Examination of Witnesses (Questions 499
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
Chairman: Before we start, would members
of the Committee declare their interests please?
(Mr Stevenson): Member of the Transport
and General Workers' Union.
Chairman: Member of the Rail, Maritime
and Transport Trade Union.
(Mrs Ellman): Member of the Transport and General
(Miss McIntosh): Interests in BA, BAA, Eurotunnel,
Railtrack, First Group and the RSM.
499. Gentlemen, thank you for coming to see
us this afternoon. Will you identify yourselves for the record?
(Mr Matthews) Tim Matthews, Chief Executive, Highways
(Mr York) David York, Operations Director, Highways
500. Thank you very much. Could I ask you if
you have something you would like to say to us first, Mr Matthews?
(Mr Matthews) No, thank you, Chairman.
501. Why do roads expect to attract such a small
contribution from the private sector compared to rail?
(Mr Matthews) I do not know that the comparison is
one that I am particularly concerned with. The decision that we
should have a target of something of the order of 25 per cent
private investments on major schemes
502. Perhaps I could help you. The source is
the 10 Year Plan. It is in table A3, page 99. It points out that
public investment expenditure for strategic roads is £13.6
billion, public investment expenditure for rail is £14.7
billion. Then we come to private investment for roads, £2.6
billion; private investment for rail, £34.3 billion. You
do not find those figures fairly interesting?
(Mr Matthews) What I find interesting and compelling
is the figure of 25 per cent for the road network which was the
view taken at the time about what was feasible and deliverable
as far as the strategic road network was concerned.
503. Do you interpret this as being that there
is a much higher political commitment to roads and to road schemes
and that you cannot get private money into roads without road
(Mr Matthews) No, I do not make that interpretation.
The interpretation I made was that it was a measured judgement
about the level of private finance and the number of schemes that
would be started during the 10 year period on the roads. I do
not particularly draw any conclusion
504. So is there a case for trunk road pricing,
because then you would have the funds to reimburse private investors,
would you not?
(Mr Matthews) That is not a judgement for the Agency
to make. The targets we have been set are not predicated on any
motorway or inter-urban road charging.
505. Then let me ask you are you in favour of
trunk road pricing?
(Mr Matthews) Personally I think it would certainly
contribute towards congestion.
506. It would contribute towards congestion?
I do not think you mean that quite.
(Mr Matthews) Sorry; it would contribute towards the
target of reducing congestion. That is if you look at it as a
rather abstract economic model. I think there are much wider policy
and social implications about introducing charging which it is
not really the Agency's remit to have a view on.
507. So you have not for any reason advised
Her Majesty's Government that you would think this was a sensible
policy to follow?
(Mr Matthews) No.
508. Could I ask about the targets set in the
10 Year Plan? I am particularly interested in your 10 Year National
Road Strategy which is a very interesting document. Perhaps I
can pick one or two questions out of this. The first is for clarification.
In the congestion section it talks about reduction of congestion
on inter-urban trunk roads to five per cent below current levels.
Of course the target set in the Plan is six per cent. Could you
(Mr Matthews) The target of six per cent was across
all roads as I understand it. The target for the inter-urban network
was five per cent.
509. Is that five per cent five-sixths of the
six per cent, leaving one per cent to be found elsewhere?
(Mr Matthews) No. It is five per cent reduction in
the congestion experienced on the motorways and inter-urban roads.
510. As part of that?
(Mr Matthews) So there will be a slightly different
511. The 10 Year Plan, again referring to the
section dealing with congestionand I would like to ask
you a couple of questions to get some handle on how progress has
been madeyou say that by 2002 you intend to complete 51
early action schemes in your 10 Year Plan. Has that been done
or is it being done?
(Mr Matthews) It will be done within the year 2002/2003,
512. My second question, again to get some feeling
on progress, is that you say that by 2005 you intend to start
all 21 major schemes in the target programme of improvements.
Is that on course?
(Mr Matthews) That section refers to the 21 that were
deliberately aimed at achieving reductions in congestion, and
yes, we are.
Mr Stevenson: Could I, Mrs Dunwoody, turn to
the section dealing with having a careful balance on page 21?
Chairman: The Highways Agency Strategic Roads
Report 2010, page 21.
513. Again a couple of questions to, I hope,
make the point. This deals with partnership in many ways. Again,
in 2002 improved processes to reduce to five to seven years the
time for new schemes with no reduction in consultation. Is that
going to happen this year?
(Mr Matthews) Yes, and in November last year we published
a new document called Our Strategy for Procurement which
set out on a variety of fronts how we intended to improve the
way in which we procure major road schemes and also how we intend
along the way to improve the process of consultation so that they
are hopefully less confrontational processes than they might have
been in the past.
514. Does that include the planning process?
(Mr Matthews) That does not presume any changes to
the current legislative framework for the planning process.
515. So the Government's consultation document
on major infrastructure schemes you have not taken into account
when you talk about reducing to between five and seven years this
(Mr Matthews) That is right, because the assumption
is that other than for very large new road schemes for which there
is no current provision in the Plan those new provisions would
not impact on the Highways Agency schemes.
516. There is no provision in the Plan for new
(Mr Matthews) There is no provision for major new
roads. The provision in the Plan is for a combination of widening
of existing roads, bypasses and major junction improvements.
517. My last question concerns the commitment
to develop and operate partnerships, financial initiatives with
the private sector, so that the target, as you have explained
to us, of 25 per cent funding for current and new major schemes
is achieved. At the moment you do not achieve that. That is a
target, is it not, the 25 per cent, and yet you talk about "current
schemes". Could you clarify that for us please?
(Mr Matthews) The target is to achieve that over a
10 year period and there are current schemes already either in
work or in negotiation which will contribute to that 25 per cent.
518. Birmingham North Relief?
(Mr Matthews) Birmingham North Relief Road being an
519. And how much of the 25 per cent was accounted
for by the Birmingham Northern Relief Road?
(Mr Matthews) One of the problems with answering that
question is because we do not pay a capital sum then the actual
capital cost of the road will be a commercial matter for the supplier.
But our estimate is that it is of the order of £400 to half
a billion, so it will be that sort of order.