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


Memorandum by Living Streets (TYP 35)

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

  1.  Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association) is a national body working for streets and public spaces that people on foot can use and enjoy. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Government's 10 Year Plan for Transport. Many aspects of the Plan are welcome, including the setting of a number of clear outcomes and targets and a relative increase in funding for local transport. But we have a number of concerns about the Plan, in particular the relatively low priority it gives to local transport in general and walking in particular.

  2.  In summary, our comments are:

    —  The Plan's core assumption that mobility in general and car use in particular can continue to rise indefinitely is economically and environmentally unsustainable. It needs to be challenged. The Government also needs to set out a vision for how the Plan will affect people using streets in villages, towns, suburbs and city centres, both on foot and by other modes.

    —  The congestion and workplace charging schemes assumed in the Plan will not be introduced without clear political leadership from ministers.

    —  There is a lack of skilled personnel in local authorities needed to implement the improvements needed in local transport, particularly in the case of walking and cycling.

    —  The investment set out in the Plan will go disproportionately to long-distance travel and on major infrastructure schemes. This is despite the fact that most travel is still local. A relative shift in resources to local walking, cycling, traffic management and road safety schemes would produce higher rates of social and economic return than spending the same money on major projects.

    —  The LTP guidance should be revised to encourage local authorities to "bundle up" small schemes into major schemes.

    —  The Government should set regional targets for traffic reduction in areas where most people live and a national traffic reduction target.

    —  There should be targets for all modes, including walking, over the lifetime of the Plan. These should be expressed both in terms of modal share and distance travelled by each mode.

    —  The pattern of investment in the Plan will not be socially equitable. It will disproportionately benefit long-distance travellers and hence those on higher incomes. The Government should publish an analysis of the impacts of the Plan on social exclusion.

    —  The attention given to walking in the Plan and the likely level of funding for it in no way reflect the importance of walking, whether in terms of transport, the environment or community life. The Government should publish an annual analysis of the breakdown of LTP funding for different modes. Over the lifetime of the Plan, there should be a switch in resources away from long-distance travel to local travel and in particular to walking and cycling.

ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING THE 10 YEAR PLAN

More mobility and car use—but how much more?

  3.  There are a number of key strategic assumptions underlying the 10 Year Plan. These are that:

    —  A rise in mobility is both the inevitable product of economic growth and a good thing.1

    —  A significant proportion of this increased mobility will be expressed as rising car use.2

    —  The negative impacts of rising mobility and car use (ie congestion, pollution and casualties) can be offset by a number of marginal increases in the capacity of the road and rail networks and improvements to their management.3

    —  Improved public transport is the key to switch travel away from car use within an overall rise in mobility.4

  4.  The Plan tacitly acknowledges that these assumptions may be problematic. Paragraph 3.2 states that "new technology and the better-planned location of homes and businesses can reduce the need to travel". Paragraph 6.16 recognises that there are "physical and environmental, as well as financial, limits to the amount of extra road space we can build . . . Most people now accept that we cannot rely on road building as a sustainable long-term solution to the problems of traffic growth and congestion".

  5.  Despite these caveats, the Plan fails to acknowledge that, in the long-term, increases in the physical capacity of the road and rail networks and improvements in public transport will always be insufficient to meet an unrestrained rise in mobility. The total number of trips people make and the total time they spend travelling have remained constant over the past 20 years.5 People are travelling further and faster, particularly by car, to fulfil their daily needs within a fixed time budget. The 10 Year Plan is an attempt to identify how to accommodate rising demand for travel over the next decade at minimum social and environmental cost. It is not a coherent response to the long-term problem of rising mobility in the context of a physically and economically constrained system.

  6.  The Government has never given us a vision of what our villages, towns, suburbs and city centres will be like at the end of the Plan period. The Committee should ask the Government to provide such a vision as part of its review of the Plan. In particular, the Government should spell out how the Plan will affect people using streets on foot as well as its impact on drivers and public transport users. The Committee should also challenge the assumption underlying the Plan that rising mobility and car use can be accommodated indefinitely. It should press the Government to state whether it thinks there are any limits on the overall amount of travelling people do, particularly by car. And if so, when these limits will become apparent.

