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

Memorandum by the Freight Transport Association (TYP 53)


  FTA welcomes the Committee's inquiry into the Government's 10 Year Transport Plan. The cumulative effects of under-investment in the nation's transport infrastructure and the low priority given to transport in the economy in recent years are now making transport a serious political issue for the Government. Journey time reliability on the road and rail networks has deteriorated in recent years and the service levels of the country's infrastructure is falling below what is required to support the world's fourth largest economy. This has serious implications for economic growth, competitiveness, jobs and future inward investment due to the increasing cost and lower efficiency of supply chains based in the UK.

  FTA welcomed the 10 Year Plan when it was published as the first co-ordinated investment programme in transport in over thirty years. The pace of delivery has been disappointing and FTA has attributed this to three factors:

  1.  The long lead times inherent in the planning process for road schemes, together with the need to complete the multi-modal studies of the corridors where congestion pressures are greatest.

  2.  The need to develop and agree a robust plan for investment and revenue support for the railways which satisfied the Treasury and the private sector, a process hindered by safety issues and the status of Railtrack.

  3.  The low priority hitherto given to transport issues by the government, evidenced by the delayed Transport Act, an aggressive fuel taxation regime and delayed funding decisions.

  Despite the promises made in the 10 Year Plan, it has become apparent that any reduction in congestion and improvement in journey times will at best be delivered at the end of the ten-year period and probably later. Congestion on the road and rail networks will get worse before the benefits of any improvements are realised. The question confronting transport managers in industry is how bad will congestion become before it gets better. Increased journey times will reduce vehicle utilisation and mean that over time more vehicles will be needed to cover existing distribution patterns. Businesses are being advised to plan for longer journey times in the future. This is requiring additional vehicles, more warehousing and distribution centers and less efficiency in the use of the vehicle fleet. Many of the efficiency gains made in logistics practices over the past 10 years will be eroded over the next 10 years as congestion grows and less of the country becomes accessible from existing distribution centres within the working day.

  This evidence covers the four main areas to be covered by the Committee.


  A key target set by the 10 Year Plan is that road congestion will be reduced by 5 per cent over the levels in 1999 by 2010. This is to be achieved by increasing substantially the number of passengers and amount of goods being carried by rail and by public transport. This is a welcome but highly ambitious target and is dependent on a number of major assumptions being made.

  One of these is that the various measures in the Plan will bring about a large reduction in car traffic. The forecasts made in the Plan are as follows:


All Roads
Inter-urban Trunk Roads
Base assumptions
15 %
27 %
2010 with 10 YP improvements
-5 %
-3 %

  Source: 10 Year Plan.

  Yet the forecasts for road traffic contained in the latest national transport statistics predict a 17 per cent increase in all road traffic even with the 10 Year Plan improvements in place:


Vehicle Type
Without 10 Year Plan
With 10 Year Plan
Cars and Taxis
Buses & Coaches
All road traffic

  Source: Transport Statistics Great Britain 2001, table 4.8.

  These figures show that the Government expects to bring about a 5 per cent reduction in congestion despite a 17 per cent increase in road traffic over the period of the Plan. This is the net increase after any transfer of journeys to other modes has been made. The assumption being made is that better traffic management techniques and information provision to drivers will allow a modestly expanded infrastructure to cope with a sixth more traffic and still reduce the level of congestion by 5 per cent. The sophistication of the measures required to do this have not yet been fully explained by the Government and more information regarding these is required to understand how they will bring about the required levels of network efficiency to reach the congestion reduction target.

  The Committee should test the assumptions made about the reductions in car travel and the effectiveness of the traffic management measures intended to bring about the targeted levels of congestion reduction.

Congestion Charging and Work Place Parking Levies

  The FTA is opposed to congestion charging and work-place levies for commercial road vehicles. Research work carried out for FTA shows that proposals to introduce congestion charging in London will provide negligible benefits for commercial vehicles. Analysing data supplied by "Road Charging Options for London"( ROCOL), Imperial College concludes that nine out of 10 commercial vehicles will experience increased daily costs of between one and 7 per cent depending on the category of vehicle. Yet the average journey time savings due to the reduction in other traffic is between three and four minutes. This is of no practical value in most distribution operations.

  FTA further estimates that HGV commercial vehicles will typically pay between £1,000 and £1,200 per annum per vehicle in congestion charges as well as significant administration and other costs in complying with congestion charging schemes. For large fleet operators and small and medium sized commercial vehicle operators alike this will be a significant additional cost burden.

  Due to the inelasticity of demand for road transport and the need to make deliveries to premises in city centres, commercial vehicle operators will have no option but to pay congestion charges. Congestion charges should be targeted where there is an alternative transport option. This option does not exist for commercial vehicle deliveries in city centres. The London congestion-charging scheme provides a clear case for differentiation between cars and commercial vehicles.

