Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Eighth Report


II. 10 YEAR PLAN OBJECTIVES

Toxic exhaust emissions

26. Without the Plan, there would be a 57.5 per cent reduction in emissions of nitrogen oxides and a 45.3 per cent reduction in particulate matter.[49] The measures in the Plan provide a further 1 per cent and 0.5 per cent reduction respectively, which are almost insignificant compared to those offered by technological improvements. The Plan, therefore contributes reductions in toxic exhaust emissions of only one fiftieth to one hundredth the size of those that will be delivered by new vehicle technology.

27. Changes in forecast carbon dioxide emissions and toxic pollutants are quantified in the Plan. However, there is no understanding of how pollution reduction has influenced the decisions taken in the Plan. Where policy intervention could offer significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by holding motoring costs constant, the policy is blandly dismissed. Improvements in vehicle engine technology and fuel efficiency vastly outweigh the improvements offered by the Plan. The Government must make clear the reductions in emissions that it requires from transport and ensure that the Plan sets out clearly how these will be achieved.

TRAFFIC LEVELS

28. Several witnesses expressed concern that the Government's decision to set indicators linked to the negative impacts of traffic rather than absolute traffic levels was ill founded. Living Streets told the Sub-Committee that by concentrating on congestion and pollution reduction, the Plan "does not attempt to tackle the underlying problem of rising mobility, particularly that by the private car. In effect it attempts to accommodate that rising mobility and mitigate its worst effects in terms of pollution, congestion and casualties".[50] Transport 2000 told the Sub-Committee that the Government was wrong to ignore traffic growth as to do so ignores the community impacts of traffic.[51]

29. The Commission for Integrated Transport supports the Government's refusal to adopt a single figure for a national traffic reduction target, but with some important caveats. It recommends a strong focus on moderating traffic growth as a 'bottom­up' target built from local authority targets. Professor Begg told the Sub-Committee: "There are a number of deep rural areas who probably do not want a traffic reduction target, but I think large parts of the UK do".[52] The Institute of Logistics and Transport also cautioned against an approach focussed solely on congestion reduction, saying that "It would be quite possible to reduce congestion in the centre of a city and find that you have driven a lot of business away to other places".[53]

30. The Government has failed to take sufficient account of the negative impact that rising traffic levels will have on the quality of urban and rural life. Reducing traffic levels would also reduce the number of incidents on the road network and the time taken to recover from them, which is vitally important for business. In refusing to set a target to reduce traffic levels or even traffic growth, while maintaining a target for reducing congestion, the Plan does not address whether the UK has the capacity to provide for ever greater car use. As a result, the Plan also fails to take account of the impact of greater traffic on quality of life, network reliability and safety. The Government should adopt traffic reduction targets, developed at a local level, that reflect the need to reduce car dependence, with strong guidance on how to achieve them.

SOCIAL INCLUSION

31. The 10 Year Plan sets out the following view of the challenge of social inclusion that the Plan must meet:

The Plan contains several measures to help reduce social exclusion, including an Urban Bus Challenge Fund to improve links to deprived urban areas.[55] The only target linked to social inclusion relates to increasing the proportion of rural households within 10 minutes of an hourly or better bus service, although that is difficult to reconcile with the Plan's implied expectation that bus services will decline in rural areas (see paragraph 94).[56]

The sustainability appraisal in the Plan has a conclusion that suggests a very worrying effect on social inclusion. It reports that:

    "It has not been possible to model the distributional impacts of the Plan in detail. However, a simple assessment suggests that all income groups benefit with the shares of benefits broadly proportional to the shares of total distance travelled, which rise in line with household income. The expenditure in the Plan is primarily financed from general taxation, which also rises with income".[57]

The relationship between income and distance travelled is shown below in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Share of distance travelled according to income band
Source: A better quality of life: A strategy for sustainable development for the UK, Cm 4345.

32. The Plan identifies the relative cost of public transport as one of the main challenges facing people in disadvantaged groups (see Figure 2). However, the Plan assumes that motoring costs will fall by 20 per cent in real terms over the period of the Plan.[58] Outside London, the Government is relying on contestability and competition to restrain rising bus fares.[59] Some rail fares are restricted to rising by RPI -1 over the Plan period, while other fares are unregulated and are assumed to rise in line with inflation.[60] It is therefore implicit in the Plan that the relative cost of public transport compared to private transport will rise.


Figure 2: Real changes in the cost of transport and disposable income
Source: Chart 3c, Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p22.

