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

Memorandum by the Institute of Logistics and Transport (TYP 41)


  1.  This paper summarises the views of the Institute of Logistics and Transport (ILT) on the principal questions raised in the Sub-Committee's invitation to give evidence. It focuses on the assumptions underlying the Plan and the prospects for implementation with particular attention to:

    —  Road Capacity and Charging.

    —  The Current Situation in The Railway Industry.

    —  Delivery of the 10 Year Plan and the Shortage of Skilled Professionals in Relevant Areas.

  The ILT is a professional body representing some 23,000 members in the UK who work across the fields of transport and logistics. It has no commercial interests in any transport company, and offers its views accordingly.

  2.  In general the ILT supports the policies on which the 10 Year Plan is based and welcomes the Plan as the first multi-modal, long-term plan for transport investment and improvement. But we have some acute concerns about whether the Plan will achieve the objectives set out in the Policy White Paper. Following the headings and questions in the Sub-Committee's document these are as follows.


Traffic Growth

  3.  The assumptions on traffic growth are likely to have been affected by the reductions in fuel duty in the last Budget and recent changes in the underlying price of fuel. Although the Plan assumed falling fuel prices, the current trend may be greater than assumed (which will make the achievement of the objectives more difficult). This is something the Sub-Committee may wish to pursue with the DTLR.

Workplace Parking and Congestion Charging

  4.  It seems very unlikely that local authorities will implement as many congestion charging and workplace parking levy schemes as assumed in the Plan. So the forecast reductions in urban congestion will almost certainly not be achieved. If the Government wants to see significant improvements in urban areas, it should give more positive support for measures of this kind and make the funding of expensive public transport projects, such as light rail, dependent on them.

Skills Shortage

  5.  There are widespread shortages in skilled staff at all levels needed to implement the Plan, from bus and train drivers to engineers, project managers and transport planners. There is a particular need for more professionals skilled in effective project management and public consultation if the public is to understand the implications of different policy options and to have its views properly taken into account.

  6.  The ILT and the Transport Planning Society has recently carried out a comprehensive survey[22] of their members involved in transport planning, public transport and freight to ascertain the extent of the skills shortages and the impact on delivery of the 10 Year Plan. The funding demonstrates that there are both shortages of resources and competence that will seriously impede upon delivery of the plan to timescale. These issues are covered further in "Implementation".


Capital Investment and Scheme Balance

  7.  The sums identified for capital investment in the Plan (excluding that part of road maintenance so identified) are distributed broadly as follows:

20 per cent
50 per cent
15 per cent
Local public transport
15 per cent

  Further allocations are dependent on the outcome of studies, including the multi-modal studies. It now seems inescapable that more funds will be needed for rail, which will increase its dominance in the overall picture. We do not disagree with this, but it is worth noting that, on the Government's own figures in the documents published with the Plan, the projected increase in passenger and freight transport by rail has only a minimal effect on inter-urban road congestion (1 per cent and 2 per cent respectively). If these figures are correct, the reduction of inter-urban road traffic is not the main justification for rail investment and congestion on the motorway and trunk road network must be dealt with mainly by other means.

  Compared with the allocations for rail and London, the provision for all other public transport may be too low, though it could and should be augmented by revenue from urban congestion charges.

  8.  We would, in general, like to see more emphasis, in local transport plans, regional transport strategies and the options examined in the multi-modal studies, on the management of traffic and travel demand and on smaller rather than large schemes. But the overall balance of expenditure should depend on the detailed outcome of the studies.

Rail Finance

  9.  Due to the uncertainty surrounding Railtrack's future, together with the financial position of operators will have a major impact on the predicted mix of private and public sector finance needed to implement the Plan. The government will have to look elsewhere for finance. However, the government is unlikely to be successful in raising private finance unless it is willing to take more risk itself. It has so far placed most of the risk on the private sector, even where the private sector cannot control that risk. For example, franchise agreements contain no automatic rights to an interim review and adjustment if traffic fails to meet a predetermined rate of growth[23].

