Memorandum by The Royal Town Planning
Institute (TYP 26)
1. The Transport Sub-committee of the Transport,
Local Government and the Regions Committee has decided to investigate
the measures, targets and progress towards delivering the improvements
set out in the 10 Year Plan. In particular, the Sub-committee
will consider the following areas:
What assumptions in the Plan should
be modified or challenged? Will the expected number of congestion
charging and workplace parking levy schemes be implemented, and
How important are the assumptions to
Are the skills and capacity available
to deliver the improvements?
How will the current situation in the
railway industry affect the need for and provision of private
and public sector finance?
Is the balance and phasing of investment
across funding areas correct?
Are more flexible financing arrangements
required to deliver major local schemes?
How do the emerging multi-modal studies
affect the Plan?
Should the plan represent a better
balance between large and small schemes, and between infrastructure,
management and operations?
Are the targets and dates for their
achievement well designed?
What other targets, if any, should
Should a more regional approach be
adopted for target setting?
Integrated transport policy
How well does the Plan balance social
and environmental policy with effective investment?
Does the Plan set out a balanced approach
to all modes?
What impacts will policies in the European
White Paper have on the Plan?
2. The 10 Year Plan is essentially the investment
plan to deliver the Government's integrated transport policy as
set out in the 1998 Transport White PaperA New Deal
for Transport. In the Government's own words, the Plan's priorities
better integration; and
a wider choice of quicker, safer,
more reliable travel on road, rail and other public transport.
3. The Institute sees three major obstacles
to the delivery of the 10 Year Plan:
the present hiatus in the railway
industry and the Government's apparent inability or unwillingness
to look to a speedy resolution;
the difficulty in achieving political
acceptability of the need for restraint in the use of the private
car, at least in the short term, and;
The need to deliver public transport
(not just railways) that attracts users from the private car and
thereby provides real traveller choice.
4. The Institute would wish to see a greater
emphasis on public transport other than railways in delivering
the 10 Year Plan. Recognising both the investment and operational
constraints and the tight timescale, the contribution of other
public transport modes particularly for inter urban transport
should not be overlooked. They are crucial to providing the transport
choices upon which the overall policy framework and the 10 Year
Transport Plan depend.
5. That said, a central feature of the Plan
is the "new deal" for railways. Development of the railway
is vital if a significant modal shift from private to public transport
is to be achieved. Announcing the Plan in the House of Commons,
the Deputy Prime Minister spoke of "a bigger, better and
safer railway, and real choice in public transport".
Alongside the ambition for a 50 per cent increase in rail passengers
was an 80 per cent increase in rail freighta vital environmental
plus. With little prospect of early permanent replacement arrangements
for Railtrack, and the Secretary of State's apparent enthusiasm
for short term extension of the train operators' franchises guaranteeing
little or no re-investment, only an optimist can see the "new
deal" being realised.
6. The Transport White Paper set out in
the vision for an integrated transport system that required less
use of the private car and more patronage of revitalised public
transport. The theory was that the price restraint mechanisms
on the use of the carroad user charges and workplace parking
levies, for examplewould fund the necessary improvements
in public transport. This theory was flawed from the start, as
public transport required major funding "up front" to
create the efficient and safe system that would coax motorists
out of their cars. In short, the "carrots" had to be
in place before the "sticks" both to make the shifts
acceptable to voters and more importantly to change traveller
preference. The White Paper approach now seems even less capable
of providing the answers as there is little enthusiasm on the
part of the Government, or local authorities, to introduce the
restraint measures. The spending profiles in the 10 Year Plan
will have to be refocused to reflect this.
7. The Government acknowledges that many
of its assumptions are very sensitive to changing circumstances.
It recognises the need to be responsive, flexible and pragmatic
in pursuing its objectives. It further recognises that many of
the assumptions rest on inputs that have yet to be delivered.
8. However flexible and pragmatic the approach,
it is clear that the Plan has yet to effect any significant change
in the 18 months since its inception. Indeed, the modal split
targets are already looking very ambitious. There is little evidence
that the public is responding in ways that the Government would
have liked, with perceptions and attitudes remaining largely unchanged.
The current difficulties with the railways (see paragraph 5, above)
have not helped.
9. From past research, it is generally well
understood that people are unlikely to change their travelling
habits without considerable coercion. At present neither the sticks
nor the carrots are being used to encourage people to use their
cars less and public transport more. The real cost of public transport
continues to increase, particularly for some of the journeys where
there should have been the maximum encouragement to make the modal
shift to rail. There is little evidence of enthusiasm, on the
part of most local authorities, to adopt congestion charging and
workplace parking levels, despite the passage of enabling legislation.
Neither does the Government appear to be pursuing charging on
inter-urban roads with any great speed or enthusiasm.
10. These are old, well-rehearsed arguments.
The two-pronged approach could, at the same time, discourage car
use and make finance available for the step change needed in the
quality and reliability of public transport. Without it, there
appears to be little prospect of the Plan's modal split targets
11. The main impediment to implementation
of the Plan appears to be the present difficulties in the railway
industry. While the future of the railway is so shrouded in uncertainty,
there is little incentive for the private investment that is central
to success, and on which the Plan is predicated. In unveiling
the Plan to the House of Commons, the Deputy Prime Minister has
said, "But let me make it absolutely clear. If we put in
public money we expect rail and bus companiesand local
authoritiesto deliver the goods: more investment and better
services for the travelling public. On budget and on time."
At present, what appears to be lacking most is a sense of purpose
from the Government.
