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

Memorandum by the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (TYP 34)


  Limited progress has been made in implementing the bus and coach elements of the Plan. The key problems are lack of enforcement of bus priority measures and lack of progress on introducing congestion charging. Despite these problems bus patronage increased by one per cent in 2000-01. To ensure that the 10 per cent target will be met by 2010 there will need to be continued expansion of bus priority measures, better enforcement of these measures, extra spending on the Fuel Duty Rebate, and the introduction of several congestion charging schemes.

  The light rail aspects of the Plan are progressing well. In 2000-01 patronage increased by 27 per cent and the target of doubling patronage by 2010 should be met. However it is less certain that the number of new light rail lines will approach the 25 mentioned in the Plan. Funding may be constrained by lack of progress on introducing congestion charging.

  Progress on promoting integration between different modes of transport is being hampered by Government competition policy and financial services regulation.


  The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) is the trade association for bus, coach and light rail operators. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry. This submission addresses buses and coaches, light rail and integrated transport policy in turn.

1.  Buses and coaches

  In our original submission to the then DETR on the 10 Year Plan we argued that bus and coach passenger growth depended on the following factors:

    —  Extra public sector investment in bus-related infrastructure

    —  Better enforcement of bus priority measures

    —  The widespread introduction of road pricing and workplace parking charges

    —  Extra current public expenditure.

  On public sector investment in bus-related infrastructure there has been some progress. The Plan projected substantial increases in funding of local transport in general and this has been realised. Although the Plan did not specify allocations for bus-related schemes, spending on these schemes (such as bus lanes and stations) appears to have increased, according to the limited data available, and is set to increase further.

  It is important that funding for local transport (which includes light rail as well as bus) is delivered in accordance with the Plan, and that funds are neither re-allocated by the Government (for example to tackle problems with the rail network) nor diverted to other uses within the local authorities' single capital pots. Local forms of public transport account for the vast majority of public transport journeys and are particularly important for the socially excluded—those without access to a car and from lower income groups.

  On enforcement of bus priority measure there has been little progress. The Plan made no specific commitments on this and there has been very limited progress outside London. The police should give a much higher priority to bus-related enforcement work.

  There has also been little progress on road pricing and workplace parking charges. The Plan assumed eight congestion charging and 12 workplace parking schemes in England outside London, as well as congestion charging in London. While the London scheme is progressing well, the target is very unlikely to be met outside London. Much more support and encouragement for local authorities is needed.

  There has been some progress on extra current or revenue public expenditure. The Plan projected a modest increase in total funding for local transport in general (a £200 million increase in 2001-02 and then further increases), but did not specify any allocation for buses. There has been some increase in both total funding and bus funding during 2001-02, with extra spending on concessionary fares for example, but published data is not yet available. Some of the extra spending has been through challenge funds which have only indirectly targeted passenger growth.

  In our submission we advocated a substantial increase in bus funding over the decade, of at least £300 million per annum, mainly reflecting spending on the Fuel Duty Rebate (FDR). We proposed an increase in the rebate rate from 75 per cent to 100 per cent for local buses. In April 2001 the rate increased from 75 per cent to 80 per cent. We also advocated an extension of the FDR to coaches. The Government has stated that it will extend the FDR to express coaches (in return for reduced fares), but this has not yet been introduced and the Government has no plans to extend the rebate to school contract buses/coaches, works buses and private hire, tour and excursion coaches, as advocated by CPT.

  Overall, progress has been limited. Progress on meeting the 10 per cent target (below) has correspondingly been limited. Patronage increased about one per cent in England in 2000-01.

  The 10 per cent target for bus patronage growth for England was not based on detailed modelling or analysis. Instead it was based on the views of consultees (including ourselves) and officials on what was achievable and realistic. We understand that DTLR is now doing detailed modelling and analysis and we welcome this. It should enable the target to be reviewed and if necessary amended.

