Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
20. They have to do something for their £32
(Mr McMillan) I am sure it is very valuable work.
They have lots of information there and I think that information
does tell you that if you look at the way flows are in a particular
area and you look at what level of investment you are proposing
to put into the network, the need for restraint measures would
arise at different times and different places and that is what
you are seeing in the recommendations coming from them.
21. It is a curious position, is it not? Unless
you take a position on an issue like inter-urban charging the
scheme you are planning is going to have a different outcome and
is going to be designed for a different level of traffic or congestion.
(Mr McMillan) One of the things we were very clear
about with the study teams was that as they could not assume that
there would be charging on the inter-urban network, they should
come forward with proposals for a scheme with charging and what
the other solutions would be to try to deliver solutions. One
study has recommended quite early introduction of inter-urban
charging and one study looks as though it is going to recommend
it. They have also set an approach which they consider would be
appropriate if charging were not to come along.
22. Which ones are you talking about, so we
are quite clear? Are you talking about the M1 and the M25 studies?
(Mr McMillan) South and West Yorkshire and the Orbit
M25 studies. What they are doing is making a proposition that
this is how you would deal with the problem if you were introducing
inter-urban charging and this is how you would deal with the problem
by other means of restraint if you are not doing that.
23. Consultants were instructed to come up with
(Mr McMillan) What they were asked to do, was to come
up with what they considered to be the optimum package of measures
to deal with the transport problems as identified within their
area. On this particular issue of charging on the inter-urban
network, they were asked to give a view as to when they thought
that might be beneficial, in the knowledge that there is no government
commitment to introduce such a thing what would the package of
measures look like if that were not to be there?
24. What are the potential difficulties when
you have two packages in close proximity to one another which
come to different conclusions? Is there a way of bringing them
together and working out how they dovetail and how one may impact
on the other or is that a silly question?
(Mr Mills) No, not at all. The Highways Agency has
been represented on every steering group and is feeding in and
advising on the recommendations for road widening which are coming
out of the studies. They are taking a national perspective and
looking at the implications of the recommendations for this strategy
for the network as a whole. Within that context, clearly there
are recommendations for road widening and recommendations for
road user charging coming in at different times. Those recommendations
are dependent on whether or not government takes a decision on
the introduction of road user charging. In the meantime, given
the long-term nature of the recommendation on charging in many
cases and the fact that where the studies have recommended in
the shorter term how one would go forward in the absence of a
decision on charging, we think we have a coherent basis for decisions
on the road widening programme to be taken in advance of any decision
by the government on charging.
25. Wait a minute. You tell the consultants
to look at it, you tell them to come up with two options, what
happens when there is charging, what happens when there is no
charging. You also tell them, not to assume that this means there
is going to be charging, you are just asking them to look at the
options. Then, when Mr Efford asks you how you tie these two packages
together when two different consultants come up with contradictory
answers, you say there is not really a problem because they know
what the overall intention is.
(Mr Mills) They will feed in to provide advice and
guidance to ministers in reaching their decisions on charging.
Chairman: One would hope so.
26. The other element you are not touching on
at all is the fact that we do have or are shortly to have an inter-urban
road charging scheme which is for lorries. I would work on the
logical assumption that were we to move towards having such a
scheme for cars, it would be pretty logical to use the same technology
as is being used for lorries, or something pretty approximating
to it, otherwise you would have a totally unworkable system. Surely
that must have been a consideration in the conversations you have
had with the consultants, or was that not dealt with at all?
(Mr McMillan) I personally have not had such conversations.
(Mr Mills) The decision to take forward a policy of
implementing road user charging for lorries was quite late in
the multi-modal study process. Some of the later studies have
recognised the implications that might have for freight traffic
and the experience with the technology will be an issue and will
help to inform decisions on whether to introduce a similar system
27. The M1 study did not include charging in
the final strategy because they thought the government was not
committed to it. Should you have provided greater guidance on
(Mr McMillan) We provided such guidance as we could,
given government's position on these things. What the consultants
had to work on was government policy.
