Memorandum by Merseytravel (TYP 44)
1.1 Merseytravel is the operating name for
the Passenger Transport Authority and Executive on Merseyside.
Merseytravel co-ordinates public transport and acts in partnership
with private bus and rail operators to provide public transport
on Merseyside and it owns and operates the Mersey Ferries and
the two Mersey Tunnels. We are pleased to submit evidence to this
important inquiry into progressing Government's 10 Year Plan for
1.2 Merseytravel's key objective is to successfully
implement the Merseyside Local Transport Plan. We are a Centre
of Excellence in Integrated Transport and Integrated Transport
1.3 The specific transport policy issues
addressed by Merseytravel are:
the procurement of socially necessary
bus services not provided by the private sector;
the provision of a concessionary
fare scheme which is the most comprehensive outside of London;
providing and operating bus stations,
state of the art bus shelters and bus stops;
operating, in partnership with the
local Bus Operators, the local transport information line;
specifying the level and quality
of services on the local rail network; and
planning, via the Merseyside Local
Transport Plan, the long term development of the public transport
1.4 Merseyside PTA comprises 18 councillors
drawn from the five district councils of Merseyside. The Executive
implements PTA policies and provides suitable professional advice
which is accurate, relevant and timely. Merseytravel is unique
amongst the six English PTEs in having an integrated organisation.
1.5 This evidence addresses the questions
raised in press notice 22/2001-02 dated 5 December 2001.
2.1 The publication of the 10 Year Plan
has rightly been recognised as a significant step forward for
transport policy. It provides a coherent and ambitious strategic
concept for the industry that was not previously in place. The
policies contained in the 10 Year Plan should take away the short-termism
and uncertainty that have plagued the industry for too long.
2.2 The Government deserves a great deal
of credit for its vision and ambition in producing its Plan to
provide an overall framework to progress the Transport Agenda.
2.3 Local Transport Plans must not be seen
in isolation from the 10 Year Plan if they are to be successful.
Indeed, the quality of the Local Transport Plans that have been
produced since the 10 Year Plan was published are a testament
to the fact that they are symbiotic strategies, ie one cannot
succeed without regard to the other.
2.4 Perhaps the most immediate and powerful
impact that the 10 Year Plan has had is to identify the large
sums of additional money that need to be made available for investment
in the transport network. The effects of the £180 billion
that the Government has promised over the period of the Plan are
already being felt.
2.5 In Merseytravel's case, we have just
been awarded more than £47 million as part of the Government's
settlement for our Local Transport Plan. This LTP finance across
the UK has enabled transport authorities to formulate the ambitious
and bold policies that are required if we are to have an effective
and integrated transport network.
2.6 The successful delivery of an integrated
transport policy also requires improving the planning and approvals
process. For example, the Transport and Works Act process is lengthy,
complicated and expensive with little certainty of the outcome.
It is this uncertainty that further adds to the difficulties faced
by those seeking to deliver an integrated transport system.
2.7 While the Government has indicated that
it intends to address the problems associated with approvals and
planning processes, this initiative needs to be supported by some
tangible action in the short term.
2.8 While the industry is supportive of
the 10 Year Plan, there is a growing feeling of cynicism that
can be detected within the industry. There is a need to demonstrate
that the policies that lie behind the 10 Year Plan are integrated.
There is a need to reassure the industry as a whole that this
is a joined up solution to many disparate problems.
2.9 The 10 Year Plan requires a significant
investment over the lifetime of the policy. In order to achieve
this HM Treasury must be held accountable and the relevant finances
must be forthcoming beyond year three of the Plan. Under the Government's
current spending rules, no money is guaranteed beyond year three.
If the 10 Year Plan is to be successful, this issue must be addressed
at the highest levels of Government. Without the necessary funding
throughout the lifetime of the 10 Year Plan, this crucial opportunity
may be lost.
2.10 The vision outlined in the 10 Year
Plan requires a process comprised of timing and funding. This
process must be driven so that it delivers. This depends to a
large extent on having the calibre of people with the necessary
skills and experience to meet the challenges that the industry
2.11 It is widely accepted that there is
a skills shortage in the transport industry in the UK but with
the task that lies ahead and the critical issues that are at stake,
it is essential that the industry collectively addresses this
2.12 The levels of funding that are needed
cannot be met by the public sector alone. That is why Merseytravel
believes so strongly in developing effective partnerships with
local stakeholders, from the public, private and voluntary sectors
in formulating and implementing the LTP. The 10 Year Plan will
require similar partnership arrangements.
2.13 Further supporting evidence can be
given to the sub-committee if required.
3. SPECIFIC COMMENTS
3.1 What assumptions should be modified
Congestion is a key and significant problem
which can be reduced by a programme of targeted capital investment.
However, the predictions in the 10 Year Plan depend upon the definition
of congestion, a point noted in "Transport 2010The
Background Analysis". Secondly, it is not clear how workplace
parking and road user charging are going to be successfully implemented
to provide real and measurable congestion benefits.
