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


(a)In reviewing the Plan, the Department must examine a range of policy options after 2010. In doing so, it must pursue rigorous policy advice from experts in the field. Blue skies thinking from casual enthusiasts such as Lord Birt is no substitute for a considered analysis of the impacts of future policies that the Government has hitherto been reluctant to consider (paragraph 15).
(b)The Department must re-examine the congestion measure on which much of the Plan is based. The Plan must make explicit the changes that it will make to journey times and the day-to-day variability of journey times. This is the information required by business and the travelling public. It is also imperative that the Plan sets yearly or intermediate targets for travel conditions so that progress towards the targets for 2010 can be assessed (paragraph 22).
(c)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 (paragraph 27).
(d)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 (paragraph 30).
(e)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 (paragraph 36).
(f)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 (paragraph 37).
(g)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 (paragraph 38).
(h)The Plan should not be dominated by high-cost infrastructure projects at the expense of smaller but equally effective measures (paragraph 40).
(i)The Plan is ill-balanced. It 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 (paragraph 43).
(j)The power to introduce local charging schemes was a cornerstone of the Government's Transport White Paper. The Department has now decided to downplay the contribution that they will make to meeting the Plan's objectives. The Plan assumed 20 such schemes would be implemented by 2010. It is astonishing that such an important and difficult policy measure could be bracketed as an assumption. No more than a handful of large-scale congestion charging schemes will actually be brought forward by 2010. Even if major cities introduce charging schemes and other public transport improvements, they will still struggle to meet the Government's targets for congestion reduction. Other policies alone will not bring about the required changes in traffic and congestion levels. The Department has turned its back on local charging schemes rather than provide the leadership required to implement one of the most crucial elements of the White Paper (paragraph 51).
(k)The Government's approach to motoring costs is incomprehensible. The failure to address falling motoring costs will make public transport a significantly less attractive option for the travelling public. Holding motoring costs constant in real terms would, by definition, impose no extra costs on motorists than they face today. However, if it is unacceptable to impose "very significant costs" on motorists by holding costs constant, then this argument should also hold for public transport users, particularly as many bus users are from lower income groups. The 10 Year Plan is undermined by the Government's failure to tackle the deteriorating relative costs of public and private transport (paragraph 56).
(l)The Department has failed to provide any meaningful justification for the collection of schemes it has chosen for the Plan. The costs and benefits of different strategies must be assessed in the revised Plan (paragraph 59).
(m)The Department should undertake any new analysis for the review of the Plan with both the current and the new model, and present the results in parallel. It must be transparent whether changes to the expected outcomes of the 10 Year Plan are the result of changes to the model or from changes to the inputs and assumptions. The Department must also allow independent access to the new model, in the same way as the Treasury allows such access to its model of the economy (paragraph 62).
Implementing the Plan
(n)Confusion over the exact start date of the Plan is a distraction from the issues. The Department will be judged on the progress it makes in meeting the targets it has set for 2010. On a time line, the Department is almost one-fifth of the way there — the Plan and its implementation are not (paragraph 65).
(o)Greater clarity is required about the linkages between the different levels of regional planning and transport decisions, local transport plans and multi-modal studies. The revised Plan must be based on the outcomes of joined-up strategies so that the projects contained within it represent those that will be implemented on the ground (paragraph 70).
(p)Land­use changes over the period of the Plan should play a crucial role in reducing the need to travel and generating urban and rural environments that encourage travel by foot, cycle and public transport. If the Department is taking land use and transport interactions seriously, then the Plan must set out what needs to be done, how much it will cost, what it expects the impact to be, and provide details of how this will be monitored in the same way that it does for road building (paragraph 75).
(q)There is no consensus within the industry about what constitutes a reasonable target for rail growth. Progress towards the current rail passenger growth target is behind schedule (paragraph 77).
(r)The national target for rail passenger kilometre growth has created a regional imbalance in the Plan. The Strategic Rail Authority should develop other indicators to ensure that passenger rail can make a full contribution to Regional Transport Strategies in the context of Regional Economic Strategies (paragraph 80).
