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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540 - 559)



  540. Could you just explain what the impact on the budget for the Ten Year Transport Plan will be. Will it be neutral? Were these roads not envisaged in the Ten Year Transport plan so therefore the effect is neutral?
  (Mr Matthews) As far as the Agency is concerned it will be, and my understanding is that as far as the grants and financial arrangements with local authority are concerned it will be. What discretion local authorities currently and will have in the future on how they spend that money, I am not aware of.

  541. Can I just press you on that point. What we have found in North Yorkshire is that highways maintenance tends to get neglected in favour of social care and education and a number of other issues, and it does concern me that there is no agreement with many local authorities, that the programme is reaching completion in the detrunking of these roads and the finances have not been agreed. Is my understanding correct then that this money will go into the pot, not necessarily hypothecated to highways with the local authorities but it could be used for other purposes?
  (Mr Matthews) That is my understanding but I do not know whether you have any further comment?
  (Mr York) My understanding is that, first of all, we are agreeing with each authority the relevant amount of maintenance funds for the roads that are going to be transferred.


  542. Do you do that on a whole-life basis?
  (Mr York) Broadly on a whole-life basis but using historic data that we have for the cost of maintaining that road. Having reached an agreement about the maintenance cost we then proceed with the detrunking. I am not able to say whether the local authority will then have flexibility to use that funding in another way or not.

Miss McIntosh

  543. What percentage of agreements have been concluded?
  (Mr York) I think this year we hope to have detrunked about a third of our target for detrunking.


  544. Can we be boring and ask you what that means in figures that we can recognise?
  (Mr Matthews) The overall target set out in the Roads Review was to detrunk 30 per cent of the current Highways Agency's network and we aim to be about a third of the way on that.

Miss McIntosh

  545. Does that cover the whole national network or the network within your remit?
  (Mr Matthews) The Highways Agency network.

  546. In miles how many roads is it?
  (Mr Matthews) That is just under 3,000 kilometres of our network.[1]

  547. Can you give the Committee an assurance that you do not see any slippage in the road maintenance programme as envisaged under the plan? I do not know if it also affects quieter roads? Would it affect quieter roads or just the roads maintenance programme?
  (Mr Matthews) The detrunking programme is not affecting the level of funding that we are getting for what we have to maintain, and we are continuing to invest significantly in maintenance. That will not be affected nor are the figures and the targets set out for the quieter road surface programme.

  548. So you would no longer be responsible as the Highways Agency for detrunked roads?
  (Mr Matthews) Not once it has passed to the relevant local authority.

  549. Would these roads come under the Ten Year Plan in future or not?
  (Mr Matthews) They would come under local highway responsibilities insofar as they are covered by the Ten Year Plan.

  550. Do you think there will be any slippage at all in what is envisaged in the Ten Year Plan for these roads in terms of maintenance?
  (Mr Matthews) From our perspective these roads will be handed over in a high-quality, well-maintained state. As we have both said, we have no control thereafter and my understanding is the Government is not seeking to exercise control precisely over how local authorities then spend their allocations for roads.

Mrs Ellman

  551. How are the dedicated lanes for bus vehicles on motorways going to work?
  (Mr Matthews) There are no firm plans for dedicated freight lanes at the moment. It is one of the options I know that a number of the Multi-Modal Studies have been looking at, but there is no firm plan to provide any of those at the moment.

  552. You have not any proposal and you say there is no firm plan but is this something you are thinking about?
  (Mr Matthews) It is something I know a number of the Multi- Modal Study teams are thinking about.

  553. Will not more roads mean more traffic if we do not get public transport improvements at the same time as other developments?
  (Mr Matthews) It is clearly true and part of the purpose of the Multi-Modal Studies reflected this, that transportation issues need to be looked at in the round, and what the Multi-Modal Studies are clearly targeted to come forward with is balanced packages of solutions to transport problems.

  554. Suppose some of those packages are not tranlated into reality in the timescale put forward, then what will happen?
  (Mr Matthews) It depends how out of balance those packages are. I think there are large parts of our network, particularly those very congested parts of the network, where it would be slightly perverse if we did not invest in making some improvements solely because other transport investments were not coming along or were not coming along at the right time. There are always going to be issues about what the right balance of investment is and which investments come first but I do not think it would ever be a question of not investing it in roads because other forms of transport are not getting the right investment at the right time.

  555. Is improving safety more important than shortening journey times?
  (Mr Matthews) I do not think it is a question of either/or. They are both very important. We can contribute significantly to reducing the loss of life by the way in which we design roads and improve the layout of roads but, equally, the mobility of people and services around this country is of great importance to everybody.


  556. You are not being quite straight with Mrs Ellman, are you, because you are relying on the outcome of the Multi-Modal Studies in regards to implementing your 360 miles of road widening. Those 80 major schemes you are talking about, is there a possibility that some of them are not going to completed by 2010?
  (Mr Matthews) I think it is certain that not all of the schemes that would be identified within the Multi-Modal Studies will be completed by 2010.

  557. You are rather giving the impression these balanced packages will come forward and then you will proceed on that basis. Is it not true that you already have your plans and you expect to go ahead with what you have decided on, irrespective of what the Multi-Modal Studies show?
  (Mr Matthews) No, the decisions will be made not by the Agency but by Ministers after the Multi-Modal Studies. One of the schemes that was an illustrative scheme in the Ten Year Plan, the Hastings Bypass Ministers decided after the Multi-Modal Study decision not to go ahead with that. It will be Ministers' decisions on the outcome of those studies not the illustrative schemes that were in the Ten Year Plan figures that will determine our programme.

Mrs Ellman

  558. Do you do any financial assessments of the cost of saving a life and then relate that to the cost of making the journey shorter?
  (Mr Matthews) Yes, that is part of the appraisal approach which we touched on earlier.

  559. If you were deciding what to do with what are inevitably limited funds, which then would get the priority?
  (Mr Matthews) It is a balance of looking at the different contributions to the different parts of the appraisal. No one scheme is going to have an exclusive safety benefit as opposed to a congestion benefit or an accessibility benefit or an environmental benefit. Schemes, and we have a large number in the programme, are aimed primarily at safety but we will always look at the balance of cost and advantages that any scheme gives.

1   "A New Deal for Trunk Roads" gives a figure of 40 per cent of existing trunk roads. The Highways Agency network at the time of the 10 Year Plan, consisted of 10,072 kilometres of road of all classes. Some 3,376 km are to be detrunked - or around 33.5 per cent. The non-motorway network consisted of 7,264 km on all-purpose trunk road, of which 3,369km, or 46.4 per cent, is to be de-trunked. Back

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