Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
Chairman: Good afternoon. We have one little
bit of housekeeping before we begin. Members declaring an interest?
Clive Efford: Member of the Transport and General
Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, Rail, Maritime Transport
Mrs Ellman: Louise Ellman, member of the Transport
and General Workers' Union.
1. Mr McMillan, thank you very much for coming
and bringing your colleagues with you. May I ask you firstly to
identify all of your colleagues for the record?
(Mr McMillan) I am David McMillan, Director of Transport
Strategy and Delivery in the Department for Transport.
(Ms Bowdler) I am Caroline Bowdler, the Regional Director
of the Government Office for the East of England.
(Mr Mills) I am Philip Mills from the Multi-Modal
Studies Unit in the Department for Transport.
2. Did you wish to make any particular comments
or are you prepared to go straight to questions?
(Mr McMillan) Ready to take questions.
3. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said "...
the studies are not a good starting point for the planning and
development of the rail network". If they are not a good
basis for planning railway investment are they really multi-modal?
(Mr McMillan) We need to go back to why
the multi-modal studies (MMSs) were set up in the first place.
They were driven originally by problems which were being experienced
on the strategic road network. When ministers decided that they
wanted to do things in a different way, the idea was to set up
multi-modal studies which would look at the problems which were
being experienced on the strategic road network and to evaluate
whether the road schemes which were being proposed were the right
thing to do, or whether there were other ways to tackle the problems
which had been experienced. What we have set up there is the process
whereby on a careful system of evaluation and analysis against
some criteria which were set up by the department in guidance
to the study teams they could look at other options for dealing
with the problems which were there.
4. Wait a minute. You are not telling us that
rail was tacked on as an afterthought, are you?
(Mr McMillan) No, I am not saying that. I am saying
that the studies were set up to look at the problems which were
being faced and find the best way of dealing with those problems.
5. But are you saying mainly starting from the
perspective of roads?
(Mr McMillan) What we asked the study teams to do
was to look at the problems which were being experienced from
a local perspective on the strategic road network. They were asked
to see whether there were other means of addressing the problems,
other than providing roads and indeed to see whether roads would
be a last resort way of dealing with the issues. There was no
presumption that there would not be road solutions emerging from
the multi-modal studies; by the same token we wanted to be sure
that public transport solutions, rail solutions, so-called soft
measures could make a contribution.
6. Why were these particular multi-modal studies
chosen? Presumably you were spoilt for choice.
(Mr McMillan) When the process was set up it was a
matter of taking the key areas of difficulty on the network, the
key transport problems which were out there and dealing with those
first. If you look at the map of multi-modal studies, it is a
fairly good impression of where the problems which were being
experienced on the network were at the time and that would seem
a sensible place to start.
7. You did tell us many of the rail recommendations
have not been looked at in detail and ". . . when they are,
some will be shown not to be justified". You have spent £32
million on these studies.
(Mr McMillan) What the studies are producing is a
series of strategies for each of the areas in question. They are
producing strategies and they are producing schemes within those
strategies; some of them would be road schemes and public transport
ideas, some would be rail suggestions. All of these things are
by and large described at a strategic level.
8. Wait, I am not very bright, you will have
to be kind to me: ". . . described at a strategic level"?
(Mr McMillan) They are schemes which in the opinion
of the consultants and of the planning bodies who look at these
things later on stack up and make sense in terms of a broad way
of addressing a problem. They may well say that they think a road
between A and B is a good way of dealing with a problem, but that
is not a detailed assessment of exactly how the road would be
built, exactly to what standard it would be built and so on. Before
an absolute commitment would be given to any particular part of
the strategy, that part would need to be subject to detailed assessment
and detailed review. That is when it would enter, to take the
case of a road scheme, the Highways Agency's targeted programme
of improvements or be included in the Strategic Rail Authority's
strategic plan. What they are producing at this stage are strategic
ideas, quite carefully costed ideas but strategic ideas, broad
brush ideas as to how the problem should be tackled.