(s)The Committee remains concerned about the lack of clarity surrounding the financing of the rail improvements in the 10 Year Plan. The split of investment between rolling stock, maintenance and renewals and new investment remains fuzzy. It is clear that the industry is already far behind schedule in meeting the Plan's objectives although we have had difficulty in determining how far. The lack of any detailed implementation plan is a major barrier to improving the railways. The Strategic Rail Authority must publish its business plan urgently. We are not yet confident that sufficient private sector funding will be forthcoming for major infrastructure projects, which all come towards the end of the Plan, particularly while the cost base of the industry is uncertain. The Strategic Rail Authority made it clear that several projects originally expected to be delivered through the 10 Year Plan will not be possible without new resources. However, it still expects the target of 50 per cent passenger growth to be possible, which we find puzzling. It is essential that the Government commits to fund those projects that are necessary to provide a first-class rail system, and not just those that the private sector is prepared to support (paragraph 84).
(t)The Strategic Rail Authority should investigate the merits of additional and more sector-focussed targets for rail freight growth (paragraph 85).
(u)The disruption of rail freight services through the Channel Tunnel must be brought to an end. The French Government is quite capable of preventing illegal entry to the freight terminal at Fréthun. The Government has failed to bring sufficient pressure to bear on the French authorities. This is unacceptable. The European Commission claims to be committed to providing a Trans-Europe rail freight network yet has also failed to ensure that normal service is restored. In the UK, the problems for the rail freight industry have been further compounded by poor rail network performance and delays caused by line closures for engineering works. Every effort must be made to provide a stable and reliable service for rail freight operators if industry is to be encouraged to switch from road to rail and to stay there (paragraph 88).
(v)The forward plan developed by the Highways Agency is comprehensive and provides interim targets and transparency of funding. Their plan should be the model for all organisations that are responsible for implementing the 10 Year Plan. However, progress in implementing major schemes later in the Plan period will be limited as a result of delays to the multi-modal studies (paragraph 91).
(w)We are astounded that there seems to have been no strategic input from the Highways Agency into the 10 Year Plan. It seems that the estimates of congestion reduction are completely divorced from those who are responsible for achieving them. It is not clear whether a 5 per cent reduction in congestion is the best or most cost-effective objective to aim for. The Highways Agency is best placed to provide a strategic view of the inter-urban road network; it should perform that role (paragraph 92).
(x)The current focus on bus passenger growth alone detracts from the need to provide a stable bus service in all areas and hides significant downward trends in some areas. The bus target is also insufficiently challenged and must be revised. If the new target is to have meaning, it must take account of the targets set in the Local Transport Plans. If the Department wants to promote choice between modes it must ensure that local authorities implement bus strategies that include car restraint. The Department has not properly understood the need for revenue support for socially necessary bus services and for the upkeep of the new facilities it wants built. If it is serious about providing quality bus networks outside of the main urban and inter-urban corridors, it must face up to the cost implications of doing so (paragraph 98).
(y)The Department has underestimated the time required to design and implement light rail schemes. It has further compounded the difficulties faced by authorities in bringing such schemes forward by failing to allow local transport plan funds to be used for scheme development and by failing to address regulatory barriers adequately. While we recognise that the increase in light rail schemes is a success story for the Department, it must continue to maximise their potential impact (paragraph 100).
(z)The Government should adopt a national walking target based around improvements expected from the best local transport plans. The monitoring of Local Transport Plans must establish the level of expenditure on pedestrian measures necessary to ensure that walking is afforded a high priority and that this is consistent across authorities (paragraph 102).
(aa)The Government has under invested in cycling provision. Despite some improvements, cycling levels have not grown overall in recent years, and have certainly not doubled as originally intended. The failure to meet the 2002 target has shown the importance of interim targets against which progress can be assessed. It is regrettable that no targets now exist until 2010. There is little confidence that the target set for 2010 will be met. Much greater commitment and local investment in cycling infrastructure is required if the target for 2010 is to be met (paragraph 104).
(bb)The Department has failed to address the issue of powered two-wheelers. Ignoring the issue will do nothing to reduce high accident rates or make the most of their potential. This lack of focus has been further underlined by a Budget that offers greater incentives for motorcycle use than any dedicated measure included in the Plan. The revised Plan must contain greater focus on the future of powered two-wheelers in UK transport policy (paragraph 105).
