Memorandum by Socialist Environment and
Resources Association (TYP 10)
1. The Socialist Environment and Resources
Association (SERA) is the only environment campaign affiliated
to the Labour Party. Its membership comprises mostly Labour Party
members, including 104 MPs of which 20 are ministers, six at cabinet
2. SERA believes that getting transport
policy right is a vital part of Labour's social equity, environmental
and economic agenda.
3. Labour came to power in 1997 having produced
policy documents on the environment that SERA was right to be
truly proud: In "In Trust for Tomorrow" and "Consensus
for Change" Labour recognised:
the futility of continuing a major road building
programme: "Building new roads offers at best temporary relief
from traffic congestion. It is now accepted by almost everyone
apart from the Department of Transport that new roads generate
new traffic . . . Widening existing roads will have much the same
effect, . . ."
the need to invest and develop the railways
and bus services and the importance of cycling and walking;
the enormous impact transport has on social
equity (it is the poor who pay most for poor quality transport,
live on some of the most blighted traffic corridors and are over
represented in crash statistics)
4. In 1998 SERA welcomed the Transport White
Paper as broadly moving policy in the right direction. It mapped
out a future of better bus services, a better railway, safer cycling
and walking. Crucially it made a break with the past by stressing
that alternative transport options would be assessed before road
schemes are approved. Road building was to be a solution of last
5. However the 10 Year Plan marked the start
of a retreat on transport policy. It introduced huge policy changes
that have shattered the consensus for change that existed only
a very few years ago. This has given SERA great cause for concern.
6. Government has all but abandoned the
imperative to reduce the absolute volume of traffic on our roads
as a central focus of policy and replaced it with congestion reduction,
an entirely different objective.
7. SERA believes that reducing the need
to travel and reduction in absolute traffic volumes are an essential
element of any sensible transport policy for the UK. SERA believes
that this change of policy is the single most important problem
with the 10-Year Transport Plan. It sends out entirely the wrong
message to local authority planners and those consultants conducting
multi-modal studies. It has led to the re-emergence of the idea
that more travel can and should be accommodated albeit with an
emphasis on public transport. Many road building schemes that
were hitherto taken off of the agenda are now firmly back on it.
8. If Government believes the transport
crisis and congestion can be improved against a back drop of rising
traffic levels ministers are deluding both themselves and the
9. Government has sought to create the illusion
that a rising demand for travel can be accommodated, be it by
road or rail, and that the traveller will, in future, have a more
comfortable speedier and less congested journey. This illusion
may have helped it put off public anger at the failure of transport
policy in the short term, but it is no substitute for the very
difficult policy decisions necessary.
10. Again an entirely wrong signal is being
sent by central Government. SERA believes that reducing the absolute
amount that we are travelling and changing the modes of travel
should be central to policy.
11. Government has signalled that funds
are available for a seemingly infinite amount of new infrastructure
with the implication that this massive infrastructure programme
will solve transport problems.
12. SERA accepts that the 10 Year Plan is
a welcome step change in public funding for transport and that
some new funds can be levered from the private sector. However,
we do not believe that enough capacity can ever be built to accommodate
present travel demand let alone increasing demand for travel by
road or rail. We cannot build our way out of congestion.
13. SERA believes that the 10 Year Transport
Plan should be abandoned and a return made to the priorities of
the 1998 Transport White Paper. The focus of policy should be:
(i) A reduction in the need to travel;
(ii) A reduction in absolute traffic volumes;
(iii) Management of transport demand;
(iv) Making best use of the existing infrastructure;
(v) A much greater emphasis on many smaller
scale schemes, especially bus, cycling and walking schemes;
(vi) A review of approved infrastructure
projects, particularly road building and road widening schemes.
14. Specifically, in SERA's Charter for
Sustainability (copy enclosed), we believe that there are two
immediate transport priorities for Labour's second term:
(a) Be on course to increase annual bus passenger
journeys by one billion by 2010.
(b) Switch at least £22 billion from
the road building budget to walking, cycling, buses and local