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

Memorandum by Councillor Steve Harangozo, Comberton Ward, South Cambridgeshire DC (TYP 24)


  UK transport policy appears to show little sign of moving towards a sustainable future with increased motorway building and widening being mooted. Despite the introduction of Local Transport Plans little new funding is available for walking, cycling and public transport. Bus services continue to be cut in rural areas despite the Rural Bus Grant. Bus passengers are still second class citizens in an industry starved of investment.

  The transport sector is the fastest growing source of CO2 but the government continues not to face up to the need to stop traffic growth despite two Traffic Reduction Acts. Not surprisingly, there is a policy vacuum in terms of the links between transport policy, climate change and the need for CO2 reduction. This is despite the recent warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that global warming may be far greater in the next century than had been thought. This suggests that a major test for national transport policy is whether it will be able to stabilise and reverse traffic growth through substantial modal shift. This may be happening in a few large cities like Manchester with new trams but this is only a drop in the ocean.

Is the balance and phasing of investment across funding areas correct?

  No. Far greater funding is needed for policies to achieve modal shift away from the private motorcar. Given that the largest fraction of journeys is less than five miles, it follows that walking, cycling and, in particular, buses are far more important than rail. John Prescott explicitly acknowledged the importance of such modes in the introduction to a New Deal for Transport. Yet the greater part of 10 Year Plan funding is going to road and rail. But rail cannot really deliver significant modal shift because it is geared to long distance travel. It is also already over-capacity!

  Rail thus cannot really deal with city congestion problems except over the very long-term and only if capacity is greatly increased. In any case, modal shift would only be achieved with widespread implementation of demand management, something that seems even more distant. Last week a letter to The Independent complained that motorists are hardly likely to drive their cars to suburban stations when they can drive all the way at less cost. They would certainly not want to do this just to sit on a jam-packed train or stuck on stranded trains getting into places like Birmingham. This letter typifies the very real problem with railways for delivering sustainable transport alternatives in the UK. But it also demonstrates the lack of sticks to dissuade motorists from driving into city centres even when alternatives exist.

  The funding imbalance is reflected in Local Transport Plans where the status quo exists with most funding still going to large infrastructure projects. In Cambridgeshire (Cambridgeshire County Council) this notably means very expensive by-passes which of themselves don't deliver modal shift. In contrast, the number of cycleways and road safety schemes has not increased with LTPs and only one major bus lane scheme is provided per year in Cambridge. There is a huge backlog of requests for pedestrian crossing and traffic calming schemes in Cambridgeshire. Note that the cost of one roundabout on a dual carriageway is perhaps £0.5 million which will buy 20 traffic calming schemes or 40 pedestrian crossings.

  Therefore there is a gulf between public expectations for local transport improvements and the 10 Year Plan's emphasis on national road and rail. County Council public consultations on Local Transport Plans countrywide say people want far more investment in buses, cycling and walking, not roads. Consultations in Cambridgeshire confirm there is no support for new roads. It appears that the recent rail disasters and the emphasis on national rail safety are obscuring the genuine need for and benefits from developing practical local transport solutions people really want.

  Our road system will continue to be inefficiently used until permits or charges are introduced that make the motorist think about whether their five to 10 mile journey on the motorway at peak time or driving their child to school each day is really necessary. Freight is massively subsidised by general public taxation despite its huge damage to road surfaces. This is despite forecasts of 20 per cent freight traffic growth over the next 15 years. Climate change caused by CO2 also needs to be recognised in roads policy making as a major environmental externality.

  Policy measures:

    —  Sustainable national transport policies should be geared to (1) more efficient use of the existing road network and (2) reducing and reversing road traffic growth, not to increases in road capacity.

    —  Collect funding from section 106 agreements into one fund per local authority of which 50 per cent are used for walking, cycling and buses (including community transport).

How well does the Plan balance social and environmental policy with efficient investment?