9. This is an important point. They may be producing
broad-brush ideas but there seems no prospect of them being included
in the Strategic Rail Authority's strategic plan, if only because
there are already within that plan as many projects as can be
contained within the ten-year plan budget, even assuming that
the £30-something billion of private investment which needs
to be achieved to make the plan can be found. You have projects
which have been excluded from the SRA strategic plan, like the
modernisation of the Great Western main line and then you get
to the multi-modal studies. So any rational outside observer would
surely draw the conclusion that the road elements of the multi-modal
studies have a chance of being built because there is highways
budget available, but that the rail projects have no chance whatsoever
of being built within the next decade because there is no budget
for them. Does that not completely undermine the credibility of
the documents you are producing?
(Mr McMillan) The documents are being produced by
the multi-modal studies teams and then going to ministers for
consideration and perhaps decision. You need to look at a number
of factors. In the first place, it is certainly the case that
there is within the ten-year plan an allocation of funding for
a roads programme and that it is to be expected that if ministers
agree with some of the recommendations which are flowing from
the multi-modal studies review then the roads which are agreed
as being delivered there will find funding within the ten-year
plan. That is true. The Strategic Rail Authority has a strategic
plan which is also in operation and on the way to being delivered.
The strategic plan which the Strategic Rail Authority has is very
substantially committed, as you say.
10. It is totally committed.
(Mr McMillan) The SRA will speak for themselves later
on. That is not to say that there is nothing which can be done
about the recommendations flowing from the rail schemes. There
are several ideas in the multi-modal studies which the SRA will
be able to take forward through the rail partnership fund or whatever.
You also need to look at the timetable in relation to the multi-modal
studies. The ten-year plan for transport is, as you would expect,
a ten-year plan which extends for another nine years or so from
now. What the multi-modal studies have been asked to do is to
look at a longer time frame which varies but extends either to
2021 or 2031. It is certainly possible that as time goes by, as
the ten-year plan is reviewed and refreshed and rolled forward
and as the Strategic Rail Authority reviews its plan and rolls
that forward, the funding would become available for some of the
rail ideas which are in the multi-modal study recommendations,
provided that ministers endorse them and provided that the delivery
agent in that case, which is the SRA, believes that they stack
up and offer value for money.
11. Nonetheless by the sound of it you are not
disagreeing with the basic premise which is that there are studies
reporting now which are making recommendations. Those elements
of the recommendations which relate to roads can and may very
well become a reality within the framework of the current ten-year
plan, whereas those which relate to rail are extremely unlikely
to become a reality during the framework of the current ten-year
(Mr McMillan) Recommendations are coming out now which
relate to road construction, recommendations which relate to elements
of a transport plan which might be funded through the local transport
plan settlement and it is possible to see the two avenues of funding
for both of those sets of recommendations. In the case of the
rail recommendation, I agree that there is more of a challenge
to see how these things will be funded and in those cases it is
very likely that the funding will come later on in the period
the MMSs have been looking at.
12. Is there enough money in the system to fund
any of the initiatives which come from these studies?
(Mr McMillan) Funding is allocated through the ten-year
plan which will provide a substantial amount of funding for road
schemes if they are endorsed. There is funding through the way
in which the local transport plans are set up to deal with recommendations
for public transport, soft measures and the like and the Strategic
Rail Authority has its own stream of funding which is delivering
projects which will be of interest to multi-modal study areas
and which later on may be refreshed and will then provide for
funding later on on the rail side.
13. Is there any kind of co-ordination between
these different budgets? You are giving the impression that there
are separate plans with budget heads, then there are multi-modal
studies which are supposed to bring those together but in budget
terms will not.
(Mr McMillan) It is probably true to say that money
is earmarked on a modal basis but that is not to say that there
cannot be co-ordination and collaboration about the way in which
money is spent going forward. What the studies have produced are
broad based approaches to dealing with problems in each area.
They come forward as a package of measures. Some elements of the
package have to hang together, others are valid in their own right
and independent. When the package is endorsed or otherwise by
ministers, having had advice from the various delivery agents,
in each of these areas an implementation team will be set up and
the role of the implementation team is to make sure that the coherence
of the package of the measures, be that measures relating to road,
be that measures relating to public transport or whatever, is
maintained through the process of implementation for the period
14. If the road schemes go ahead before public
transport improvements, is that not going to have an impact on
predicted congestion levels?
(Mr McMillan) Talking in a general way is quite difficult.