(cc)There is an imbalance of progress in delivering the outputs of the 10 Year Plan. The Department must ensure that local authorities and the rail industry meet the standards of the Highways Agency in planning and implementing new projects if it wants to avoid a further lurch towards a car-dependent society. It is unacceptable that the rail industry, which receives the largest slice of the 10 Year Plan funding still has no year-by-year implementation plan, or firm idea of its cost base. Much of the investment in major new projects will come towards the end of the Plan period. Delays have already been experienced in implementing the schemes, many of them will disappear beyond 2010. We reiterate our concern that it is impossible to tell whether the Plan is on target, if it merely consists of a series of aspirations for 2010 and little detail on how we shall achieve them from the current position (paragraph 109).
(dd)Almost two years into the Plan, there are still very few details about the results of the multi-modal studies. It is unclear whether the studies are reporting outcomes that are consistent with the strategic outlook of the Plan, can be built in the Plan period or are within the resource budgets allocated. Having commissioned studies to examine the contribution of all modes to particular transport problems, it is bizarre that the budgets and responsibilities for implementing the 'integrated' schemes should be so disconnected. The Committee recommends that the Government establishes a multi-modal study delivery fund to ensure a co-ordinated approach to delivering the solutions proposed (paragraph 111).
(ee)Delays to the multi-modal studies have already caused significant delay to the programme of work for the 10 Year Plan and further delays are unacceptable. The Department should examine ways to fast track some of the projects resulting from the multi-modal studies (paragraph 112).
(ff)The Government is over-optimistic about how much private funding will be delivered in the Plan. Oddly, it plans that the main application of private funding should be for public transport. Roads, on the other hand, continue to be overwhelmingly funded with public money. There seems to be no rationale for this. No one shares the Department's confidence about the ease of producing the planned scale of private funding. There are particular concerns over the levels of resource and the public-private funding balance for rail. The review of the Plan must provide more detail on how private sector finance is to be raised and where it is to be used if the figures are to command any confidence (paragraph 115).
(gg)The transport and construction industry builds up its skills base slowly. It is not realistic to turnon the investment tap and expect the industry to be able to respond immediately. The 10-year commitment to transport spending is therefore welcome. However, the current skills shortage is likely to impede delivery of the 10 Year Plan, not only in the numbers of schemes implemented, but the types of schemes, how they are financed and the rate at which new schemes are implemented. The engineering and transport skills shortage is particularly acute at a local authority level. This is a matter of extreme concern as one third of the Plan's expenditure will be delivered through Local Transport Plans and in London. The skills shortage is a serious threat to the Plan and must be treated as such by the Department (paragraph 119).
Progress towards the targets
(hh)It is not too early to assess progress and make changes to the Plan. The long lead-in times for major projects make the early assessment of progress imperative. With the exception of the strategic road network, most of the projects put forward in July 2000 are already behind schedule, including studies to bring forward new projects for the Plan. A detailed programme of works must be set out in the forthcoming review of the Plan, against which progress can be properly, consistently and publicly assessed (paragraph 122).
(ii)The absence of a clear set of interim targets makes it impossible to judge properly whether the policies in the Plan are beginning to deliver the behaviour and congestion changes anticipated. The Department requires local authorities to produce targets for 2005 as part of the local transport plan process yet has refused to adopt such targets itself. The Department must produce a set of interim targets for 2005 in order to assess progress towards the objectives in the Plan. Progress towards these targets can then be used to develop a new 10 Year Plan to 2015 (paragraph 124).
(jj)All of the targets within the Plan must be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent and sufficiently challenging. Targets for achieving a mode shift from the car to public transport should be set (paragraph 125).
(kk)The Plan must contain targets to enable the assessment of progress towards a more sustainable system with reduced commuting lengths and increased mode share for public transport, cycling and walking (paragraph 126).
(ll)The Department should develop regional targets based on analysis of Local Transport Plans and Regional Transport Strategies (paragraph 127).
Recommendations for improving the 10 Year Plan
(mm)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 (paragraph 128).
(nn)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 (paragraph 129).
(oo)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 (paragraph 130).
(pp)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 (paragraph 131).
(qq)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 (paragraph 132).
(rr)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 (paragraph 133).
(ss)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 (paragraph 134).
(tt)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 (paragraph 135).
(uu)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 (paragraph 136).
(vv)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 (paragraph 137).

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