  Unless there is a change in the underlying economics of the railway, mainly by the Government increasing its support or otherwise taking on more risk, the problems on the railway are likely to continue and possibly worsen. The quality of railway services would then decline further, traffic growth would continue to falter and the transport system as a whole would suffer from increased congestion, more accidents and higher environmental costs.

Rail Safety

  10.  The current situation of the railway industry—post Hatfield—has put the spotlight on the issue of rail safety, an issue which could divert even more funding away from the projects as stated in the 10 Year Plan. Calls for vastly enhanced safety measures have come from various sectors of society. Whilst the ILT agrees with the necessity for a safe rail network, safety requirements should be comparable with those expected in other areas of the economy and other modes of transport. Railways are expected to be competitive and to operate at the most efficient level. However, huge amounts of managerial resource have been devoted to an increasingly complex and centralised regulatory regime. There is little reason to suspect that railway safety standards in Britain are in any sense lower than in other EU countries. Meeting the implications of zero tolerance of risk would create a very large bill in safety work, reflecting capital costs, those of maintenance and renewal, operational costs, and administration of the external enforcement bodies. Such costs would have to be met by train operating companies, infrastructure owners, or external sources, of which the principal is Government.

  11.  The ILT is acutely aware that this entails extremely difficult decisions for the politicians. The cost of meeting comparable standards of safety in each transport mode might be kept within each part of the industry. For roads, significant new constraints would have to be imposed directly on private motorists and would be seen as anti car. If it is to be decided that the railways are to continue to achieve higher standards than those expected on the roads, the only equitable solution is for the Government to fund the costs directly.[24]

The Ability to Deliver the 10 Year Plan

  12.  The recent ILT/TPS survey has given a clear indication of the extent of the challenge facing the profession, and ultimately, Government. More funding is needed and a change in the policy balance if local authorities are to deliver. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents (88 per cent) said that the local authorities would not be able to deliver the New Agenda. Over seven out of 10 (72 per cent) believed the policy balance is not right and nearly eight out of 10 (77 per cent) that the proposed level of finance is unlikely to deliver the necessary changes. There was also concern that local authorities will focus too much on the supply-side changes and the information projects when they should be paying more attention to the role of land-use interventions (55 per cent), behaviour change (35 per cent) and demand restraint (21 per cent). Professionals clearly identified the most important intervention tools in their opinion—public transport (56 per cent), traffic management (39 per cent), behaviour change (39 per cent), and road user charging (28 per cent).

  13.  Delivery will also be hampered unless more is done to involve the public and local councillors. 72 per cent of respondents saw this as a key issue, and that communicating effectively with political masters and the electorate is a major skill that needs developing. Specific difficulties faced particularly by local authorities were public opposition to the new policies and interventions, lack of funding and lack of political will. In terms of the skills shortage, project management (52 per cent), funding and procurement (34 per cent) and travel behaviour change (30 per cent) were seen to be the skills areas in short supply, which adds further evidence to studies already undertaken in this area. Consultation/involvement and evaluation skills also featured here.

  14.  The ILT report also makes recommendations on how these challenges can be overcome. To meet the challenge of the 10 Year Plan, a combination of more staff (particularly those with a broader skill base), organisation change and more public participation will be required. We see the way forward to meet the skills challenge in the short, medium and long term will be best delivered by collaborative, unifying work across professional bodies involved in transport, such as the current Transport Planning Skills Initiative. Whilst training is seem as the most popular way of resolving the skills issue, this must be complemented by measures from central government, increased partnering, longer term planning, proactive recruitment/raised profile of career opportunities, and increased pay to reflect the true value of professionals in this field.


Targets—In General

  15.  We agree with the Government that reductions in congestion and pollution rather than traffic per se should be the main objectives. However, we think that the Plan gives insufficient weight to land-use objectives—such as supporting existing urban centres, discouraging dispersal to the suburbs and the surrounding countryside and satisfying more needs locally. The urban congestion objective needs to be complemented by an objective to maintain or increase the number of trips to central areas by sustainable methods. This would need to be linked to the Government's policy to economically and socially revitalise urban centres and brownfield sites.

