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

Memorandum by Bristol City Council (TYP 32)


  Bristol is well placed to provide the Select Committee with a large urban area perspective. It is a freestanding city, and the largest non-metropolitan city in England. We feel that Bristol has much to offer the inquiry through our approach to transport planning, which in many respects pre-dates the Transport

  The city has also developed its role over a number of years through the European Commission, as nominated co-ordinator of a number of networks and initiatives, where both policy development and funding have been influenced by work undertaken in Bristol. We have recently won a major new Commission-funded bid of £3.24 million, (now also backed by a successful supplementary bid allocation of £700,000 from DTLR and £250,000 from the New Opportunities Fund) for a wide-ranging demonstration project, "VIVALDI", which includes elements of clean fuel and alternative energy vehicles, sustainable distribution, promoting of public transport, access control and charging, home zones etc.

  Bristol was also invited, largely because of developing road user charging policy and pilot demonstrators, to contribute to work leading to the publication of the European Transport White Paper, and the city has been cited within that paper, and others, as an example of good practice. We would welcome the opportunity of bringing this experience to the Select Committee.

  Cities are the economic drivers of their sub-regions, and Bristol's integrated strategy is one that reinforces the role and importance of land use policy to build a sustainable and inclusive economy for all our citizens, as well as for residents, businesses and tourists in both Bristol and the former Avon area. We have also worked with partners in the city, the sub region and the region to show that investment in city transport solutions could help to engender much wider prosperity.

  Particular elements of the 10 Year Plan we would like to give a view on are:


  Bristol has been an active and enthusiastic member of the Government's Charging Development Partnership. The CDP was set up to support policy development within Local Authorities interested in examining the use of either Road User Charging or Workplace Parking Levy as both policy instruments to reduce traffic growth and congestion (and to meet local and national targets) and to raise additional funding for transport programmes and major projects. We believe that to achieve the targets set in the 10 Year Plan, and to raise the revenue for the infrastructure needed to achieve these targets, Government should not lose its resolve to continue to support those Local Authorities likely to be amongst the first to use the powers given to them by the Transport Act 2000. Local Authorities have a pivotal role in implementing national policies at local level, but need continuing government backing to do so.


  There is an acknowledgment in both professional and academic institutions, Local Authorities and the private sector, that there is an acute skills shortage which potentially severely limits the capacity to deliver projects on the ground. ITS UK, for example, has recently circulated a questionnaire to members conducting research on this, on the effects on delivery and on possible solutions. Bristol, like many other Local Authorities, does not want to see this as a barrier to achieving the programme in our LTP. We are working with the University of the West of England to develop a Centre of Transport Excellence where both undergraduate studies, modules for transport professionals and refresher courses would be available. The City Council is actively seeking sponsorship for this work with interested private sector firms. The Select Committee might wish to consider encouraging Government to fund Local Authorities to enable further development of such partnerships.

  Skills and capacity issues are not the only barriers to delivery experienced by local authorities. There is a plethora of organisations, some new and some which have been given new powers, (eg RDAs, Regional Assemblies, Sub Regional Partnerships, SRA/Railtrack, train operating companies and bus companies, Government Offices in the Regions, Highways Agency, Local Strategic Partnerships etc) who all have a role in implementing and co-ordinating transport policies and programmes, especially in the case of large infrastructure projects. The forthcoming Green Paper on Regional Issues is widely expected to promote elected regional government in England with additional powers. Meanwhile, Transport remains at or near the top of the public agenda for action by local and national government. Local Authorities have democratic accountability. Many, like Bristol, have developed their Local Transport Plans with a great deal of public consultation. LTPs are statutory documents, Bristol would contend that Local Authorities are best placed to take responsibility for co-ordinating work between both statutory agencies and other bodies to deliver transport solutions.



  Bristol has put into place a variety of financial packages to deliver projects. We have been successful over a number of years at winning European funds to deliver, or accelerate delivery of, LTP projects. These bids require additional funding which we have matched with the city's own resources and by successfully securing private sector contributions. Increasingly, and in order to promote "joined up" projects, we have also used a variety of regeneration funds, (eg Single Regeneration Budget, Objective 2) lottery, and DTLR challenge funds (Urban Bus Challenge etc). More flexible financial arrangements, including capital and revenue split to fund the LTP programme, are needed to maximise resources to deliver the Plan. The lack of revenue resources to support, for example, public and community transport services, concessionary fares, certain aspects of highway maintenance and Council staff costs is a very real barrier that has yet to be addressed, despite the Government asking for this information to be identified in LTPs submitted in July 2000.

  The introduction of the Single Capital Pot, whilst again welcome in giving Local Authorities more flexibility over spending against local need, could mean that Transport might lose funding previously ring-fenced, when Local Authorities allocate funding against competing priorities. Although this is likely to be monitored by DTLR, the Select Committee may wish to examine whether a more formalised system may be appropriate.