CONGESTION AND WORKPLACE PARKING CHARGES

  7.  The Plan assumes that non-London local authorities will introduce eight congestion charging schemes and 12 workplace parking levy schemes. This assumption is important in relation both to the Plan's congestion forecasts and revenue generation towards the end of the Plan period. But local authorities, to whom responsibility for introducing these schemes has been given, are looking increasingly reluctant to implement them. New charging schemes will not be introduced without clear political leadership from ministers. The Committee should ask the Government what steps it intends to take to ensure that at least the number of charging schemes assumed in the Plan are implemented.

Do the skills and capacity exist to deliver the improvements suggested?

  8.  There is growing concern about the lack of personnel in local authorities with the skills needed to implement the Government's objectives for local transport. Recent research by Oscar Faber for the DTLR show that local authorities are particularly ill-equipped to plan and provide for pedestrians and cyclists. There is an urgent need to recruit, train and retain staff with the skills needed to improve conditions for walking and cycling. The Committee should press the Government to clarify its assumptions in the Plan about skill shortages in general and in relation to walking and cycling in particular. What allowance has been allowed in the Plan for the costs of recruiting, training and retaining the relevant staff in local authorities?

IMPLEMENTATION

Balance of funding between different areas and different types of project

  9.  The pattern of investment set out in the Plan will go disproportionately on long-distance travel and on major infrastructure schemes. This is acknowledged in the background analysis to the Plan, which states that "those who travel the greater distances are likely to benefit more in absolute terms from the general measures in the Plan, but broadly in proportion to their share of total distance travelled"6.

  10.  Tables A2 and A3 in the Plan suggest that about half the investment identified in the Plan (around £85 billion) will go on trunk roads and national rail. Around a further £35 billion will go on local roads and roads in London. The political reasons for this are understandable. Politicians and other key opinion formers such as newspaper editors are disproportionately likely to travel long-distance by road or rail. There is a clear need to improve road and rail infrastructure. But the balance of funding in the Plan reflects neither current patterns of travel or patterns of travel it would be desirable to promote.

  11.  Despite the rise in mobility over the past 20 years, most travel is still local. Nearly half of all trips are less than two miles and nearly 70 per cent of all trips are less than five miles. The Plan sets out a welcome increase in funding for local transport. Yet only around a quarter of total funding (around £45 billion) will go on investment on local transport in London and the rest of the country. A large proportion of local transport funding will go on a relatively small number of light rail schemes7. Again, such investment is important. But Living Streets believes that the marginal £1 billion spent on national rail, trunk roads or light rail would produce a higher rate of social and economic return if invested on local walking, cycling, traffic management and road safety schemes.

  12.  It will be argued that the allocation of resources within the Plan is appropriate, given that small-scale schemes are relatively cheap compared to the costs of major road or rail infrastructure. This may be true in the case of individual pedestrian crossings, Home Zones or 20 mph zones. But the cost of a comprehensive national programme of investment in such schemes would be substantial. It has been estimated, for example, that creating safe routes to every school in the country could cost between £2-£2.5 billion. The cost of traffic calming and 20 mph zones on all appropriate residential streets has been calculated by DETR at £3 billion. Creating the same number of Home Zones in the UK as there are in the Netherlands (6,500) would cost around £1.4 billion over and above the cost of traffic calming the same areas. Installing self-enforcing 30 mph speed limits in the 16,000 villages of England using speed responsive signs and mobile speed cameras would require a one-off payment of around £540 million.8

  13.  Lord Macdonald admitted to the Committee's inquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities that the Government has no way of comparing the value for money of small schemes compared with large ones. This omission urgently needs to be addressed. In addition, the £5 million threshold for major schemes in Local Transport Plans creates an institutional bias against smaller schemes. Local authorities should be allowed and encouraged to "bundle up" area- or city-wide programmes of small schemes into major schemes that cross the £5 million threshold. The Committee should press the Government on whether and when it proposes to develop methods that will allow it to assess the value for money of major transport schemes compared with smaller ones. The Government should also revise the LTP guidance so that highway authorities are strongly encouraged to bundle up smaller schemes into major schemes. Over the lifetime of the Plan, the aim should be to shift resources away from major road and rail infrastructure and long-distance travel and towards local schemes and local trips.

