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

Memorandum by The Ramblers' Association (TYP 8)


  1.  The Ramblers' Association (RA) warmly welcomes this inquiry into the 10 Year Plan. As an organisation primarily concerned with walking, both in rural and urban areas, we believe that there is an urgent need to give greater priority to walking as a form of transport, and we are particularly disappointed that the 10 Year Plan gives so little emphasis to it. We hope that this inquiry will highlight the importance of walking as a key means of integrating other transport modes, as well as a way of improving both urban and rural areas through encouraging people to walk by providing better conditions for pedestrians.

  2.  The RA is a voluntary organisation founded in 1935 whose aims are to promote walking, to protect public rights of way, to campaign for access to open country and to defend the beauty of the countryside. It has over 130,000 individual members and 77,000 members of affiliated clubs and societies. The Association believes that it is the largest single organisation representing a group of vulnerable road users and we are pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee.

  3.  We were pleased with the outcome of the recent inquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities which produced some important results and highlighted some important issues. We urge the Government to act on these in order to improve the quality of life in towns and cities. We currently remain concerned that the Government is not taking walking seriously as a solution to many transport problems, and we hope that this inquiry will help to highlight this point. We urge the committee not to forget the outcomes of the Walking in Towns and Cities inquiry as it progresses with this one on the 10 Year Plan.

  4.  The RA sees that one of the roots of the transport problem is the unwillingness to tackle the legacy of under investment in more sustainable forms of transport including public transport, walking and cycling. This is an important issue which must not be overlooked in the rush to tackle congestion by building more roads. We believe that the Government must seriously act to make up for the years of under funding that has occurred for improving and encouraging alternatives to the car which has had the damaging consequence of massive increased dependency on the car.


  5.  We would like to challenge the assumption of the importance of mobility above and beyond that of accessibility and quality of life resulting from streets that are for people rather than cars. The 10 Year Plan focuses on the need to travel as far as possible as fast as possible and provides little promotion of the benefits of reducing the amount of travel that we do. It fails to recognise the impact that traffic has on places (both urban and rural), and consequently on the lives of those people that are not in cars. Furthermore, it fails to recognise the potential cost benefits of any measures to reduce traffic by closing roads to traffic and opening them to people, so making places less polluted, safer, more sociable and more economically viable at a local level.

  6.  In addition to these criticisms, we wish to highlight the issue of skills which we are concerned do not match the task in hand. Although the 10 Year Plan commences with a Foreword which commits to the provision of an integrated transport policy to tackle congestion and pollution, we do not agree that the guidance or the skills that exist within local government are adequate to do this effectively. As already said, we believe that greater emphasis needs to be put on accessibility by modes other than the car, but importantly, those that are responsible for producing transport plans need to be trained in how to do this. Given the high priority that is given to road building as a solution to transport problems, planners seem to us to be resigned to this rather than to seeking imaginative and innovative transport solutions which reduce car use.

  7.  The RA would also like to query the assumption that road building is seen as an investment while services which can generate revenue (such as efficient, clean, safe, regular public transport services) are seen as spending. We would like to see a much more positive light shed on spending on public transport and improvements to facilities for cyclists and pedestrians so that their value in economic revenue generation terms is recognised against the costs (financial, environmental and social) that road building causes.


  8.  Much Government policy is now focussed on reducing congestion, with little regard for reducing traffic generally. We strongly recommend that the millions currently spent on road building (including road widening, building bypasses and schemes to "improve traffic flow") are redirected into reducing the need to travel, improving public transport and making it safer and more pleasant to walk or cycle. This is a fundamental need if we are to increase transport choice rather than simply decreasing the time that it takes to reach destinations by car. Such improvements to encourage more sustainable transport are generally not only cheaper, but improve the environment, the health of the public (by encouraging exercise) and reduce the adverse associated impacts that road building has (including quarrying and loss of countryside).

  9.  The RA would like to see much more challenging targets set for the use of sustainable transport modes, particularly for walking which is the most sustainable of all.


  10.  There are some welcome references in the 10 Year Plan to providing better public transport services for rural areas. However, we are concerned that these references are made only in relation to availability of service, rather than cost or quality. Furthermore, we are not convinced that the Plan makes an adequate effort to recognise the differing needs of different communities, particularly in rural areas, and consequently encourage more intelligent solutions to transport problems (rather than simply providing a bypass or a bus service).

  11.  Again, we would like to highlight the lack of walking as a feature of transport solutions in this plan. We believe that walking has been severely ignored by transport policy in the past, despite recognition that it is an integral part of most journeys. By doing this, we believe that the Plan excludes a whole dimension of transport policy which can improve the quality of life for everyone, and is consequently socially exclusive. While we are dubious about the idea of a "balanced approach" to all modes of transport, since each area needs to be looked at in its own right and assessed on the basis of the needs of the community which it serves, we strongly recommend that greater acknowledgement is given to the role that walking plays and to the benefits that it can bring.


  12.  Despite the growing public recognition of the importance of sustainable transport, it is disappointing that policy continues to restrict transport choice by doggedly ploughing money into schemes which are designed to make it easier, faster and cheaper to travel by car. There is an urgent need to tackle this issue, and we believe that the 10 Year Plan does more to exacerbate it than to tackle it.

  13.  The RA urges the Transport sub-committee to move Government thinking forward so that the 10 Year Plan is amended to reduce dependency on the car rather than encourage it, and to put far greater attention and resources towards improving sustainable transport, and consequently improving the quality of life for all.

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