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


VI. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVING THE 10 YEAR PLAN

The Plan

128. The current 10 Year Plan has been presented far too much as an outline capital investment programme. As such, it gives the impression that improvements in transport conditions will be brought about through new infrastructure. Presenting the Plan in this way is short-sighted, gives misleading signals, and focusses attention away from some of the most important things which need to be done. The successful accomplishment of the targets within the Plan relies heavily on factors such as revenue support for buses, the success of Commuter Travel Plans, travel costs and road safety education. If these other elements of transport policy are not put in place, the whole success of the Plan will be put in jeopardy. The revised 10 Year Plan should draw together all aspects of Government transport policy and not simply be a capital investment plan. There must be integration between pricing decisions, capital investment, revenue support, education and enforcement. All of these must be explicit, so that they can be subject to periodic review and scrutiny.

Objectives

129. The current Plan has concentrated too much on a single goal of reducing traffic congestion. A number of key objectives such as reducing accidents, improving social inclusion, reducing environmental impacts (in addition to emissions) and supporting urban regeneration do not exist on an equal footing with reductions in delays to car drivers. The revised Plan must explicitly set out how the measures contained within it will contribute to all its key objectives, rather than being dominated by the goal of reducing congestion.

Longer-Term Vision

130. Major transport schemes take at least ten years from design to construction. A significant number of major schemes envisaged in the Plan will not be completed until 2010 or beyond, which will affect travel patterns after the life of the current Plan. The recent report from the Commission for Integrated Transport on the future of paying for road use has highlighted how much lower congestion and traffic levels might be beyond 2010 if a new, revenue-neutral charging system for roads was introduced. This could render many of the schemes currently planned unviable. If we are to have confidence that the direction in which the Plan is currently heading is the right one, the revised Plan must include an analysis of transport trends beyond 2010 under different policy assumptions.

Local and Regional Studies

131. The Plan must provide a stronger link to sustainable regional and local development strategies. It is not clear whether the current Plan reflects the sum of all its local and regional constituent parts. To date, multi-modal studies and local transport plans have not been carried out in a way which will enable the Department to draw the findings together. A more standardised approach of presenting the expected outcomes from these studies, that is consistent with the objectives of the transport strategy as a whole, must be found. This will provide a stronger rationale for the schemes in the Plan and greater confidence in the targets.

Strategy Assessment

132. There is no clear rationale for the balance of schemes presented in the current Plan. It is clear that no analysis has been conducted into the funding implications and extra costs or benefits that would be provided by alternative strategies, except an unrealistic 'do minimum' scenario. There is, however, sufficient evidence to suggest that alternative strategies could be very effective. We have little confidence that the balance of the Plan is right or that it will offer good value for money. When the Department faces policy choices, alternative strategies should be developed, tested and fully reported on to ensure that the rationale for decisions taken is clear.

Implementation

FUNDING

133. The Plan must not be undermined by funding uncertainty. There are concerns, particularly for the railways, that the necessary levels of private sector support may not be forthcoming either at the right time or on the right terms. The Government must provide increased financial support when necessary, to ensure that it achieves all the objectives of the revised Plan and not just those objectives that the private sector is prepared to fund. A more detailed breakdown of future expenditure for all aspects of the Plan is required if it is indeed to be a Plan rather than a wish list.

PROGRAMME OF WORK

134. A steady programme of work is essential if the Plan is to be successful. The recent history of reductions in expenditure on transport have reduced the skills base in all areas of transport. A return to stop-start investment must be avoided. The revised Plan must provide a timetable of future schemes to enable the transport planning and engineering industries to respond. The Plan must act as the central point for the co-ordination of work programmes resulting from the many regional and local studies.

Phasing

135. The Plan must be more than a snap-shot of transport conditions in 2010. It is essential that all its important elements, both the investment programme and the accompanying policy implementation and delivery must be defined annually so that the implementation sequence is logically sensible and that any weaknesses are identified early enough to correct them. There is considerable concern that investment in the roads elements of multi­modal studies will be implemented more swiftly than the rail and other measures. This will lead to a period of increasing car dependence and reduced use of public transport, which will be even more difficult to remedy later. A budget for completing the work proposed by the multi­modal studies must be set aside to ensure that the recommended balance of schemes is constructed, and that they are then implemented in an order which gives priority to starting to shift patterns of behaviour rather than promoting car use.

136. Many of the major schemes currently proposed will not be ready for implementation until the end of the Plan period or beyond. Smaller schemes may offer significant safety, congestion and environmental benefits that have, as yet, not been quantified. In the short and medium-term, greater attention should be paid to the implementation of smaller schemes to fill any gaps in the work programme. This is especially necessary for measures aimed at avoiding the extra car travel that will inevitably arise from the expected early increases in road capacity.

Assessing progress

137. The Plan must contain a timetable against which progress on implementation of physical measures can be measured and the resultant impact on traffic conditions can be assessed. There is currently no way of meaningfully assessing the progress between now and 2010 and no criteria against which to decide on whether the Plan is on track to meet the 2010 targets. As a minimum, the Department must set targets for all of the indicators for 2005 and publish a list of major projects, and their necessary accompanying other measures, that will be completed by 2005.


 
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