3.2 Will the expected number of congestion
charging and workplace parking levy schemes by implemented and
Given the technological issues involved in the
implementation and adverse comments generated in the press against
charging etc it will be unlikely that many such schemes will come
forward in the early years of the Plan. The London scheme can
be expected to progress together with certain smaller specific
local schemes, it is unlikely that major schemes will be in place
for a long time due to:
The real chance of displacing inward
investment from one area to another as a result of these proposed
charging schemes. Merseyside's economy is fragile, referenced
by our second "round" of Objective 1 funding.
The need to have in place effective
and efficient public transport networks to absorb any displaced
car trips before introducing charging schemes. Given the long
term decline of public transport networks outside of the capital
this will be difficult to implement in the short term.
3.3 How important are the assumptions
to the outcome of the plan? What remedial action is necessary
if assumptions or targets need to be changed?
The successful implementation of charging mechanisms
makes the target of 15 per cent reduction in congestion difficult
to achieve. The real cost of motoring is reducing which will make
this target difficult to hit in practice.
3.4 Are the skills and capacity available
to deliver the improvements suggested?
There is a skills shortage of qualified transport
professionals and engineers in the industry. This means that in
order to deliver the capital programmes highlighted in the LTPs
and the 10 Year Plan, inevitably, less experienced staff are being
3.5 How will the current situation in
the railway industry affect the need for a provision of private
and public sector finance?
The trouble with targets is that they quickly
The former Chairman of the SRA believed that
his 10 Year Plan targets could be met by investing only "south
of Watford". The Chairman of the Commission for Integrated
Transport points out that the 10 Year Plan target for increased
bus use might be met by London alonewhile elsewhere, under
de-regulation, bus use gently declines.
Yet the transport crisis spreads right across
the country. The more remote, the further north, in fact, the
greater the dependency on transport services for sustaining the
So while the 10 Year Plan, which sets out targets
and a funding programme has been widely welcomed, we can already
see two problems:
(i) (and this has been widely observed) the
Railtrack debacle has undermined confidence in the ability of
the rail sector to deliver its (substantial) part of the bargain
(ii) the targets need to be thought through
and expanded at a regional, as well as a national level.
The latter is not simply proposed as a numerical
allocation exercise. Indeed, there is no virtue in (say) increasing
rail patronage by +50 per cent per se; the objective is to create
a better alternative to increased private car use, to tackle both
the congestion issue and to find a solution which is less harmful
to the environment.
So what is needed is a regional expression of
national targets rooted in a perspective of the real needs of
the individual regions. Central to this approach is a need to
re-visit the basic linkage between land development and regeneration
on the one hand, and transport demands on the other.
The relationship between the two is close and
well understood, but there is a need to put in place delivery
structures that place the two together within a single organisation.
For 10 years or so, the major national road
building program, has been at an end; true the multi-modal studies
are identifying some new capacity schemes, but in general there
is simply no prospect of traffic growth coming to a halt.
It is true that the SACTRA report of 2000, suggested
that elsewhere (eg in Sweden) the historic presumed causal link
between GDP growth and traffic growth had been broken and it might
happen here to. But transport demand, is still growing in the
UK, and now none of the modes have spare capacity to avoid a rapid
escalation in congestion levels.
Prior to rail privatisation, there was little
expectation of growth in rail usage (for either passenger or freight).
In the last five years, driven probably more by the relative decline
in the attraction of the alternatives (despite the plummeting
public esteem for the railways) than by service improvements and
marketing initiatives, rail use has soared. At least it did until
the Railtrack debacle, but the truth of the matter is that while
the rail network of five years ago could and did handle a +25
per cent demand increase, growth much beyond that level has proven
virtually unmanageable. The rail network itself is congested (hence
extended delays) and of course trains themselves are more over-crowded.
Fortunately, the importance of tackling the
transport problem is now widely understood. The CBI, for example,
is adamant that resolution of the country's transport crisis is
the number one challenge for the government to improve national
Clearly too, government is deeply concerned,
from the prime minister downwards, as reflected in Tony Blair's
New Year speech which highlight the currently unacceptable position
of the national rail network.
Actions are following these concerns. Fresh
management has already been drafted into the Strategic Rail Authority
(SRA) and to Railtrack.
The SRA, under new leadership, will publish
its strategic plans on 14 January 2002. Already the new Chairman
said that it will work jointly with
the previously determinedly independent office of the rail regulator
to provide a solid economic basis for the industrya prospect
of putting an end to inter-regulatory squabbling; and
called for a reduction in the number
of franchises, with one, Merseyrail Electrics, to be managed in
future by Merseyside PTE.
But there are limits to what can and what should
be planned and implemented by Whitehall in London. We have a sad
history of large scale bureaucraciesthe British Transport
Commission in the 1950s, BR in the 1960sfailing to appreciate
regional, leave alone local, concerns.