  16.  The target of increasing bus travel by 10 per cent seems, however, to be woefully inadequate and inconsistent with other targets in the 10 Year Plan. For the following reasons we think that it should probably be at least 25 per cent and possibly much more.

  17.  The Plan forecasts that the measures proposed for major urban areas will reduce traffic by 5 per cent below the level to which they will have grown by 2010 and congestion by 20 per cent. This big drop in congestion, compared with the modest fall in traffic growth, must be due to the fact that the measures are concentrated on the most congested roads—ie travel to and from work in city centres, while traffic goes on growing on relatively uncongested roads and at uncongested times without making congestion significantly worse. So the assumed reduction in traffic to central areas in the peak must be considerably more than the 5 per cent average.

  18.  Increases in public transport passenger numbers are less important than changes in mode and should not be used as a simplistic measure of achievement (eg an extra bus journey previously undertaken by car may be more valuable in transport planning terms than one previously made on foot). Of even more questionable value, in terms of overall integrated transport policy, would be an increase in usage driven largely by policies of low fares for the elderly, for example. Success of the 10 Year Plan relies on modal shift in real terms, not increasing the total amount of trips. We would also expect complementary measures to reduce the average length of journeys (The increase in average journey length is the main reason for traffic growth over the last 25 years).

  19.  As has been pointed out above (15), one of the objectives of the Government's integrated policies for cities is to maintain or strengthen the attractiveness of urban centres, both in their own right, and because they are easier to serve by public transport. Land use and transport policies are intended to reinforce one another by mitigating the historic trend for dispersal from inner cities and encouraging the location of employment, leisure facilities and shopping in densely developed centres. If this is to be compatible with reducing traffic levels in urban areas, the reduction in car travel must be at least matched by mode shift to public transport, which in most provincial cities means the bus.

  20.  Even if the fall in traffic to central areas is only 5 per cent (and we argue above that the Government's targets must assume a much higher figure), the fall in annual mileage would be some 9 billion vehicle kilometres. Assuming that this drop is accounted for mainly by less car travel, and that vehicle occupancy is not much more than one person, this is equivalent to a fall of some 10 billion passenger kms by car. Doubling the use of light rail (one of the Government's targets) would account for 0.5 billion of this and a 10 per cent increase in bus travel for a further 2.7 billion passenger kilometres. This leaves 6.8 billion passenger kilometres of the fall in car travel unaccounted for. The worry is that it represents car users who have abandoned central urban areas and are continuing to travel by car, but to suburban or non-urban destinations.

  21.  These are only broad-brush calculations, since we have not seen the details behind the Government's forecasts, but they suggest that the increase in bus travel should be at least 25 per cent rather than 10 per cent, if the reduction in central area congestion is not to lead to a fall in travel to city centres. This would take us back to a little more than the level of bus use in 1980, which does not sound unreasonable. But it would require a much more ambitious use of bus priority measures and quality partnerships to bring bus-based public transport up to a standard where it can compete with the car for a higher proportion of urban trips. This needs to be reflected both in local transport plans and the financial allocations.

Rail Investment[25]

  22.  The 10 Year Plan contains ambitious targets for modal shift from road to rail. The network as presently configured cannot handle existing traffic and the poor quality of service does not just reflect sub standard infrastructure and rolling stock but is also a direct consequence of overloading a system beyond its design capabilities. The Government's 10 Year Plan envisages that £49 billion will be invested in the railway over the 10 year period from April 2001, £34 billion from the private sector and £15 billion from public sources (with a further £11 billion of public resources allocated for revenue support). However, much is already committed to:

    —  Ongoing major projects, such as West Coast Route Modernisation, whose costs have increased dramatically under the new structure.

    —  Deferred maintenance of the network.

    —  Meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

    —  Meeting the requirements of the Government on safety, and of the EU to implement interoperability.

