inner cities,—

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 11 March 2002