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

Memorandum by Sustrans (TYP 3)


  Sustrans welcomes this inquiry. We are a practical charity which seeks to implement solutions to the problems of car dependency, a dependency which is still increasing.

  Sustrans was awarded £43.5 million by the Millennium Commission to help create the National Cycle Network. The first part of this task has been created, to time and to budget. We now seek to grow the Network to 10,000 miles by 2005, and to continue expansion thereafter.

  We are also pioneers of the concepts of Safe Routes to Schools, and to Stations. Our other work involves walking, Home Zones, transport information, and Individualised Marketing of travel choice. We have recently signed a contract with the New Opportunities Fund to spend £7.4 million on better accessibility in disadvantaged areas.

  Much of our work involves cross-cutting themes and objectives, such as improved safety, redesigning streets, urban regeneration, social exclusion and rural vitality. We were not confident that the original Plan fully addressed such issues.


  Since the Plan emerged the most recent set of National Travel Survey statistics have been published, for 1998/2000. We draw particular attention to these, as they offer a different perspective on travel from that of the 10 Year Plan.

  For example:

    —  More trips are made for shopping than for journeys to work (table 4.1).

    —  More journeys are made annually by bicycle than by train.

    —  Journeys to work are less than a sixth of all trips.

    —  28 per cent of households in Britain have no car.

    —  A quarter of all journeys are less than a mile, and 80 per cent of these are walked.

    —  40 per cent of distance travelled was for leisure purposes, only 10 per cent for business travel.

  This is not a picture one would recognise from the Plan, which keeps stressing major road and rail infrastructure schemes, and in 3.3 makes the misleading statement that "93 per cent of personal travel is now made by road". The Plan has very little discussion of why people travel, and therefore cannot truly be said to be a document addressing transport need.

  Instead, there is a great emphasis on reducing congestion by providing more highway capacity. This is unfortunate, as the experience of the 1980s and 90s—confirmed by SACTRA—is that creating new capacity simply generates extra traffic which fills that capacity. That is why the CPRE study done by Professor Phil Goodwin ("Running to Stand Still?") concluded that after all the expenditure proposed in the Plan, motorists' journey times would improve only by seconds.

  Meanwhile, real "congestion-busting" gets little mention. Sustrans are the UK pioneers of Safe Routes to School, and our work has helped bring about a broader appreciation of just how adverse are motorised trips to school. These are recognised by DTLR as being up to 16 per cent of peak-hour morning traffic.

  Although we are most appreciative of the work of the Schools Travel Advisory Group, we believe that a major advance is needed in the whole concept of journeys to school—and, indeed, of children's travel. All schools and parks should be the centrepiece of 20 mph areas. Residential roads should be re-engineered into places of quality, safety and community use.

  Sustrans also believes there is a serious problem of official under-recording of walking and cycling. With walking this relates to the way walks under one mile are recorded in NTS data. With cycling there is a particular problem that off-road journeys are not recorded at all. As the National Cycle Network grows this problem is becoming more acute and is in turn distorting policies of funding and encouraging cycling.


  Also since the Plan was published there has been the recent report by the Commission for Integrated Transport on "European Best Practice in Delivering Integrated Transport".

This contains a number of key relevant issues. Among them are:

    —  Historic lack of transport investment in the UK.

    —  This country is the most car dependent in Europe.

    —  Financial support for bus services is the lowest in Europe.

    —  "Pedestrians and cyclists are more than twice as likely to be killed on UK roads than in Sweden or the Netherlands" (p. 3).

    —  "The one critical success factor underpinning best practice in all case study areas was the introduction of area-wide 20 mph zones".

  Overall the CfIT study painted a dispiriting study of a poorly-planned, under-funded, and unpleasant transport system in the UK. Sustrans suggests that the 10 Year Plan be re-examined in the light of this report, with a particular emphasis on whether it is likely to deliver to the best standard of our European neighbours.