  The Committee should test the assumed reductions in commercial vehicle journeys expected from the imposition of a congestion charge, in view of the absence of alternative arrangements for the distribution of goods and services in central urban areas and the very small time-savings likely to be achieved.


  The principal barrier to the delivery of the 10 Year Plan improvements will be the long lead-time in the planning process. Even schemes that have been approved are not expected to come on-stream until 2008 at the earliest. The Government has announced proposals for speeding up this process by asking Parliament to review such schemes in future and so shorten the inquiry process. This step is welcomed by FTA.

Multi-Modal Studies

  The Multi-Modal Studies are investigations into some of the most congested transport corridors. The stated aim of the studies is to ensure that alternatives to originally proposed road schemes are examined and that other means of meeting the demand for travel is considered. The recommendations of two of the studies have now been determined by the Secretary of State but despite two years of intense study any recommended infrastructure schemes will need to be subject to the planning process, including lengthy public inquiry. The scrutiny of these projects at local level has been undertaken by consultants and overseen by regional government and latterly by the new regional planning authorities. Many studies have involved extensive public consultations with many local interest groups and have been represented in the steering committees. Most of the improvements upon which the 10 Year Plan relies in order to deliver increased infrastructure capacity are the subject of the Multi-Modal Studies and FTA believes that the Government must give special status to their findings so that they may be implemented within the required time.

  The findings of the Multi-Modal Studies be should be subject to accelerated public hearing procedures and land use planning processes so as to deliver their recommended improvements within the 10 Year Plan time-frame.


  The targets contained in the 10 Year Plan are ambitious and place high reliance on several major assumptions about the effectiveness of policy. The targets and their planned achievement dates should be reviewed annually and reassessed depending on the progress made. The 10 Year Plan should effectively be rolled forward every year. This recognises that on-going measures will be required after 2010 and that the long delivery times of many infrastructure improvement projects will not be realised until after 2010.

Performance Indicators

  In order to provide industry with some certainty in its planning and to monitor the effectiveness of policy measures FTA proposes the use of performance indicators that are relevant to the users of the infrastructure. Such indicators can be developed for the road and railway networks and in both cases should focus on the following aspects:

    —  Network Reliability—this would monitor the repeatability of representative point-to-point timings on the road and rail networks.

    —  Network Capacity—this would measure the rate at which capacity of the network(s) was being increased by new construction, establishment of traffic priority measures and bottlenecks, or through improved traffic management techniques.

    —  Network Resilience—this would measure the rate at which networks recover from unplanned closure or loss of capacity. This is an important issue for those parts of the road and rail networks that are operating at or above their design capacity and where even small incidents can result in major disruption.

  The 10 Year Plan will need to define its success criteria and develop management tools to measure progress towards them. These performance indicators should be jointly owned and developed with industry so that a common data set is used to monitor the condition of the road and rail networks.

  The Committee should commission a series of representative performance indicators that allow ready assessment to be made of the effectiveness of policies and the delivery of improvements.


  In the 10 Year Plan the Government attempted to reconcile many of the issues confronting transport policy. It established challenging targets for rail and public transport whilst recognising that road capacity improvements were necessary and could bring environmental relief for communities. In FTA's view this restored a balance to transport policy that accepted the predominance of road transport in the economy and met some of the pressures mounting in the road network whilst continuing encouragement of the development of other modes. Progress on many of the aspirations for rail must now await the establishment of a permanent successor to Railtrack and the implementation of the Strategic Rail Authority's plans. The 10 Year Plan provides important commitment to the development of rail freight at a time of uncertainty.

  The proposals contained in the European Commission's White Paper on Transport "2010—Time to Decide" deal mainly with the dominant role of road freight and the underperformance of European railways. The major proposal is the widespread adoption of road user charging, discussion of which in the UK has been overtaken by the Treasury's consultation on modernisation of the taxation system for lorries, published on 29 November. FTA doubts the effectiveness of many of the proposals in the Commission's White Paper for the same reasons as in the UK—a long lead time for infrastructure planning and development and the long legislative time-scales in the European Institutions.

  Whilst questioning whether some of the targets can be achieved FTA still believes that the 10 Year Plan is the best opportunity for a single coherent transport investment policy to be developed in Britain for over 30 years and represents the minimum that must be delivered.

Freight Transport Association

  The Freight Transport Association represents the transport interests of over 11,000 British businesses. Its members range from small and medium size enterprises to multi-national public companies and are involved in the movement of goods in all modes of transport. FTA members operate over 200,000 heavy goods vehicles, consign over 90 per cent of freight moved by rail and 75 per cent of freight shipped overseas by sea and by air. This unique multi-modal mandate enables FTA to speak authoritatively on all aspects of freight based on the broader transport needs of industry in the economy.

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