Memorandum by Independent Transport Commission
1. The Independent Transport Commission
is a business/transport/academic "think tank" which
was set up in 1999 under the aegis of the University of Southampton
with financial support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and
other trusts. During 2000 the Commission decided to focus on the
period 2010 to 2025 and on problems that were not treated by the
Government in its 10 Year transport plan. The results of this
analysis were published in March 2001 as "Tomorrow's Transport".
(See www.trg.soton.ac.uk/itc.) The Commission is now involved,
with consultants, in researching this agenda.
2. Professor Sir Peter Hall and Dr Stephen
Marshall of University College London have already reported to
the Commission on the land use effects of the 10 Year Plan.
3. Chapter 7 of "Tomorrow's Transport",
which was an analysis of the 10 year plan, noted the following
possible impediments to the plan's implementation:
(a) delays due to planning procedures, procurement
difficulties and public protest;
(b) shortages of suitably skilled engineers;
(c) slower than forecast rail passenger growth
leading to reduced rail borrowing power and therefore to investment;
(d) lack of progress by local authorities
with road user charging and workplace parking charges;
(e) higher than forecast fuel consumption
and CO2 emissions due to consumer preference for large cars;
(f) competing demands for investment from
other public services (including investment needed to offset the
side effects of climate change); and
(g) higher than forecast rates of road traffic
The overall conclusion was that, by 2010, cars
would be "cleaner", road capacity would be greater,
and public transport would be better but that most journeys, and
more than currently, would be made by car. This would mean more
traffic and more parked vehicles in town and city than today.
Problems in year 2010 would be as they are now only more so. Was
this, the Commission asked, what Britons wanted.
4. The Commission went on to identify problems
which, if not addressed in the near future, promised to create
added difficulties in the longer term:
(a) shortcomings in transport pricing, taxation
(b) lack of clarity about the relationship
between the measures in the Plan and the "urban renaissance"
called for in the Urban White Paper;
(c) travel problems in the suburbs and exurban
fringes of major cities for those with cars and for those without
(d) the effect of increasing traffic on living
conditions in streets, both residential and commercial, in which
(e) growth of air travel including access
Which assumptions in the 10 year Plan should be
modified or challenged?
(a) The ITC has doubts about
the forecasts of reduced rates of growth in road traffic. Traffic
growth was slowed in the late 1990s because motoring costs were
rising and maintenance on Trunk roads gave rise to increased congestion.
Today fuel taxes are no longer rising and the car manufacturers,
driven by agreements with the EU to reduce CO2 emissions, will
deliver more fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines. This will
tend to reduce motoring costs.
(b) The ITC doubts whether rail travel will
increase as forecast in the Plan. Professor Sir Peter Hall suggests
that Trunk road improvements will capture some commuters from
rail travel. Meanwhile improvements to railway services are likely
to be slower than forecast. [see 5(c) below].
(c) Private rail investment is likely to
be delayed because of current organisational difficulties, the
time needed to prepare very complex contracts and the slowness
of working on a "living railway". The necessary investment
may be available but the Commission fears it will not.
(d) The forecasts of reduced CO2 emissions
are likely to be offset by: traffic growth [see 5(a) above]; the
preference of increasingly wealthy consumers for large cars; and
the continued existence of up to three million old, ill-maintained
cars belonging to low-income drivers.
Will congestion charging and workplace parking
charges be implemented and when?
(e) The Commission expects that
local authorities, in the absence of leadership from Ministers
and of up-front resources for improvements to roads and public
transport, will be reluctant to introduce pricing. This will remove
a source of local revenue, lose an opportunity to improve the
regularity of bus services and retain all the other costs of congestion.
How important are assumptions? What remedial action
is needed if assumptions or targets have to be changed?
(f) All plans are based on assumptions
which, while seeming right at the time, can turn out to be wrong.
Assumptions are central to the 10 Year Plan but are not likely
to be fatal to it if conditions change.
(g) The government will, however, need to
revise its assumptions and its planas is envisaged in the
What are the prospects for private railways financing?
(a) The Commission expects that
rail passenger travel is likely to grow over 10 years. Service
quality will increase, the market created by elderly travellers
will expand and marketing by the train companies will continue
to be skilful.