What we would need to do is look at each of the packages which
are proposed and each of the road schemes and the accompanying
measures which go along with it or which stand in their own right.
If you take one example, the Cambridge example, there is a proposition
there for a road scheme and a proposition for an accompanying
guided bus scheme. In that case you would want to look very carefully
at the complementarity between those two schemes and make sure
that the implementation of one either went in hand with the other
or was in some way tied with it. In other cases there may be a
proposition for a public transport scheme which stands quite independent
of an element of the package.
(Ms Bowdler) The Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal
study recommended improvements to the trunk road and a complementary
guided bus system. The recommendations actually assumed a different
standard for the trunk road because the bus system would be in
place to take a substantial amount of the traffic and this is
a really multi-modal approach and it was linked also with demand
management measures within Cambridge which the local county council,
the transport authority, will be responsible for implementing.
What we have done is set up an implementation group which the
Government Office organises and supports to make sure that the
Highways Agency and the county council are working closely together.
We are reporting back to the Department for Transport and the
Highways Agency on progress and we are clear that this is the
right sort of process to try to get these things working in tandem.
15. What role is the department taking in ensuring
that budget heads are ready to meet the needs which come out of
(Mr McMillan) One of the key issues which ministers
will have to have in mind when they endorse the recommendations
flowing from the studies is the affordability of the plans which
are proposed and the funding possibilities for the plans which
are proposed. This may go in a couple of stages. On the first
examination of the material flowing from the studies, ministers
will say that they are minded to support these schemes provided
that delivery agents, once they have done the detailed work on
them, agree that they continue to have value for money and can
still be delivered. At that stage they will come back for final
endorsement. Yes, one of the key things we shall have to put together
in recommendations to ministers about these studies is whether
they are affordable, whether they are deliverable.
16. What about road user charging? Do you not
think it would be better if the department had been clearer on
the government's view?
(Mr McMillan) When the studies were set up, the department
made clear to the people managing the studies that there was no
presumption that there would be road user charging in the future
on the inter-urban network, but it asked the study teams to look
at the possibility of introducing that and delivering it. Later,
in May of this year, some further guidance was given to the study
teams about how they should interpret this and what the department's
position was. Fundamentally what the department said was that
there was no certainty that there would be road user charging
on the inter-urban network, but that they would, in reviewing
the ten-year plan, consider anything which flowed out from the
studies about the future of charging in that way. We would take
that into account going forward.
17. There does not seem to be any consistency
in the views adopted in the different studies. Is that of concern
(Mr Mills) Each study was asked to consider a wide
range of measures to address the transport problems which they
identified in their study areas, one of which was road user charging.
The department's guidance set out clearly that inter-urban road
user charging, although government currently has no plans to implement
such a policy, was a measure which the study should examine as
a potential to support government policies in the longer term.
Each study has done that and the fact that they have come up with
different conclusions is a reflection of the fact that they have
found a different potential for road user charging in the different
areas. The problems are not all identical and it is not surprising
that they have come up with somewhat different conclusions. Some
studies actually found that they do not recommend any requirement
for inter-urban road user charging; others have come up with recommendations
for its implementation, either in the longer term, maybe post
2020, or somewhat earlier.
18. How important is freight transport in multi-modal
(Mr McMillan) It varies a good deal as between the
study and the type of study which you are dealing with. On those
studies which are dealing with inter-urban movements, clearly
freight can be very important. On some of the more urban routes,
that would be different. It is a key issue on the M25 study for
example. It is obviously very important and needs to be taken
fully into consideration. The way of dealing with freight movements
could be very different from the ways of dealing with other issues.
19. Do you really feel it was simply that they
looked at all of this and they came up with different answers,
not because they were misinterpreting what the department had
said, but because they felt they were different? How can there
be a different approach to inter-urban charging? That is not dependent
on which area they are in: there is a theory that you have inter-urban
charging or there is a theory that you do not have it. There is
not a lot in between, is there?
(Mr McMillan) One of the key benefits which has flown
from this multi-modal study process has been that people in the
local area and the consultants needing studies have indulged in,
have gone in for a great deal of quite detailed analytical work
about what the traffic flows are in a particular area, what the
origin and destination of traffic is, what the freight movements
are and so on. They have now a wealth of information which was
not previously available at that level of the country.