  Our view is that a more ambitious target—relating the target to England outside London rather than to England as a whole, or increasing it above 10 per cent—should now be considered, but must be underpinned by this modelling and analysis. Its appropriateness depends critically on the policy assumptions stated above, such as on congestion charging and revenue spending.

  Local and regional targets. The terms of reference asks whether a more regional approach to targets should be adopted. We believe that a greater emphasis should be given to local targets, as set out in Local Transport Plans. This is because achievement of bus targets largely depends on local actions, such as progress on bus priority measures and road pricing. Local targets should also apply to light rail, where relevant.

  In respect of targets for the punctuality or reliability of buses, emphasis should be given to local rather than national targets. Local targets should be agreed between operators and local authorities and should be included in Local Transport Plans. They will depend on commitments by the local authorities on bus priority measures and by operators on investment in new vehicles, within the framework of quality partnerships. The current nation-wide target for punctuality, recently laid down by the Traffic Commissioners, is arbitrary and unachievable because it takes no account of extremely variable local conditions. The Commissioners should instead be involved in enforcing the locally-agreed targets.

  The balance between public and private funding for local transport in the Plan is satisfactory. However the expected private sector contribution, which is largely investment by bus and coach operators in new vehicles (assumed to be £5 billion over the decade), may prove difficult to meet. Investment was probably below £500 million in 2001, although no official data on new registrations is yet available. The fall in investment relative to 2000 was due to fuel and labour cost pressures, worsening growth prospects and (for coach operators in particular) the fall in tourist numbers due to the foot and mouth crisis and world insecurity. Investor confidence has also been dented by the Government's actions with Railtrack. Policy changes, as outlined above, are needed to increase private investment over the decade.

2.  Light Rail

  The Plan envisaged investing in up to 25 new light rail lines, including new systems and extensions to existing systems. It also set a target to double light rail patronage by 2010.

  In 2000-01 patronage increased by 27 per cent relative to 1999-2000—largely due to the opening of Croydon Tramlink. A new system is under construction in Nottingham and plans are well advanced in Leeds, Bristol and Portsmouth. Several extensions are also being progressed, particularly in Manchester.

  A potential threat to building 25 new lines is a shortage of funds, particularly if congestion charging and workplace parking schemes are not introduced on the scale envisaged in the Plan. As discussed above, progress on these schemes has been very limited.

  Another concern (also mentioned above in relation to buses) is that funds allocated under the Plan to local transport (which includes light rail) will be re-allocated to the national rail system of other uses. This should be resisted.

  The terms of reference mentioned the skills and capacity issue. There is a limited amount of construction and operating expertise in the industry, and this is already stretched, for example in the current preparations for bids for Manchester Metrolink extensions. Proposals outside the UK, such as in Dublin, also compete for the same expertise. Therefore new schemes will need to be phased in during the decade if the industry is to be able to handle them.

  CPT supports local targets for light rail patronage as part of Local Transport Plans, as discussed above in relation to buses.

  Overall, we are on target to double patronage by 2010, but funding constraints may mean that 25 new lines will not come to fruition within the decade.

3.  Integrated Transport Policy

  The measures proposed in the Plan for facilitating journeys through better information and through ticketing should be of benefit in attracting passengers to public transport. However the Plan has little to say about physical interchanges between modes. Studies have shown interchange difficulties to be the main deterrent to greater use of multi-modal journeys. Passengers need to be able to move easily from bus to train (for example), preferably having to walk only a short distance, under cover and without crossing roads. Improvement and extension of integration nationally between modes (particularly rail and bus) is being co-ordinated and funded by the joint industry initiative, Journey Solutions. Improving interchanges requires investment.

  Current plans by the industry to introduce multi-mode and smart-card tickets are running into difficulties with the Competition Act (which restricts co-operation between operators) and the Financial Services Act (which restricts the issuing of smart-cards and electronic purses). The Government should address these issues, which hinder the public transport industry from delivering benefits for the passenger.

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