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

Memorandum by Warwickshire County Council (TYP 55)


  1.1  This memorandum outlines Warwickshire County Council's response to the request by the Select Committee for assistance in its investigation of the Government's Ten Year Transport Plan. It is submitted following consultation with Elected Members of the County Council.

  1.2  The memorandum lists its issues under the four areas of investigation specified by the Committee—assumptions, implementation, targets and integrated transport policy.


  2.1  The assumptions made about the introduction of congestion charging and workplace levy schemes seem optimistic. Progress with congestion charging and workplace levy schemes is slow. There are relatively few areas committed to the introduction of such schemes and significant urban areas that are not.



  3.1  The Council is concerned at the level of financial resources available for the implementation of the Plan. The recent paper sponsored by CfIT has illustrated the degree of under-investment. Its comment was that there have been "two generations of neglect, a transport network starved of investment for half a century."

  3.2  The increases in transport spending are welcomed but there is evidence that they are not sufficient to deliver a transport system in which we can take pride. It is not clear that the levels of spending now proposed will realise the ambition of John Prescott which he announced when he published the Government's 10 Year Transport Plan that the UK was to rival the best in Europe.

  3.3  There is a danger that the current situation in the railway industry could divert resources from other areas. The problems in other aspects of transport must be recognised.


  3.4  The Government issued guidance on the level of capital resources that should be assumed for local transport in its Guidance on Full Local Transport Plans (LTPs). It stated that "LTPs must be based on realistic expectations of the resources which are likely to be made available."

  3.5  Experience is indicating that the level of capital investment proposed in LTPs as a result of that Guidance will be insufficient to deliver the required improvements and to meet targets. Improving conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport is not a cheap option. As well as the sheer scale of work required, unit costs of work are also increasing.

  3.6  The introduction of the Single Capital Pot could also affect the level of investment available for transport.

  3.7  The emerging multi-modal studies are disclosing additional projects that need to be implemented over and above those originally identified in LTPs which will require additional resources. Some authorities are considering submitting new LTPs. Warwickshire County Council is not planning to submit a new LTP but is considering the submission of supplementary bids to increase levels of investment. Other authorities might be considering the same action.

  3.8  The limitations on the provision of grants to fund capital investment through LTPs is also an issue. In previous years, grants were provided by Central Government for major projects (which were then defined as projects costing over £2 million), principal road maintenance and bridgeworks. Grants may now only be provided for major projects (which are now defined as projects costing over £5 million) and there is no guarantee that grants will be available for each major project. Central Government provides borrowing approval to cover the remaining capital investment requirement but local authorities are having to meet a significant proportion of the resulting increasing cost of borrowing.

  3.9  The cost of preparatory work for major schemes is posing a serious problem. While the Government may have approved the implementation of a major scheme, it limits the provision of resources for preparatory work. In these circumstances, local authorities have to use borrowing approvals granted for other areas of work (eg integrated transport or maintenance) to fund preparatory work. The effect on those other areas of work can be significant because the scale of preparatory costs for major projects is high and there are more major projects than in the past. Warwickshire County Council is currently implementing three major projects. Warwickshire had no major projects at all in previous years when levels of investment were less.


  3.10  The new transport agenda raises revenue pressures, particularly for public transport (see comments below), highway maintenance and bridge maintenance. These pressures are made worse because some integrated transport initiatives add to maintenance costs eg traffic calming measures and cycle tracks.


  4.1  The LTP produces capital resources but revenue resources are also needed to achieve public transport targets. Surveys in Warwickshire have consistently shown that the top priorities for the public are cheaper fares and more frequent services. These improvements are primarily dependent on revenue spending, not capital investment. The recent survey by CfIT showed that UK operators charge the highest fares in Europe although they achieve the lowest operating costs per vehicle kilometre. The survey showed that "European Governments are willing to subsidise public transport fares to a far greater extent than is the case in the UK."

  4.2  The issue of providing significantly more subsidy from the public sector to the private sector raises the issue of institutional arrangements for public transport. Bus quality partnerships are not considered to provide a suitable way forward. Bus quality contracts seem to be a better option but there are difficulties in their implementation. These difficulties will need to be addressed if contracts are to be commonly adopted.


  5.1  There is a need to review the arrangements between central and local government in terms of delivery of the local transport improvements. There is a need to decentralise to local government those matters which can best be dealt with at a local level.

  5.2  There is too much detailed involvement by Central Government in the production and monitoring of LTPs as can be seen from both the detailed nature of Government Guidance and Government responses to published documents. This results in LTPs being long, complex document designed for bureaucrats rather than as a means of communication between a local authority and the community. It also results in Central Government keeping too detailed a level of control on local government. LTPs are "judged" by Central Government at a very detailed level. A broader, more transparent approach to judging performance would be beneficial.

  5.3  The announcement in the Local Government White Paper of the intention to scrap existing capital financing rules and introduce "prudential indicators" is welcomed as an example of the relaxation of controls that should be introduced.


  6.1  The Government's initiatives in the production of the White Paper—A New Deal for Transport and the Ten Year Transport Plan are most welcome. Any memorandum such as this inevitably focuses on issues but, overall, the new emphasis on transport is applauded.

  6.2  However, these initiatives are disclosing just how much needs to be done, not just to provide a better transport system but to provide a transport system that will "rival the best in Europe."

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