  Development funds for major projects are an area of difficulty that Bristol has encountered in work on the Bristol/South Gloucestershire Light Rapid Transit project. The Government has reaffirmed that it is unwilling to allow LTP monies to be used for these development costs and this presents a difficulty for local authorities in progressing schemes.


  See comments above (under skills and capacity issues) re co-ordination of policy work at the regional level.


  See comments above (under Congestion Charging and Hypothecation) re Bristol's twin track approach to achieving local targets and contributing to national ones. We believe that these targets cannot be achieved by additional supply of public transport and better provision for benign modes alone. Progressive restraint measures restricting growth are essential, these include (from the "soft end") development of Home Zones, traffic calming, parking, apportioning road space for use by public transport, through to Road User Charging and Workplace Parking Levy. These latter measures give Local Authorities access to additional funds to speed up delivery of massively improved public transport alternatives—the "carrot and stick" approach. However, most research and modelling by the City Council shows that, even with these measures, national targets will still be difficult to reach.


  See comments above re financial packages and delivery of major schemes. In addition, Bristol would wish to comment on the difficulties which appear to be caused by procurement rules, specifically the inclusion of potential operators and construction companies as partners at development stage may preclude them from bidding for contracts later.


  Bristol could bring a very particular perspective to the Select Committee's investigation into this issue. In Bristol the "freedoms" of the 1985 Act have resulted in a situation where there is a virtual private sector monopoly by the major bus operator. Low levels of driver recruitment leading to withdrawal of commercial services, problems with reliability exacerbated by congestion in the city, patchy implementation of bus priority measures and a desire to maintain profitability, have all resulted in some poor performance by the bus company. Local and vociferous press campaigns have added to citizens' very low perception of the bus company's efficiency.

  We have a Bus Quality Partnership which both the City Council and the bus company take seriously, but there are continuing difficulties. Recent examples of this are in the City Council being expected to pick up "commercial services" withdrawn by the bus company, the increasing costs of supported services, and constant expectations of these services by the public. There are particular issues also about the contractual penalties levied by the Council on the bus company where service levels have not been met. Recently this has led to the bus company threatening to terminate contracts rather than bear these penalties.

  We have also expressed concern previously (letters to Lord Whitty available) about the role and remit of the Traffic Commissioners. FirstGroup have had to appear before the Commissioner and been penalised—although this was later overturned on a technicality. The "punishments" open to the Commissioner are the ability to fine bus companies but also include being able to withdraw licences to operate services. In Bristol, with one of the lowest percentages of bus users among the larger cities, the City Council found it hard to reconcile this with improving services—especially where there was no other operator willing or able to take up those operations.

  Bristol has limited ability to influence the retention and development of the network and this is a major barrier to implementing its LTP, particularly in developing what is the main transport alternative to the car, and in helping employers to develop effective travel plans.


  As part of the dissemination work required through Centre of Excellence status, DTLR has asked the City Council to concentrate on issues of Air Quality. Having declared our Air Quality Management Area, run an extensive consultation exercise and now working on the AQ Action Plan (AQMA), we welcome any additional powers. 82 per cent of respondents to the consultation said that they would be prepared to accept limitations on their ability to drive in the city centre if air quality and environment were improved. We regard any additional statutory obligations here as helpful and as further tools for Local Authorities to achieve their LTP targets. The Select Committee may wish to consider encouraging Government to give to those Local Authorities who have declared their AQMAs additional funding for innovative transport measures linked to those designated areas as indicated in the 2001 APR guidance.

  A number of innovative solutions will be required if Air Quality Action Plans are to be effective, such as Low Emission Zones and associated certification schemes, encouragement to vehicle owners to retrofit emission controls, old vehicle scrappage schemes and awareness campaigns. There will be significant economies of scale if the Government is active in setting the national framework for this work rather than allowing local authorities to "go it alone". The current consultation by the DTLR on the case for a national standard on LEZs is welcome and Bristol hopes to assist this debate through its Centre of Excellence role. Bristol is holding a seminar in March where these issues will be discussed as part of our dissemination on Air Quality and reported back to DTLR. Any further evidence collected by the Select Committee on these national standards would be most welcome as input to this seminar.


  Bristol has already been designated a Clear Zones Trailblazer and we welcome these initiatives. Similarly with Low Emission Zones, we feel that they should be helpful in achieving realistic local and national air quality targets.


  There is a growing recognition that emphasis on engineering solutions will limit the pace of improvement and therefore the ability to meet road casualty reduction targets. Bristol welcomes the role of enforcement and education in achieving a change in public attitudes towards speed and has joined the Avon and Somerset Safety Camera Partnership. Bristol would like to see greater emphasis given to these aspects of implementation during the course of the 10-Year plan.

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