Memorandum by The Automobile Association
The AA welcomed the 10 Year Plan for transport
and the ambitious aims set out in Para 1.10:
". . . to benchmark our performance against
the best in Europe, and through greatly increased investment,
to transform our transport infrastructure over the next 10 years."
The AA made two vital contributions to the development
of the Plan. The first benchmarked Britain's transport performance
against the rest of Europe in the 2000 report "Lessons
from European transport and travel", the second was "Taking
Action: What the AA says needs to be done", working with
the Confederation of British Industry, the Confederation of Passenger
Transport, and the Freight Transport Association. This report
was published following a seminar in the Grand Committee Room
organised by the AA, with All Party support. The reports have
been made available to the Committee.
The Plan was published 18 months ago and is
already under review. The AA believes it essential that the Plan
should not be a static documentit should be one that responds
to changing circumstances.
The Select Committee's Inquiry is the first
public review of the Plan and the AA welcomes the opportunity
to submit this memorandum.
What assumptions should be modified or challenged?
The assumption of transfer from car to public
transport made in the Plan can only be delivered if new public
transport services are delivered at affordable prices, and with
quality and reliability. These services will be most effective
for travel into and around big city centres, and on the main inter-urban
rail corridors. The analysis supporting the 10 Year Plan largely
supports this reality, but is overoptimistic on the rapid introduction
of pricing measures. More radical change to reform how people
pay for motoring is required to address the latter.
AA members overwhelmingly want more investment
in public transport and want more choice. That said, road transport
will increasingly be the dominant mode and car ownership will
continue to grow in line with growth in the economy. The growth
will be significant among the older population, among women (and
particularly older women), and among disabled people. Car traffic
growth is certain over the life of the Plan and must be recognised
in its on-going development, and be planned for and managed.
Will the expected number of congestion charging
and workplace levy schemes be implemented and when?
New chargesto drive into towns and cities
and to park at workmust be seen in the light of the costs
motorists already bear in the highest fuel taxes and pump prices
in Europe. In central London, where over 90 per cent of visits
are made by public transport, the Mayor's congestion charging
proposals may be plausible, albeit the AA believes the current
scheme is under-developed. Local authorities contemplating new
charging schemes will be watching the London scheme very carefully.
If the London scheme is successful others may follow, but if it
fails, there may be no other scheme introduced during the lifetime
of the Plan.
The AA believes that schemes that offer improved
road infrastructure simultaneously with pricing, eg the Versailles
tunnel in Paris, have greater traffic and environmental benefits,
and that motorists are more willing to pay. The AA's publication
"Going Underground" highlights tunnels as a solution
to traffic and environmental problems, and has been made available
to the Committee.
Are the skills and the capacity available to deliver
At a seminar in Parliament organised by the
AA in March 2000, the then President of the Institution of Civil
Engineers pointed to a significant skills' shortage in engineering,
and in project management and procurement, that could seriously
hamper the delivery of major transport projects and programmes.
Since then the transport industry has been addressing the issue,
working with academia and education and training providers to
solve short term problems and lay the foundations for longer term
sourcing of the right skills' sets.
Much is being done, but success will to a great
extent depend on continuity of the Plan over the 10 years. A return
to "stop-go", that many in the industry fear will happen,
will mean that transport and construction will continue to be
seen by young people as industries with poor career prospects.
A MORI survey of the senior executives in construction, transport
consultancies and local authorities, commissioned by the AA confirms
this industry fear of a return to "stop-go".
How will the current situation in the railway
industry affect the need for private and public sector finance;
is the balance of investment across funding areas correct?
AA members want, first and foremost, a rail
system that is safe and that works even though most only use it
for occasional journeys.
In economic terms the investment planned for
rail is out of scale relative to that planned for local transport
and buses. The contrasts are even greater for the country's sparse
strategic roads, which carry 34 per cent of all traffic and 67
per cent of all freight traffic. They are the busiest roads in
The AA is concerned that while roads show very
high economic rates of return, the economic rates of return from
rail investment have not been made public. There is now a risk
of a switch from road to rail investment for reasons of political
expediency. However, in terms of economics and value for money,
the reverse could well be argued, particularly in terms of saving
deaths and serious injuries where poor quality roads are a material
factor in accidents.
There is an undoubted case for investment in
rail, particularly to bring the basic track and signalling infrastructure
up-to-date and to optimum levels of safety and efficiency. However,
the ambitious improvement plans for faster rail routes need to
be assessed properly and transparently.
Are more flexible financing arrangements required
to deliver major local schemes?
The AA has published far-reaching proposals
for reform of road taxation and reform of infrastructure funding,
based on work we commissioned from Professor David Newbery of
Cambridge University. These would involve changing the UK's archaic
system of road taxation by separating taxes for general expenditure
from charges to own cars and use roads. These reforms would set
up institutions to collect road charges and allocate funding for
transport schemes. The AA suggests that the Committee should look
further into these ideas which we believe would lead to new ways
of funding transport schemes, and which would receive public support.