  14.  Many of the activities that would help tackle the problems identified in the Plan need revenue funding. These activities fall into three categories. The first, as noted above, is the employment and retention of staff with the skills needed to design and implement schemes in local authorities. The second is promotional and marketing activities, such as Green Travel Plans, Safe Routes to School and individualised travel marketing. Relatively small investment in such programmes can have a major impact on local travel patterns. The Government has recognised this in its welcome creation of a fund for recruitment of Green Travel Plan officers by local authorities. The third type of activity is the maintenance and management of transport infrastructure. In the case of walking, this includes street sweeping, graffiti removal, emptying of litterbins, footway maintenance and the presence of uniformed personnel such as street wardens. It is unclear the extent to which the Plan includes allowance for expenditure on these three types of activities. The Committee should press the Government to explain how it will ensure adequate revenue spending over the lifetime of the Plan to support proposed capital investment.

TARGETS

  15.  The inclusion of outcomes and targets in the Plan is a welcome development of the approach in the Transport White Paper. But the Plan fails to set a target for traffic levels, opting instead for a target to reduce congestion. The congestion target has some serious methodological flaws9. Even if this were not the case, targets for congestion, emissions and casualties do not capture the full costs of traffic for local communities. Heavy traffic can have a major impact on local quality of life. This is particularly true for households on low incomes, who are disproportionately likely to live on or near to busy roads.

  16.  The background analysis to the Plan recognises that the relationship between GDP and traffic growth has eased over the past decade. This is partly due to policy intervention, suggesting that overall traffic levels can be influenced. The Government should therefore set targets for traffic reduction in areas where people live, as recommended by CFIT. These should be developed regionally, to allow detailed consideration of the impact of Local Transport Plans on travel patterns and traffic levels. There should also be a national target and strategy for traffic reduction.

  17.  The Plan includes targets for all modes except car use and walking. This may be because setting a target for walking would set a target for car use by default. There is some inconsistency in the way the Plan's targets are expressed. The target for bus use, for example, is given as a 10 per cent rise in bus passenger journeys (Chart 6h and paragraph 6.62). That for rail is given as a 50 per cent rise in billion passenger kilometres (paragraph 6.22 and footnote 16).

  The Government's recent announcement that it will finally develop a national walking strategy is welcome. Its response to the Select Committee's report on Walking in Towns and Cities strongly hints at an expectation that walking levels will rise over time10. It states: "As a result of the proposed new national walking strategy we would expect to see first an end to the decline, and then an increase, in the number of walking trips recorded".

  18.  But it is disappointing that the Government has failed to set targets for walking, firstly to stem its decline and then increase its modal share over time. The Government should publish targets for all modes, including walking, over the lifetime of the Plan. These should be expressed both in terms of each mode's share of total trips and its share of total distance travelled.

INTEGRATION

Social exclusion

  19.  The pattern of investment set out in the Plan is not socially equitable. Accessibility in the body of the Plan is defined exclusively in terms of access for people with disabilities (paragraphs 6.5 and 6.6). While this is important, it does not capture wider issues of the accessibility to the transport system or the wider impacts of the Plan in relation to socially excluded groups. This is acknowledged in the background analysis to the Plan. This states that improving access to the transport system "is important for many different groups, including children, older people, people with disabilities, women and people on low incomes. However it has not been possible to quantify the extent to which the Plan achieves these benefits"11. The background analysis also acknowledges that the "poorest and most vulnerable in society are . . . often affected more than most by the broader adverse effects on quality of life of increasing road traffic, including community severance and intimidation due to heavy volumes of traffic on unsuitable roads and air pollution. The Plan will deliver significant benefits here"12. But again, there is no detailed analysis of impact of the Plan on different socio-economic groups.