  As we indicate elsewhere, we are unhappy with the following assumptions:

    —  That road congestion can be solved by increasing highway capacity.

    —  That traffic reduction is not a serious option.

    —  The proposed Carbon Dioxide reductions are sufficient.

    —  Data collection is adequate.

  There is also a clear lack of basic principles behind the Plan. We suggest that these should include:

    (a)  Ensuring that we have equal access to travel.

    (b)  A reduction in the need to travel long distances.

    (c)  Availability of access to local facilities.

    (d)  Full accessibility for all those with movement difficulties.

    (e)  Reducing road danger.

    (f)  Promoting sustainable development.

    (g)  Integration of transport policies with those for Health, Education, Regeneration, Rural Vitality, Social Inclusion and Best Value.

  In essence, this would be a return to the fundamentals of the 1998 Transport White Paper.

  It is worth stressing that we point out below serious institutional problems about delivering the Plan. Linked to these, as the Committee notes, is the issue of "skills and capacity". Our experience is that qualified staff able to implement the new environmental and social perspectives of transport planning are in extremely short supply. We draw the Committee's attention to this as a matter of urgency. It is a topic that might be the subject of a separate Inquiry.


  Lest our comments appear too critical, Sustrans would also like to express support for the following elements in the existing Plan:

    —  Better road and bridge maintenance.

    —  Modernisation of the rail system, especially for local services and freight.

    —  On-street priority for bus services.

    —  Bus quality partnerships.

    —  The principle of congestion charging and workplace parking levies, with proceeds hypothecated to transport spending.

    —  Much higher funding for the Local Transport Plan process.

    —  Support for Home Zones, lower speeds, walking and the National Cycle Network.

    —  Targeted improvements in road casualty reduction, including a 50 per cent reduction in killed or seriously injured levels for children.

    —  Rural Transport Partnerships.

    —  "Transport Direct".


  Targets are an important process element. Without them, it is difficult to assess progress. Therefore it is worthwhile looking at targets for tackling congestion. However, as we have indicated, there are serious doubts as to whether the Plan's proposed measures will achieve these.

  At the very least, accurate modelling should be done to examine measures needed to achieve a range of traffic reduction targets. Meanwhile targets for increasing cycle use under the National Cycle Strategy have served as a valuable focus in highlighting adverse factors regarding cycle use. Targets to increase walking would clearly have the same beneficial effect.

  We have already noted the base statistical data in the Plan do not give an accurate picture of travel in general. We strongly suggest that existing travel patterns are examined more thoroughly, as a first step to devising modal shift targets for each type of journey. Tackling journey purpose is likely to be a far more focused and practical process than merely building infrastructure and hoping for some general results.

  At the same time, more work should be done on targets for modal shift. We highlight below under "Changing Behaviour" the proven effectiveness of our TravelSmart work. Were such changes to be made at a national level in, say, five years' time, the second half of the 10 Year Plan could—and should—look very different.


  Since the original Plan appeared rural areas have been devastated by Foot and Mouth disease and the subsequent acute down-turn in rural tourism. The latter has highlighted the very high economic value of country tourism and recreation.

  This means that there is an urgent need to support rural areas. The Countryside Agency is analysing the rural content of Local Transport Plans, in order to estimate whether they are robust enough. We also commend the work of GO-SW and South West Transport Activists Roundtable in examining whether the provision of transport, social services and other public facilities is sufficiently coordinated.

  Meanwhile there is a very strong case for improved non-motorised access to the countryside. This can be done by a continuation of national and regional walking, cycling and equestrian routes; the better maintenance of Rights of Way; implementation of Right to Roam; encouragement of high quality food production; the creation of new local non-motorised routes on land taken out of cultivation; and a much wider spread of lower speed routes—via Quiet Lanes, rural traffic management and lower speeds resulting from the review of Rural Road Hierarchy.