How do emerging multi-modal studies affect the
10 Year Plan?
These studies must be the driving force if decisions
on improvements to our transport infrastructure are to be truly
transparent over the next 10 years. Clear proposals must be drawn
out of these studies and the infrastructure provision and improvements
implemented, with determination and commitment.
Should the Plan represent a better balance between
large and small schemes, and between infrastructure management
The 10 Year Plan needs a portfolio of large
and small schemes targeted at our pressing transport problems.
It also needs fundamental improvements to the way our transport
system is operated day-to-day. The AA report "Investment:
what needs to be done" sets out five action areas:
repairs and maintenance to roads,
bridges and underground;
improving operations and day-to-day
management of roads and public transport services;
provision of quality alternatives
to car and truck by improving bus and rail services;
targeted road improvements and an
end to piecemeal scheme development of the road system; and
changing the way we pay for roads
and transport to achieve greater transport and environmental efficiency.
The AA welcomed in particular the recent announcement
that incidents on the major road network will be targeted as part
of a major drive for operational efficiency.
Are the targets and dates for their achievements
Road congestion: The targets for reducing congestion
on the inter-urban road network and in the large urban areas in
England are desirable, they are achievable, but they are modest.
However, on the inter-urban road network in particular, the target
will not be achieved by integrated transport solutions or by public
transport improvements. The target will only be achieved by increasing
capacity, and removing bottlenecks. This means increased investment
in motorway widening, by-passes, and bottleneck relief schemes,
as well as investment in management and operations of the network
to provide much greater efficiency.
Road maintenance: Funding to halt the deterioration
of national and local roads is now flowing. Provided funding is
maintained at the levels set out in the Plan, the backlog should
be eliminated, and roads brought up to optimum condition by the
end of the Plan period. It is a sad fact, however, that a halt
to deteriorating road conditions will not be achieved until 2004
on the Plan's current timescale.
Rail use: The targets for increased rail use
by passengers and freight are very ambitious, and having regard
to the current state of the rail network are almost certainly
not achievable. Massive investment in rail to try to achieve the
targets may not be cost-effective, and would only provide very
marginal relief to road congestion.
Bus use: The target for bus use is only 10 per
cent, and not particularly ambitious. As bus is more commonly
used than train, and much less dominated by the better off, a
greater commitment to improve bus services would help reduce car
reliance in urban areas, and help reduce social exclusion, particularly
for people without regular access to a car.
Casualties: The casualty reduction target of
a 40 per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries and a 50
per cent cut in child deaths and serious injuries by 2010 is aggressive,
but it is achievable. Around 60 per cent of deaths and serious
injuries are on rural high-speed roads. The AA Foundation for
Road Safety Research is working with other European motoring organisations
and, with national road administrations, to develop the protocols
for Road Assessment, which will make roads much safer, and so
contribute significantly to achieving the target. The European
Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) has now been established and
more information can be provided to the Committee.
Air quality: The targets will be achieved through
the technological advances in engine and fuel technology that
have already been introduced and that are in the pipeline. However,
old technology vehicles, particularly old technology diesel buses,
lorries and black cabs will continue to be major sources of pollution
in the denser urban areas.
Greenhouse gases: Emissions of these gases from
cars have been stable throughout the 1990s despite traffic growth.
The agreement between the European Commission and the car manufacturers
will mean much greater fuel efficiency from the next generations
of cars and so help ensure that UK motorists play a significant
part in achieving the 20 per cent reduction target by 2010. The
encouraging developments in low carbon technologies need to be
fostered through fiscal incentives. The AA welcomes the revenue
neutral changes introduced by graduated VED.
Local transport: These targets are local in
nature and so whether or not they are achievable, or achieved,
will depend on local circumstances.
What other targets, if any, should be included?
The AA is particularly keen to see rapid progress
made in achieving the 2010 casualty reduction target. The target
is aggressive and will require some radical changes in policy
and the application of new standards and guidelines. In particular,
every speed limit in the country should be reviewed to ensure
the right speed limit is applied; there must be a review of the
signing of speed limits so that all drivers understand what the
speed limit is; the results of the new Road Assessment Programmes
should be studied carefully by highway authorities to assess what
improvement works should be carried out to ensure that the death
penalty is not paid by drivers and passengers for minor driving
errors. Targets should be set for these requirements, and measurements
applied to demonstrate success or otherwise.
The 10 Year Plan is the investment plan to deliver
the Government's integrated transport policy.
Transport policy and thinking have moved on
since the term "integrated transport" was coined. Since
then it has become apparent that almost the entire UK transport
infrastructure needs major re-investment, that traffic demand
will continue to grow to meet deep routed social, demographic
and economic needs, and that roads will continue to be the dominant
means of moving freight and people. Integrating transport modes
is highly desirable, for example, integrating the car with bus
and train through park and ride schemes. But everyone's vision
should now move on from integrated transport to the national goal
of building a transport system the rival of any in Europe. The
AA believes the Plan is the basic mechanism to achieve this. The
Plan needs on-going review and development, but above all it needs
the commitment to invest.