  20.  The extent to which the Plan will not reduce social exclusion is highlighted by the acknowledgement in the background analysis that "those who travel the greater distances are likely to benefit more in absolute terms from the general measures in the Plan, but broadly in proportion to their share of total distance travelled". These people will overwhelmingly be from higher income groups. People from the highest income bracket travel seven times as far by rail as those from the poorest households14. People in car owning households (closely correlated with household income) travel three times as far overall as those from households without a car15. An allocation of the Plan's benefits in proportion to distance travelled will therefore be biased in favour of people from richer households. People from the poorest 20 per cent of households, by contrast, make fewer journeys overall but about twice as many journeys on foot and three times as many journeys by bus as those from the richest 20 per cent of households16. Almost eight out of every 10 journeys made by low-income, non car-owning households involve walking17. The Government should publish an analysis of the impact of the investment in the Plan in terms of its impact on social exclusion. This should analyse how far the Plan will improve access to the transport system for different socio-economic groups. It should also examine the implications of the fact that benefits from the Plan will accrue disproportionately to people from richer households.

Walking

  21.  The fact that people on low incomes are the most reliant on walking makes the lack of attention to walking in the Plan all the more unacceptable. Walking accounts for 80 per cent of trips under a mile and over a quarter of all trips. It is the principal means of access to buses, trains and trams. It is also socially equitable, environmentally benign and central to the social and economic life of local communities. Yet walking (combined with cycling) accounts for less than 10 paragraphs in a document of over 100 pages. This is in stark contrast to the Transport White Paper, where walking featured prominently and was the first mode addressed. There is no analysis of the total funding that will be devoted to walking in the Plan. But as mentioned above, funding for local transport only accounts for a small proportion of the total investment in the Plan. And walking will only account for a small proportion of this. The Government should publish an annual breakdown of the spending in LTPs on individual modes, including walking. The pattern of investment during the lifetime of the Plan should switch away from long-distance travel to local travel and in particular to walking and cycling.

NOTES

  1 The Plan states that: "economic growth will continue to generate more demand for travel in the foreseeable future. The challenge is to ensure that this increased mobility does not undermine our quality of life, so that travel and its benefits can be enjoyed by all" (paragraph 3.2).

  2 The background analysis to the Plan acknowledges an easing of the link between GDP growth and car travel since 1989 (paragraph 31). It also acknowledges that this has been due in part to "increasing application of policy measures that increase the attractiveness of public transport, walking and cycling" (paragraph 31). But the Plan assumes that car use will continue to rise with GDP.

  3 These include increasing the efficiency of use of existing road and rail infrastructure (eg through real-time information to drivers); marginal capacity increases to reduce congestion; using congestion and work place parking charges to influence driver demand at key times and locations; using technology to offset rising pollution; and improving transport safety to reduce road and rail casualties.

  4 The pattern of spending in the Plan "reflects our integrated approach and our commitment to public transport. The mix and level of investment is based on our analysis of what is needed to provide a step change in public transport in our towns and cities, in the countryside and in London" (paragraph 5.10).

  5 The National Travel Survey shows that the total number of trips per person per year has increased by only 7 per cent since the mid-1970s and has remained constant at around 1,000 trips a year since the mid-1980s. Total time travelled has remained constant at about one hour per day over the same period (NTS, 1998-2000 Update, tables 2.1 and 3.2).

  6 Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, Annex D, paragraph 20.

  7 The Plan suggests that up to 25 light rail schemes could be funded.

  8 All figures taken from The 10 Year Plan and Social Exclusion, Safe Streets Coalition Briefing, July 2000.

  9 The Nine Year Plan for Transport: What Next?, Professor Phil Goodwin, Annual Transport Planning Society Lecture, 14 June 2001.

  10 Government response to the DETR Select Committee on Walking in Towns and Cities, November 2001, p. 21.

  11 Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, Annex D, paragraph 17

  12 Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, Annex D, paragraph 16

  13 Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, Annex D, paragraph 20

  14 Vital Travel Statistics, Stephen Potter, 1997, table 6.5

  15 Vital Travel Statistics, Stephen Potter, 1997, table 6.6

  16 Tony Grayling, "Transport and Social Exclusion", paper to Transport Statistics Users Group, IPPR, 2001, p. 9.

  17 Tony Grayling, "Transport and Social Exclusion", p. 7.



 
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