  As can be seen, there are major rural problems and opportunities, and we urge that these be addressed within any re-formulation of the 10 Year Plan.


  Others are better placed to comment on the financing of the railway industry, but it should be noted that the public require reliability and frequency of service rather than very expensive high speed schemes. At the local level Rail Passenger Partnerships have performed well, offer real value for money, and integrate with other modes. Public and private investment in the industry should be scrutinised to ensure that it does not simply extend commuting journey lengths, especially to London. Care must also be taken that rail stations in themselves do not continue to act as major generators of motorised traffic.

  We refer the Committee to the many reservations about Multi-Modal Studies being made by all environmental groups. Demand management, speed management, sustainability objectives and consistent methods of appraisal—all these seem to be lacking in the Studies, which increasingly appear as artificial constructs within the Transport system. The whole country, surely, should be a "multi-modal study".

  As for enhanced highway capacity we believe that a closer look is required at this. It is not just a question of "roads generating traffic" (cf SACTRA) but of what type of journeys are causing congestion, and what kind of options are available to tackle this.

  We comment elsewhere on the need to give greater priority to local transport in the funding process. Also there is a need for more revenue spending and less capital.


  Sustrans believes that changing personal travel behaviour is a much quicker, more permanent and far more cost-effective way of meeting travel needs than simply expanding highway capacity. We are developing a major new "TravelSmart" programme, focused on the concept of Individualised Marketing. This is a dialogue-based approach pioneered by SocialData of Germany for promoting use of public transport, cycling and walking as alternatives to car travel.

  Such work is based on the premise that a large proportion of car users are constrained from making greater use of alternative travel modes by mistaken perceptions of the options available. Furthermore, it concentrates on an identified audience, which has indicated an interest in alternatives. As such, it is much more targeted than campaigns such as "Travel-Wise" or "Are You Doing Your Bit?"

  Sustrans and SocialData are already working on two initial pilot projects, in Frome and Gloucester, and hope to develop another six to eight across different types of area. The work builds on the proven success in South Perth, Western Australia. Here a project over two years resulted in a 14 per cent reduction in car trips, and increases in public transport use (17 per cent), walking (35 per cent) and cycling (61 per cent). Extrapolations showed that such a programme had the potential to wipe out two decades of traffic growth, and the further potential to save huge sums in infrastructure spending.

  It is for these reasons that Sustrans would like to see TravelSmart as an integral part of any 10-Year Transport Plan. A telling fact is that radical lifestyle changes are not required. Public transport use in the UK would increase by 15 per cent if everyone made one extra trip by bus or train each month. The Government's target of quadrupling cycle use by 2012 could be met if everyone in the country made one additional trip by cycle each week.

  We therefore strongly believe that a national TravelSmart programme should be incorporated into the second half of the 10 Year Plan.


  Sustrans believes that there are serious institutional problems that need addressing for any 10 Year Plan to be successful. These include:

    —  Ensuring Transport spending is clearly protected and maintained within the Single Capital Pot.

    —  Giving greater resources to revenue spending, to ensure sufficient levels of staffing, planning and promotion.

    —  Acquiring correct data about travel, notably for walking and cycling.

    —  Ending in-built bias in transport appraisal by ceasing to recognise time savings for motorists.

    —  Abolishing the distinction between minor and major schemes in the LTP process.

    —  Putting an end to inequitable rankings under "value of time", particularly those that rate the travel time of children and pensioners as virtually worthless.


  Sustrans suggests that one of the tasks of reviewing the 10 Year Plan should be to "Invest in Success". There are proven winners in the transport world, and these deserve encouragement and greater financial support.

  Among these are:

    —  Local Transport Bursaries: the £9 million invested by DTLR in 2000 produced over 100 local authority staff positions dedicated to sustainable travel.

    —  Company Travel Plans, including hospitals.

    —  Rural Transport Partnerships.

    —  20 mph zones: DTLR figures suggest casualty falls of 60 per cent and extremely high financial rates of return.