The Thatcher model was to replace such agencies
with private sector interests. Under suitable management (franchising
agreements, for instance) they would recognise local/regional
needs and deliver improvements where they were needed and wanted.
Patently, this is an inadequate model. Control still lies in London
and the transport service providers have not (yet) been brought
into the kind of regional partnerships that will be necessary
if the new style of integrated transport development planning
that is needed is to be achieved.
The message to the HM Treasury must be this.
We are seeking to invest in transport to create medium term improvement
in economic competitiveness. There is no alternative which represents
better value for money. The philosophy is one of partnership with
the private sector aligned with regional understanding.
To national agencies such as the SRA, the message
is also clear. This is not a grab for power. Responsibilities
for setting priorities must ultimately be with the national authorities.
A good transport system, all will agree, requires the careful
integration of national, regional and local services. The aim
here is to provide the specification and management know-how at
the local level to ensure that these are properly tied into economic
The ultimate prize is a closer alignment of
development and transport investment and more sustainable future.
3.6 Is the balance and phasing of investment
across funding areas correct?
It is too early to tell at this point. The rail
industry is under the spotlight, but more trips are made by bus
in the conurbations.
3.7 Are more flexible financing arrangements
required to deliver major local schemes?
The LTPs indicative settlements and specific
allocations are most welcome. In common with GMPTE, we subscribe
to the following helpful suggestions:
The scope for revenue support offered
by government in support of transport capital programmes to be
channelled directly to PTAs rather than via district councils
which then needs to be "reclaimed" by the PTA via the
Scope for rail funding, currently
channelled via Railtrack to be via PTEs and also the possible
transfer of ownership or management of local rail stations to
Significant improvements to local
bus services will only partially be achieved through investment
in measures such as Quality Bus Corridors.
A need to recognise the revenue implications
of new capital investments, for example the costs of maintaining
Quality Bus Corridors at a high level of quality, in terms of
priority detection for bus traffic signal equipment costs, additional
shelters, enhanced passenger information (real time) and coloured
road surfacing costs, together with higher enforcement costs,
should be reflected in on-going revenue support settlements. Again
providing this revenue resource directs to PTAs would also be
beneficial for management purposes.
The value of revenue support for
bus services needs to be recognised more clearly. This is currently
constrained by legislation, which makes partnership and cross-subsidising
initiatives difficult. Also Urban Bus Challenge resources are
short term so long term benefits are in doubt, but this is a welcome
development and will provide valuable pump-priming assistance.
3.8 How do the emerging multi-modal studies
affect the 10 Year Plan?
These key studies should, if managed correctly,
provide goal congruency with the relevant LTP (ie the current
multi-modal studies do not directly affect Merseytravel).
3.9 Should the plan represent a better balance
between large and small schemes, and between infrastructure, management
There is considerable scope for improving performance
and service quality by increasing staff numbers at rail stations.
At present the local service operators tend to employ the bare
minimum of management and supervisory staff.
3.10 Are the targets and the dates for their
achievement well designed (eg is reducing congestion the right
Looking at four of the key targets by 2010 we
would comment as follows:
50 per cent increase in rail passenger
kilometresthis should be achievable, the Merseyrail network
experiencing increasing patronage even with a sometimes indifferent
Road congestion reduced below current
levels; particular in large urban areas. This is a particularly
difficult target and has already been partially considered above.
10 per cent increase in bus passenger
journeys. The Plan target needs to be clarified. This will be
a challenge. In Merseyside our SMART bus initiatives and working
closely with the bus operators has reversed the downward trend.
More cities and towns with park and
ride schemesThe plan seems very encouraging about Park
3.11 What other targets, if any, should be
included (eg modal shift, walking, traffic levels)?
We have no views on this as a raft of targets
are articulated in our Local Transport Plan.
One target of major concern however, is that
which seems to encourage the SRA to pursue South East and Inter
City based schemes at the expense of the conurbations.
3.12 Should a more regional approach be adopted
for target setting?
In general we would support this.
3.13 How well does the Plan balance social
and environmental policy with efficient investment?
The Plan tends to be more focused on the delivery
of large transport infrastructure investments aimed at reducing
traffic congestion rather than on the impact that those investments
will have on supporting wider social, including exclusion uses,
economic and environmental objectives.
3.14 Does the Plan set out a balanced approach
to all modes (eg walking)?
Insufficient weight is given in the Plan to
initiatives to reduce the required to travel either by reduced
trip lengths or by encouraging non-motorised trips.
3.15 Are there any conflicts between the Plan
and the policies in the White PaperA New Deal for Transport?
Quality Contracts would appear to result in
better bus services and greater growth in bus patronage.
3.16 What impacts will policies in the European
White Paper on Transport have on the Plan?
It is not clear yet how these policies will
help deliver the objectives of the Plan. Our response to this
paper is available for the Committee's information.