12. Unless the organisational structure
and funding of the railways is resolved quickly, and in a way
that gives confidence to private investors, the only alternative
will be more "up front" public expenditure. In other
words, the present Planrequiring £50 billion of investment
by the private sector from a total planned expenditure of £180
billionwill not be implemented.
13. Railtrack made an awful mess of estimating
the cost of the West Coast Modernisation. This is now way over
budget, even with the additional funding included in the Plan.
One ludicrous effect of the eleventh hour trimming back is that
the expensive trains ordered by the operator, and which can only
be paid for by the customer, through the fare box, will now probably
never be able to realise their 140 mph potential. (The Plan includes
£60 billion for "a bigger, better, safer railway").
The evidence suggests that other major rail projectssuch
as the parallel East Coast Main Line upgradeare in a similar
state. If these schemes are to proceed, more public monies will
be required, over and above what is included in the Plan.
14. At the other end of the scale, local
expectations are also running high. While money has been allocated
in the Plan for the implementation of Local Transport Plans (LTPs),
this is unlikely to be sufficient to meet expectations quickly
enough. In particular, local public transport improvements are
unlikely to be implemented in sufficient numbers and within an
15. In between, in terms of scale, are the
multi-modal studies. The Institute strongly supported the setting
up of these studies which were designed to look, across modes,
at transport solutions in various corridors across England. They
were closely aligned with the regional planning process, and will
inevitably throw up ambitious projects that the regional assemblies
will wish to take forward. It seems very unlikely that the 10
Year Plan will be able to take all these on board in the necessary
16. It is clear that the Plan will require
some re-programming and refocusing as a consequence of events
in the 18 months since its inception. In the Institute's view,
it should concentrate on capital investment in a range of small,
medium and large schemes; it is more important to concentrate
on the provision of new and improved infrastructure rather than
on the operational qualities of the transport network. Operational
needs should be funded primarily from revenue budgets.
17. The targets now appear ambitious for
achievement by 2010. Reducing traffic congestion has to remain
the prime target, but the walking and traffic reduction targets
are also vitally important if local environment conditions are
to be improved.
18. It would be sensible to look at a more
regional orientation of the targets. Conditions vary across the
country and targets for the South East, for examplewhere
traffic congestion, the density of rail commuters, etc are greatestare
unlikely to be appropriate in the North East or the South West,
where there are other, and different transport priorities.
19. Integration pre-supposes "joined-up"
thinking and action. It also pre-supposes a close and continuing
relationship between transport and land use planning policies.
Land allocations for major development opportunities, or the promotion
of regeneration schemes, have to be accompanied by suitable and
timely increases in transport capacity.
20. There is little evidence on integration
at the planning stage. There remains confusion in the relationship
between transport strategies and plans and the development planning
system. The Planning Green Paper "Delivering a Fundamental
Change"does not seem to address this issue but the
consultation provides a vital opportunity to do so. The strengthened
regional planning guidance (RPG), described in PPG 11, is to include
a regional transport strategy (RTS), but most of the latest/current
round of RPG has not so far produced the goods, leaving the RTS
to be detailed later. Through that mechanism, RPG is meant to
inform the preparation of development plans and local transport
plans (LTPs), but there is no means of ensuring consistency and
compatibility at county or, particularly, district level, where
the detailed proposals are prepared. This is of particular concern
in carrying forward the outcome of the multi-modal studies (see
paragraph 15, above).
21. Despite all the Government hype since
publication of the Transport White Paper, the essential "joining-up"
has yet to be put in place. The 10 Year Plan, itself, tends to
compound the problem by giving separate consideration to each
mode, with little cross-cutting treatment of social or environmental
objectives. While it is recognised that the Plan is essentially
an investment programme, and is not the vehicle for announcing
new measures, in presentational terms, the social benefits are
pretty well hidden. These are restricted to the Urban Bus Challenge
Fund for "poorly served, deprived urban areas, cut off from
jobs and services", fuel duty rebate for community transport
and a limited package of measures to improve public transport
in rural areas. Environmental benefits are dealt with in a similar
low key fashion, with little more than passing references to air
quality improvements and savings in greenhouse gas emissions.
22. In short, the Plan does little to balance
social and environmental policy with its proposed transport investment
23. The European Transport White Paper seems
to be keen to encourage modal change, and charge for the use of
transport infrastructure. While these aims are broadly in line
with those of our own Transport White Paper, to the extent that
the 10 Year Plan undervalues the coercive measures that will be
necessary to achieve these objectives, it could be argued that
some inconsistencies are already apparent.
24. It was never conceivable that an investment
programme spanning 10 years could run its course without the need
for adjustments arising from the monitoring of its implementation.
Unfortunately, some of the basic assumptions in the 10 Year Transport
Plan have gone awry very early in the programme.
25. To compound the felony, it seems as
though the Government has "lost the plot", or at best
has lost some of its enthusiasm since the heady days of the Transport
White Paper. It seems to have become distracted from delivering
the overall promised public transport/private car choice which
is vital if the required modal shift from private to public transport
is to be achieved across the country. This will require continuing
progress in modernising and expanding bus operations as well as
investment in the development and upgrading of the railway infrastructure,
at least on the scale envisaged in the Plan. Motorists must be
able to see a convenient, safe, reliable and attractive alternative
for the journeys they have to make, if they are to be lured out
of their cars. At present, the context for this is completely
lacking, as the Government has become pre-occupied with decisions
on the ownership and control of the railways.
26. At the same time, the Government has
gone cold on the introduction of measures to discourage car usage.
Apart from the loss of funds for the implementation of local transport
schemes that this implies, there is absolutely no prospect of
achieving targets for the reduction of congestion without some
degree of coercion, however unattractive this may be politically.