28. So the government was muddled and you did
not feel able to make it too clear that government were muddled.
(Mr McMillan) We were quite clear what the government's
position was and government's position is that there is no commitment
to road charging and looking at the state of the technology and
the size of the vehicle fleet and so on, there is no likelihood
of charging for cars on the inter-urban network for the rest of
this decade and that is something which we made clear to the multi-modal
study teams in May of this year.
29. If a scheme like the M1 were to go ahead,
assuming no charging, and part way through it was decided that
there would be charging, what are the implications for the success
or otherwise of the scheme?
(Mr McMillan) The schemes which the consultants are
recommending and which ministers will be evaluating over the coming
months are schemes which make certain recommendations for road
improvements or road widening or whatever. We have asked them
to make those recommendations on two bases: one on the basis that
there might be charging in the future at some unspecified point
and the other that there is not. We shall have to evaluate whether
what they produce is a coherent package of investment to go ahead
and a package which in no way pre-empts decisions which ministers
might take thereafter. That is what we have.
30. Do you accept that, if from the planning
stage it was understood that there was going to be charging, the
scheme you implement would be different from the one if there
were to be charging?
(Mr McMillan) I can see what you say.
31. Some of the studies actually say that, do
they not? One study specifically says that if you widen the roads
you get a different result than if you go for charging. It is
(Mr McMillan) Charging on the inter-urban network
would have an impact on traffic levels on the network; that must
32. Are the studies going to inform planning
(Mr McMillan) Yes, Ministers have been clear that
one of the things they will weigh, as they evaluate policies on
the way in which the inter-urban network will be managed, is whatever
the multi-modal studies say about the value and the efficacy of
33. So they will not only be taken into account
but they will really have a direct effect.
(Mr McMillan) Ministers have said that they will weigh
what the studies have to say about inter-urban charging.
34. They will weigh what the studies have to
(Mr McMillan) They will take it into account in their
35. The ten-year plan and the anticipated reduction
in casualties on the roads. Given that many of the road schemes
will not be implemented by 2010, by what degree do you think the
targets for the fall in casualties will be reduced as a result
of those roads not being completed by 2010?
(Mr McMillan) The government's targets for road casualty
reductions are part of a detailed delivery plan which the department
is working up at the moment. It is true to say, although I had
best check the detail of this, that the packages of measures which
are already envisaged for road safety initiatives and road safety
developments and safety work on the road network are such that
we are on target to deliver the road safety reductions which were
envisaged in the commitment to that target. It is true to say
that one of the angles which we shall be looking at in road schemes,
which might flow from the multi-modal studies, is the extent to
which they assist in safety on the network. It is true to say
that even without these propositions we are on track to deliver
the target reduction.
36. As I read it, the target reduction is 40
per cent in terms of people killed or seriously injured. Are you
saying that we are on target to reach 40 per cent irrespective
of the outcome of the next eight or nine years in terms of new
(Mr McMillan) We have projections going forward which
set out ways in which that target will be achieved. No doubt the
MMS recommendation will contribute towards that. As I understand
it, with the current knowledge of what is planned to happen on
the network, current knowledge about vehicle technology and so
on, we are on target to deliver it.
37. What about the congestion levels on trunk
(Mr McMillan) What the ten-year plan does is provide
a strategic framework. It does not make any specific assumptions
about specific schemes which will be necessary to deliver congestion
targets. It does leave it to the delivery agencies to develop
detailed programmes within the funding programmes which they have.
38. It does actually concentrate on the most
congested roads, does it not? The studies themselves, almost without
exception, concentrate on the most congested roads.
(Mr McMillan) They do; that is one of the reasons
they were set up in these areas, that is true.
(Mr McMillan) It is true that recommendations from
the studies will, if they are accepted, help the government deliver
its congestion targets.