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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 118)

WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002

WILLY RICKETT AND LUCY ROBINSON

  100. Encourage people to live closer to their work and to their shopping and to their leisure?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes; well, as you will see by looking at the table, we have not made an analysis of what happens if that assumption does not turn out to be right. I could ask my modellers whether their model is now capable of giving you that answer. We certainly sought to work into the Plan Analysis some estimate of what the changes in planning policy for housing, which imply concentrating housing on redeveloped land, what effect that would have on travel patterns and on congestion.

  101. What happens if we do not get more rail freight?
  (Mr Rickett) If we do not implement the Plan provisions on rail freight then we lose about 2.5 per cent of the congestion reduction in the Plan.

  102. What about the present problems with the Channel Tunnel, does that have any significant impact; it is certainly cutting the amount of long-distance freight travel?
  (Mr Rickett) (A) I hope we can sort them out; and (b), if I remember rightly, the SRA says that, of the 80 per cent forecast increase in rail freight, about 5 percentage points of that comes from the Channel Tunnel. So it is not an enormous part of the 80 per cent, but I hope we will have sorted it.

Chairman

  103. Mr Rickett, this is a policy document, and it makes a number of assumptions, some of which we find difficult to understand, but that is undoubtedly a fault on our part; some of which seemed to depend on a number of variables which will not only be reviewed during the period of the ten years but appeared to be in play already. Now can I ask you, do you accept that this Plan benefits people broadly in line with their share of total distance travelled; which means, in effect, the richest of the country, because they travel the furthest distances, in most cases, will benefit far more than those at the bottom of the scale, who will not benefit to the same degree and in the same manner?
  (Mr Rickett) I would not disagree with the thought that you are putting forward.

  104. Not my thought, Mr Rickett, let me quote to you.
  (Mr Rickett) There is not quite the extreme language, if I might put it that way.

  105. Let me quote to you what you say.
  (Mr Rickett) We recognise this is a Plan about improving transport for those who use it most, and therefore it tends to benefit the better-off, which is why we have the Social Exclusion Unit helping us with a study on Transport and Social Exclusion, so that we can address that issue. And I hope that we will be able to work the conclusions of that study into the revised Plan.

  106. So when we are actually assuming, although it is not possible to model the distributional impacts, nevertheless, simple assessment suggests all income groups benefit, and then it goes on to say those, in effect, who do the most travel get the greatest benefit; although there you actually say that, your reliance on assisting the incomes of the lower quartile incomes is on the Social Exclusion Unit?
  (Mr Rickett) No; there are plenty of measures within the Plan that will benefit lower income groups, and measures such as the Urban Bus Challenge, that we have introduced, for instance, are targeted specifically at those groups. All I am saying is that we did recognise that we needed to do more on that, and that is the purpose of the Social Exclusion Unit's study.

  107. When you were doing the cost-effective analysis, why did you not use reductions in passenger hours, you used average, annual, centrally-funded spend for every vehicle hour saved; why did you not talk about passenger hours?
  (Mr Rickett) We were trying to assess the relative value for money of different measures in tackling congestion, which is why we talked about pounds per vehicle hour saved. We then go on to point out, in the next column of that table, what the other potential benefits of these measures are. And, certainly, when we were making our decisions about allocating spending to the different modes, we did not look just at pounds per vehicle hour saved, we tried to look at a wider measure of value for money that covers pollution, congestion and, indeed, all the cost/benefit analysis. That is the allocation of resource at a high level. The actual projects and schemes that will be brought forward under this Plan will, of course, all be subject to their own value for money analysis.

  108. How long will it be before you do a review of your Plan, Mr Rickett?
  (Mr Rickett) We are engaged in a review, as you know.

  109. So, we have published the Plan, we are now doing a review. Will you make sure that the Lord Birt sees that review before he takes any decisions?
  (Mr Rickett) Yes. He is working closely with us, we are working closely with him, so we are sharing. I would not want to duplicate things.

  110. How many meetings have you had with the Lord Birt?
  (Mr Rickett) Oh, goodness, I see Lord Birt almost every week.

  111. Every week; gosh.
  (Mr Rickett) There is a formal steering group for his study, which I sit on; but I am in regular contact with his team.

  112. Who is represented on the formal steering group?
  (Mr Rickett) As you might expect, at least the Department, the Treasury and the team itself; but, you know.

  Chairman: No, I do not know; that is actually why I was asking. I have difficulty understanding this.

Mrs Ellman

  113. Can I just clarify; does this mean that Lord Birt is actually involved in the review of this Plan, and that his efforts are not simply confined to beyond the Plan time?
  (Mr Rickett) No. We are carrying out the review of the Plan, we are responsible for that.

  114. But you are talking to him about it, that review of the Plan?
  (Mr Rickett) Because, if he is looking at 2010 to 2020, that is likely to provide some information that will be useful to us in looking out to 2010.

  Mrs Ellman: But is it not working the other way on; surely, in all these regular meetings you are having, Lord Birt has some comment to make on the review that is going on now? Does he never comment on anything you are looking at now?

Chairman

  115. He never questions your assumptions, as we do, in a vulgar manner?
  (Mr Rickett) As I say, he is looking at a long-term, unconstrained, blue-skies study of what we might be able to achieve between 2010 and 2020. The review of the Plan is a detailed review that will lead to decisions in the Spending Review.

  Mrs Ellman: But, surely, Lord Birt's view, all these years ahead, must see that there is some relevance of these blue skies ahead in what is going to happen in the next ten years; are you telling me he has no view on that time?

Chairman

  116. What has he got to say about the clouds, before we get to the blue sky?
  (Mr Rickett) Insofar as his review has any implications for our 10 Year Plan then we will take account of them.

  117. Well, on that helpful note, Mr Rickett, I think I must thank you most warmly.
  (Mr Rickett) Thank you.

  118. I think we all feel we are quite clear now about what the Plan encapsulates.
  (Mr Rickett) Good.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.





 
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