33. Many organisations were critical of the Plan providing benefits linked to the distance people travel, disproportionately assisting car-owning and richer households.[61] That would seem to encourage longer-distance travel, rather than sustainable travel patterns.[62] Professor Begg told the Sub-Committee that the balance of investment should be skewed more to the least well off people who do not have cars[63] and that if private transport costs fall:

    "but public transport fares stay constant and indeed rise, that is going to make it very difficult to achieve a lot of the public transport growth targets and that is going to be very bad news for people on low incomes, especially bus dependent people who are going to find that their service might be cut or their fares might rise".[64]

34. South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive commissioned a study into social inclusion that concluded that "many of the issues could only be addressed through increased revenue funding, for instance to support conventional public transport services, community transport and less conventional initiatives".[65]

35. The Department recognised that "this is a Plan about improving transport for those who use it most" that therefore benefited the most well off, but it noted that many of the public transport improvements would benefit all sections of society.[66] The Department is

also working with the Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Unit to help address the issue.[67] The Secretary of State told the Sub-Committee that the Plan should do more to improve social inclusion and that this will be included in the review of the Plan in July.[68]

36. The Plan identifies the affordability of public transport relative to private motoring as one of the key challenges linked to social exclusion yet anticipates that over the course of the Plan the situation will worsen. It is inevitable that the Plan in its current form will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is implicit in the Plan that the relative cost of public transport compared to private transport will rise. Having identified the key challenge as differences in costs between private and public transport, the Government has developed a Plan that enlarges these differences instead of reducing them. If the Government wishes to tackle social exclusion then it must face up to the difficult policy decisions needed to re-balance the cost attractiveness of public and private transport.

37. The Department has paid only lip service to important indicators such as accessibility, safety and social inclusion. The Plan has been shaped too strongly by the unhelpful indicator chosen to represent congestion. It cannot have been the Department's objective to produce a plan that benefits the better-off and those who travel the most. However, the Plan acknowledges that it does just that. It is in complete contradiction to the Department's desires to reduce the need to travel and the Government's aims to promote equity and social inclusion.

SAFETY

38. The Plan describes the need to meet wider transport objectives such as safety, but provides few details on how that will happen. The section on safety is little more than a cut-and-paste of previous policy documents, with no real idea of how the improvements in road, rail and local transport are expected to contribute to the safety targets. There is also no idea of the resources required to meet the safety targets, for example, to make residential areas more pedestrian friendly. The Plan's emphasis on capital investment also ignores many of the education and enforcement initiatives that will be required to improve safety. If the Department takes the role of safety improvements seriously in the Plan it must set out what needs to be done, how much improvements will cost and how progress will be measured.

Balance of the Plan

39. Chapter 6 of the 10 Year Plan sets out investment plans for the strategic road network, railways, local transport and London. Each section comprises eight pages of problem definition and potential solutions before listing an expected programme of schemes to be constructed and the profile of public and private investment profile over the 10-year period. The Department believes that the Plan takes a new multi-modal approach to transport investment and has achieved an "appropriate balance of investment in different modes, taking account of its underlying objectives".[69] The Department also notes that the final mixture of schemes selected will be decided through local transport plans and multi-modal studies.[70]

40. The Plan was criticised for failing to strike the right balance of policies. A survey of professionals within the Institute of Logistics and Transport found that 72 per cent of respondents believed the policy balance to be wrong. In particular, the Plan was criticised for concentrating on large infrastructure schemes at the expense of smaller, potentially more effective schemes.[71] Professor Begg agreed, pointing out that the United Kingdom lags far behind other European countries in developing pedestrian and cycle friendly environments. However, he told the Sub-Committee that "we still need to come up with some of the hard figures to back this up that would convince people that they offer excellent value for money".[72] Lord MacDonald told the predecessor Committee's inquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities that the Government had no way of comparing the value for money of small schemes compared with large ones. The Plan should not be dominated by high-cost infrastructure projects at the expense of smaller but equally effective measures.

BALANCE BETWEEN MODES

41. The Automobile Association suggested that the proposed scale of investment in rail in the Plan far outweighed that in buses, cycling and walking, with little or no justification. It also notes that this contrast is even greater when road and rail are compared and that, while the case for improving the maintenance of the rail network was clear, the upgrade programme remained insufficiently justified.[73]

42. The impression given by the Plan is of an imbalanced consideration of the problems and solutions of each mode of transport. Eight pages are dedicated to the strategic road network, while eight lines are set aside for powered two-wheelers; the description of 'Park and Ride' sites is as long as the discussion on cycling and walking combined.

CONCLUSION

43. The Plan is ill-balanced. The Plan focusses on congestion at the expense of wider, but equally important objectives such as safety and social inclusion. The revised Plan must demonstrate that all its objectives have been treated with sufficient care and analysis. It must also include a balanced analysis of the role that each mode of transport can play in meeting the Plan's targets and its wider objectives.


49   Particulate matter PM10Back

50   Q343. Back

51   Q599. Back

52   Q486. Back

53   Q402. Back

54   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p24. Back

55   Ibid., p62. Back

56   Ibid., p101. Back

57   Transport 2010: Background Analysis, p37. Back

58   Ibid, p6. The principal factors expected to lead to a fall in the cost of motoring are falling oil prices and new car prices. Back

59   Q50. Back

60   Ibid. Back

61   TYP56, TYP42, TYP35, TYP26, TYP14. Back

62   Q343. Back

63   Q481. Back

64   Q482. Back

65   TYP42, Transport and social inclusion, South Yorkshire PTE, Sheffield City Council and Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Councils. Back

66   Q105. Back

67   Ibid. Back

68   Q686. Back

69   TYP28. Back

70   TYP28. Back

71   TYP35. Back

72   Q460. Back

73   TYP27. Back


 
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