(b) Private rail investment is likely to
be less than forecast because it will be delayed but should still
come through over a longer period.
(c) The provision of public investment is
uncertain because of heavy demands from other public services.
Is the balance and phasing of investment correct?
(d) Urban and interurban transport
compete for resources. Road and rail interurban transport, the
responsibilities of the Highways Agency and the long distance
rail franchisees, are easily visualised productsand ones
much used by MPs and other decision makers. The unglamorous daily-round
of short urban journeys, though far more numerous than long distance
trips, tends to be undervalued. Investment in support of such
journeys tends accordingly to suffer.
(e) The Commission also questions whether
road investment as planned makes sense, without complimentary
changes to transport pricing and taxation.
How do emerging multi-modal studies affect Plan?
(f) The Commission expects them
either to delay the implementation of the plan or to lead to the
execution of schemes that have not been tested by multi-modal
analysis. It seems likely that the road-based Route Management
Studies being pushed ahead by the Highways Agency may be the mechanism
by which such quick results are achieved.
Should there be a better balance between large
and small schemes, and between infrastructure, management and
(g) Last April the Prime Minister
gave a speech in which he suggested that because everyone has
a street outside their front door, the management and maintenance
of such places is a public service unique in its universality.
He went on to say that the government intended to rescue from
oblivion this hitherto neglected service. The Commission considers
that local authorities alone are in a position to do all that
this involvesrenew street lighting and pavements, remove
graffiti, raise cleansing standards, plant trees, create Home
Zones, control rat-running traffic and so on. However the Commission
suspects that the funds needed for this unspectacular work area
in the Plan, are more likely to be allocated to new trams and
(h) Joint investment by Brighton Council
and the Brighton & Hove bus company in state of the art systems
for vehicle identification, pro-bus signals management, new buses
and passenger information demonstrate what might be called the
bus system of the future. Given the flexibility of buses, the
speed with which services can be improved and, compared with trams,
lower operating costs, the Commission believes that careful attention
needs to be given to their advantages in any review of the Plan.
(i) Such management techniques as residents'
parking schemes, workplace parking charges, bus priority at signals,
low emissions zones and other management measures have potential,
when combined, that is not fully recognised in the Plan.
Is reducing congestion the right objective?
The road traffic congestion objective is linked
to the Government's important commitments to promote a reduction
in CO2 emissions. That would seem to be its main value. The Commission
believes that it is just as important to achieve reasonable travel
conditions for those going on foot, by bicycle or by train and
bus. The Transport Committee may therefore wish to consider as
an objective "the transfer of some proportion of car journeys
to walking, public transport, buses and telecommunication".
Are social and environmental objectives balanced
with efficient investment?
(a) The Commission believes that
transport investment of all kinds will not be efficient without
changes to the current regime of pricing and taxation.
(b) Changes to pricing could, furthermore,
be good for rural low income car users (for whom public transport
is not practical), good for urban bus travellers, good for commercial
road users, and good also for urban air quality.
(c) Road schemes are being promoted by the
Highways Agency that appear to show insufficient integration with
land use and view-from-the-road landscape considerations. An example
is the A45/A46 Tollbar End scheme near Willenhall in Coventry.
(Project sponsor John Dutson, Highways Agency, Birmingham: Tel
0121 678 8031.) This major Trunk road junction, which is near
houses and industrial premises, will, after "improvement",
continue to suffuse such properties with noise. A scheme that
was integrated with land use considerations could be expected
to involve the purchase and demolition of such contiguous property
and its conversion to tree planting.
Does the Plan cater for all modes including walking?
(d) Decisions about how and where
to provide for walking and cycling can only be made by local authorities.
The Plan could, however, have set out more clearly the claim of
such modes on the funds allocated to local transport.
(e) The Commission believes that in any
revision of the Plan, attention should be paid to the goal of
achieving liveable streetsplaces for walking, socialising
and maintaining security
(f) The importance of bus travel in all
British cities and the potential for improving existing service
quality [see 6(h) above] by means of information, management and
control systems, should be given greater prominence than tram
services which are limited in their potential by the low densities
of Britain's cities.