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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 392 - 399)




  392. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. Can I ask you to introduce yourselves?
  (Mr Nutt) I am Don Nutt, Chairman of the Institute of Logistics and Transport's Special Interest Group on Transport Planning.
  (Mr Harris) I am Jon Harris, Director of Policies at the Institute of Logistics and Transport.
  (Mr Coates) I am Jim Coates. I am a member of the Policies Committee of the Institute and I currently chair its Road Capacity and Charging Working Party.

  393. Can I apologise to all three of you in advance because of the vagaries of parliamentary life. Perhaps we can begin and see how we go on. Did any of you want to say anything to open your batting?
  (Mr Harris) Thank you. Very briefly, as you will see from our submission, it was quite broad and overarching. However, some of the key issues which have come out are that we are pleased, for example, that the Strategic Rail Authority's Plan has addressed some of the rail issues that we brought to your attention. More importantly, we feel that there is some stress to be put first on the congestion charging issue, and perhaps even more so on the skills evidence that we have recently collected and the solutions to the skills shortages. Thank you very much.

  394. Thank you. 72 per cent of the respondents to your survey do not believe that the balance of policies in the 10 Year Plan is right, but the Transport White Paper received widespread support from the profession. Therefore, what are the main differences?
  (Mr Nutt) The main differences are in relation to the policy emphases that people see as being necessary. You will see that in our report people were responding very much that they felt that land-use and supply-side change, and behaviour change were needed in considerable degree from the local authorities, but there were some inconsistencies in whether or not they thought the local authorities were going to introduce those.

  395. Those were the main differences, you think?
  (Mr Nutt) Those were the key differences certainly in the survey.

  396. Do you believe that the Government's message of promoting choice rather than change of behaviour is too weak?
  (Mr Nutt) I think that behaviour change as an opportunity perhaps is a policy area that has not been exploited enough in the 10 Year Plan.

  397. From the sense that they have not thought about it enough, or that they have not given sufficient leadership?
  (Mr Nutt) I think it remains a policy area that almost dare not speak its name. It is an area that has begun to be explored. It covers a range of policy interventions that certainly have not been explored to a great degree in research terms. There is certainly evidence that it could play a greater part and certainly it does not figure very strongly in the 10 Year Plan at the present time.
  (Mr Coates) Perhaps I could come in here. The Institute and its predecessor institute, the Chartered Institute of Transport, have produced a series of reports in which we have reviewed the evidence on changes in behaviour. We have always been driven to the conclusion that simply offering people a choice is not necessarily going to get them out of their car and onto the bus, and that the quality of the alternative choice has to be much better than it is now. You need a two-pronged attack in which to make public transport very, very much better so that car-owning families will want to use it, but we are all so impatient, we do what is convenient for us. If, for wider social reasons, we want to persuade people to make shorter journeys or use their cars less, then it is perfectly sensible to try to use pricing to bring that about, which is not used at the moment. One figure that perhaps I can mention quickly is that the Department commissioned recently a report by the Institute for Transport Studies in Leeds on the social and economic costs of road use. The striking thing that emerges from that is the huge variations. The cost to society of using a car on a busy motorway in a city is 25 times higher than using it on a relatively uncongested rural road, and yet we charge people the same for both. It is an economically crazy arrangement that we start from. Moving from that to something different is politically very difficult and runs up against the sorts of difficulties Mr Dawson has been mentioning. So probably one has to tackle this gradually. Our land-use patterns have adjusted themselves to the system we have. We cannot suddenly change and force people to make inconvenient journeys and change where they live and work, but one ought to make a start. If we could start using pricing in the sort of way the Government are suggesting for lorries, then gradually extend it, we might begin to get used to it and we might end up with a more rational system which could give us an extra tool to deal with congestion, because we do not really believe that the other measures in the Plan are going to reduce congestion by the amount the Plan thinks they will.

  398. So if you wanted to get where the 10 Year Plan finishes up, you would not begin from here?
  (Mr Coates) We have to begin from here, because that is where we are.

  Chairman: Anyway I think we have got the idea. Mrs Ellman.

Mrs Ellman

  399. How serious are the shortages of skills in local authorities to deliver the Plan?
  (Mr Harris) Perhaps I can start. Taking the survey that we carried out, the beauty of it, if you like, was that we actually went straight to the professionals. Because we were not asking them on behalf of their organisation, we were getting 100 per cent pure views from people at the cutting edge. When you talk about local authorities, of course, we also have to consider those people who are working for consultancies, but within a local authority setting, so in effect they are working for political masters but contractually they are slightly different. The skills set that we are most concerned about are project management because of the ability to link together different stages of the chain to get an effective scheme on the ground, effective public consultation and public participation. Going back to the points raised earlier about behaviour change, there is a certain specialist skill involved in actually trying to sell these concepts and work with people at a grass-roots level. Alongside that, there is the technical training need. Many people have had a grounding within a civil engineering, transport planning or land-use planning discipline, but the skills sets needed specifically to deliver the 10 Year Plan are somewhat different. I do not know if you want to add to that, Don.
  (Mr Nutt) I would simply add that I think we have heard earlier on about perhaps a delay in the delivery of some of the larger schemes. As I was saying earlier on, there is evidence around that some of the policy interventions capable of delivering some of the behaviour change can work at a rather faster pace, so it may well be that the broader nature of some of the activity that is wanted in the early years in the 10 Year Plan ought to come through.

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