  23.  Much of the £49 billion is therefore already committed to specific purposes and limited funding is likely to be available for increased capacity and genuine service improvements. The collapse of Railtrack has put a considerable risk premium on future private sector capital entering the railway industry. This will raise the cost and difficulty of raising private money for enhancement projects. The creation of a "not for profit trust" is proposed in order to channel surplus funds into infrastructure investment rather than dividends to shareholders. However it is doubtful if these surplus funds will represent more than a small proportion of funding requirements. Investor confidence in the Government's continuing commitment to provide substantial and regular funding to the industry must be restored. One reason that so much of £315 billion public money mentioned in the 10 Year Plan has already been committed is that new standard appraisal techniques and values have apparently been ignored on some major safety projects. Limited funding is therefore likely to be available for increased capacity and genuine service enhancements.


Inter Urban Networks

  24.  We do not think that the proposals in the Plan give enough weight to the economic needs of inter-urban road traffic and to the management of demand on the inter-urban network so as to keep congestion within acceptable limits.

  25.  The inter-urban network is already severely congested at times. The proposals in the Plan for additional lanes on motorways and improvements at key junctions will help, as will measures to manage the network better, by means of access controls, priority lanes and priority access, variable speed limits and integrated vehicle/highway technology. The transfer of some freight and passenger traffic to the railways will make a smaller, but welcome contribution.

  26.  The Government's own forecasts are that over the next 10 years all these measures will reduce congestion on the trunk road network to 5 per cent below current levels despite increases in traffic of 26 per cent. Yet compared with the present position a 5 per cent improvement in congestion levels over 10 years may be barely perceptible to most users and would do little more than maintain the current very unsatisfactory position. It is not clear whether there will be an improvement in reliability, which is particularly important to commercial road operators (both coach and freight and car users on business trips). Moreover, economic growth will continue after 2010 and so will inter-urban traffic. It is important for the efficiency of transport operations and logistics both within the UK and between the UK and the rest of the EU, that road transport, which will remain the dominant mode, should not suffer avoidable economic costs. Traffic congestion also increases fuel consumption and emissions and therefore adds to the difficulty of reducing CO2 emissions.

Demand Management

  27.  We therefore need to manage the road network and its development in such a way that demand and capacity are more closely in balance than they are now. It is most unlikely that additional capacity and better techniques for managing traffic flow will keep pace with traffic growth. Pricing therefore has a role to play in road use—as it already does in other spheres, such as telecommunications, aviation and rail travel—in making better use of existing capacity by reducing peak loads and diverting some demand to times and places where there is spare capacity. It may also be able to moderate the rate of growth in demand, particularly the growth in the average length of journeys, which is the main reason why traffic growth has been so high over the last 30 years.

Congestion Charging

  28.  We think that the Government needs to take a more proactive role in developing congestion charging technology for the motorway and trunk road network and should ensure that the multi-modal studies properly examine the need for urban congestion charging (since much of the congestion on the inter-urban network takes place at peak commuting times on the approaches to large cities). We therefore welcome the proposals on which the Treasury is currently consulting to introduce electronic road charging for heavy goods vehicles, offset by reductions in other forms of lorry taxation.

Collaboration and Co-operation to Deliver

  29.  If the 10 Year Plan is to be the investment plan to deliver the Government's Integrated Transport Policy DTLR needs to ensure it works positively with the Strategic Rail Authority and regional transport/economic bodies to ensure that the pivotal relationship between transport and the planning process is not ignored. PPG13 provides the planning policy background, but what is needed is clear action that the level of integration it promotes is really being achieved on the ground. The 10 Year Plan must link to the latest raft of land use planning tools (eg Transport Development Areas which focus around key transport nodes and the SRA's Strategic Agenda and forthcoming Plan) if the next eight years are to be fully productive. The Government must also ensure that there are adequate budgets to facilitate training and competence raising for the benefit of existing (and potential) professionals engaged in this process.

22   ILT/TPS Transport Planning Survey Report, January 2002. Back

23   Ref: Page 11 of "Restructuturing the Railway"-by the Institute of Logistics and Transport, 14 December 2001. Back

24   For further comment see the ILT's response to the HSE's Railway Health and Safety Regulatory Strategy, June 2001. Back

25   Ref Page 12 of Restructuring the Railway Industry-by the Institute of Logistics and Transport, 14 December 2001. Back

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