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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. They have to do something for their £32 million.
  (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.

Clive Efford

  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.

Clive Efford

  23. Consultants were instructed to come up with options.
  (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.

Chris Grayling

  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 for cars.


  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 charging?
  (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.

Clive Efford

  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 there.
  (Mr McMillan) Charging on the inter-urban network would have an impact on traffic levels on the network; that must be so.

  32. Are the studies going to inform planning decisions?
  (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 inter-urban charging.

  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 say.
  (Mr McMillan) They will take it into account in their thinking.

Mr Campbell

  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 road building?
  (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 roads?
  (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.

  39. Obviously.
  (Mr McMillan) It is true that recommendations from the studies will, if they are accepted, help the government deliver its congestion targets.

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