    —  The National Cycle Network. In 1999 national cycle use rose 5 per cent, but 11 per cent on the Network, which should be seen as a "spine" for strategic non-motorised journeys.

    —  Safe Routes to School: here very small sums invested in consultation and in the provision of high quality bike sheds produces real modal shift.

    —  "TravelSmart": see our comments under Changing Travel Behaviour.

    —  Targeted rail and light rail improvements.

  Many of these ideas have been pioneered by the voluntary sector, and there is a strong case for Government giving greater financial and policy support to this sector, in the interests of cost effectiveness and quick deliverability.

  At the same time, there have been press reports (The Guardian, 28 December 2001) that the DTLR under-spent 10 per cent of its capital budget—£735 million—in the last financial year. At a time when Britain's road safety record is so poor, when communities have decades-worth of traffic-calming demands in the pipeline, and when urgent improvements to walking and cycling networks are needed, this is a lamentable state of affairs. We ask the Committee to investigate this issue, and to ensure that the funding which is actually available for important small-scale schemes, does actually get spent.


  The original Plan said little about the need to link transport, land use, development and planning. However, since the Committee announced this current Inquiry the Government has made major proposals concerning the Planning System and relating to major projects.

  The Planning Green Paper proposals to remove powers from County Councils. However, as these are responsible for Local Transport Plans there are possibilities for confusion and a loss of integration. Even more worrying are the proposals to allocate housing numbers and development regionally.

  There are further serious concerns over the separate proposals on Major Infrastructure Projects which, we understand, can in principle be decided in Parliament, by Members who will have little or no knowledge of the issues involved.

  Sustrans believes that these twin proposals could seriously weaken Transport planning in this country. We call on the Committee to hold an inquiry into these suggestions as a matter of urgency.


  The White Paper raises important issues about decoupling economic development from transport growth, and about internalising the costs of different modes of transport. There are also important ideas about placing users at the heart of transport policy. Central to this is setting the target of reducing by half the number of fatalities on EU roads by 2010, a more ambitious target than the UK's. Developing on from the CfIT report, it would be useful for the UK and the Commission to bench-mark best practice in road safety, especially as we have noted above what an unsatisfactory situation we have in this country for non-motorised users.

  Elsewhere there are proposals to continue the development of Trans-European Networks. Sustrans believes care should be taken with this concept. Funding should not be made available to projects whose environmental impact is negative. Conversely the European cycle route network, EuroVelo, should be recognised as a TEN. A development fund for EuroVelo should be established within the TENs budget.


  Sustrans believes that revision of the 10 Year Plan gives us all a chance for a new way of thinking. European best practice has been laid out for us (CfIT report) and we should rapidly seek to learn from it. Coupled to this should be targeted programmes of reducing car dependency, and improving travel choice. Our highways should be re-prioritised, to give the sustainable modes much more room and assurance.

  Accompanying this should be a community-led revision of our streets. 20 mph should be the default speed in urban areas. Home Zones, schools, parks and transport interchanges should be focal points for safe travel. There must be an end to the "body count" era of road safety: environmental, health, community and quality of life indicators must also be used to bring sanity to our streets.

  Furthermore, no Transport Plan should be complete without a fundamental re-think on virtually all aspects of traffic law. 50 times as many children are killed by traffic than by paedophiles in a year. Rethinking contributory negligence by motorists could be a powerful weapon for change. Some Continental countries presume automatic liability by drivers in collisions with children, cyclists and pedestrians—this is an area worthy of urgent research.

  Finally, much less heavy capital spending and far more flexible revenue spend is necessary to achieve a more balanced system. Targeted spending is necessary at particular types of journey. Special action needs to be taken on commuter trips: DTLR's "Focus on personal travel" recently released shows that these were 16 per cent longer than 10 years ago. Our new 10 Year Plan should be one that seeks to reverse such trends, not perpetuate them.

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