  What is lacking is clear policy for modal shift from the private car and traffic reduction and linking this to reducing CO2 emissions given that the transport sector is responsible for the largest growth of such emissions. It is astonishing the government is so reluctant to link its climate change and transport policies. Note Margaret Beckett's response to the question of why the fuel escalator was dropped was "we all know the reasons why" in a BBC interview (Westminster Hour) after the fuel protests. There was no mention of the long-standing policy of levying tax for environmental reasons at the time of the fuel protests or since. Yet this was a policy set up by the Tories in the early 90s.

  Measures required:

    —  Redirect national policy to road traffic reduction on all routes with local authorities being set tough targets which, if met, will trigger substantial central government funding in local sustainable transport schemes.

    —  Restore the fuel escalator or a flexible taxing mechanism to ensure that petrol prices are kept high when oil prices drop in order to limit increase in fuel use.

    —  Undertake a thorough review of the methods and purposes of charging/taxation for national and local road use and other demand restraint measures in order to (a) reduce public subsidy of roads and (b) to achieve a real balance between economic and environmental costs.


  It appears that ministers are beginning to use these studies to justify increases in capacity, ie new or wider roads, when no alternative apparently exists. Sally Keeble recently endorsed additional road "capacity" on the A14 as part of a Multi-Modal Study in Cambridgeshire (CHUMMS), presumably to alleviate congestion. Is congestion going to be used to justify raising capacity countrywide?

  The point is that that there will be no alternative to more road building so long as road traffic is allowed to grow unchecked. Yet even if road building were to increase it has been shown in recent research that this will have negligible effect on road journey times nationally. While multi-modal studies may identify opportunities for modal shift, the underlying problem of traffic growth is being left untouched. Computer simulations showing freely flowing peak-time traffic once road widening has taken place shown at public consultation meetings are a dangerous myth! What does this say about sustainable development and educating the public about pressing environmental issues?


    —  Sustainability concepts should govern all multi-modal studies with an explicit need to break the link between capacity increase and tackling congestion problems.

    —  Demand management should be an integral part of multi-modal studies for inter-urban routes and should be put in place before any increase in road capacity.

Should the Plan represent a better balance between large and small schemes?

  Yes! Local transport plans should "ring fence" 50 per cent of funds for smaller local projects specifically designed to achieve modal shift linked to more demanding targets for traffic reduction. A step-change in funding for bus priority schemes is also required to give buses a competitive advantage.

  The government needs to endorse and financially support the widespread implementation of demand management to restrain local traffic growth as soon as new local schemes such as bus priority and increased bus frequency are put in place. It is unfortunate that local authorities have been left with full discretion over implementation of demand management by charging motorists for congestion or workplace parking spaces. This was a recipe for inertia because transport policy is one area that needs strong central leadership to make any significant change to the status quo!

  Measures required:

    —  Policies for delivery of substantial modal shift through local sustainable transport schemes should be strengthened and linked to credible targets for traffic reduction on a local authority basis.

    —  A step-increase in funding for bus priority schemes in urban areas to make bus journey times more attractive.

Are the targets and the dates for their achievement well designed?

  No. Reducing congestion is a distant prospect with 17 per cent more traffic expected in the next 10 years. Congestion is expected to worsen on motorways. Congestion is not the root transport problem which is to reduce and reverse traffic growth by (a) increasing the cost of motoring which is so cheap and where roads are so heavily subsidised and (b) putting in place a far bolder strategy for local transport schemes, notably buses, and for integration of bus and rail.

  Specific targets are urgently required to radically improve quality and reliability of buses. Because of their flexibility and relatively low costs buses can provide "quick wins" for road traffic reduction either on a route by route basis or by area. Targets for bus-based "quick wins" for local authorities should include:

    —  Increase all peak time bus services on commuting routes to half-hourly (hourly in off-peak)—this sort of measure working with bus priority has increased bus patronage by 70-100 per cent in the Cambridge region.

    —  Upgrade contracts for all existing bus services (not just new ones funded by the Rural Bus Grant) to Quality Partnerships by providing funding to bus operators.

    —  Through ticketing for all bus and train trips.

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