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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. If they are accepted. So you are not automatically assuming that one of the results of this research will be to tell you what reductions you can get. You are assuming that if they are useful they can be incorporated.
  (Mr McMillan) I am not sure I absolutely follow the question.

  41. It is very important to know. Because these are the most congested roads, what we are really saying is have you used the calculations for the changes which are in the plans as part of your estimates for the reductions?
  (Mr McMillan) Certainly ongoing work in the department at the moment—I talked about a delivery plan for the road safety target; we are also developing a delivery plan for the road congestion work—in estimating what the various contributions which various elements of government policy will bring to delivering the congestion plan and the congestion reduction target, is looking at what contribution an assumed level of provision of better capacity on the roads will bring to that. The multi-modal studies will be one of the ways in which that contribution is delivered if ministers accept the recommendations.

Chris Grayling

  42. There seems to be an awful lot of focus on plans rather than actually doing things. One of the concerns I have in listening to this process is that as a department you have been through an exercise in developing a ten-year plan which is basically a set of targets and an outline of projects but is not actually a detailed strategy related to need. There is nothing within the ten-year plan which really looks at the economic trends, social trends and relates those to transport requirements in the future. You publish the plan, you then set about work on multi-modal studies, which actually do some of the work which you would have thought happened before the ten-year plan was put together, but when those studies come to fruition, there is no clear sign as to when and how they will be implemented. There is confusion over whether or not you are going to have road charging. It just feels all over the place.
  (Mr McMillan) One of the things which Ministers will do when they take the decision on the multi-modal study process and the schemes which are emerging from it is to remit work to delivery agents for implementation. It is true to say that we are moving in the case of this element of the ten-year plan's activity, from a period of planning and review and making sure that the right decisions are taken about where road widening and road improvement should be put to a process of delivering those things. It is true and it has always been the case that it was anticipated that in relation to the road network provision that will come towards the end of the ten-year plan and that is still the case; it is still very much the government's intention to deliver the capacity which the plans recommend.

  43. When do you think the first set of recommendations to come out of one of the multi-modal studies will be open for public use?
  (Mr McMillan) It is true to say that in terms of the provision of greater road capacity, the bulk of that capacity will be provided in the last three years of the ten-year plan period, but Mr Mills may want to correct me if I have that wrong.
  (Mr Mills) There are certainly measures which can be implemented more quickly than that. There are things like motorway junction improvements, improvements to bus services, various other local transport measures. There is a package of measures coming out of the studies which offer implementation over the short, medium and the longer term. Obviously the larger infrastructure measures will take longer to implement, but it does not mean that progress cannot be made more quickly on some of the smaller measures.

  Chris Grayling: Can you walk us through the relationship between the ten-year plan budget and the multi-modal studies and give us a sense. We have talked about railways but talk about the other modes of transport. What money is budgeted within the ten-year plan for the projects which are being discussed in the review of the multi-modal studies?


  44. Perhaps you could also comment on the London and South West study which has said an additional revenue support of £200 million would be required.
  (Mr Mills) The ten-year plan allocates resources for road, rail and local transport schemes. The recommendations emerging from the studies will be fed into the delivery programmes of the Highways Agency, the Strategic Rail Authority and through the local transport plan process. There are substantial resources within the ten-year plan which are allocated to those three sectors which are capable of delivering a significant element of the multi-modal study recommendations.

Chris Grayling

  45. These organisations do not have a budget allocation for five years ahead which is waiting to implement some of the recommendations of the multi-modal studies.
  (Mr McMillan) What the ten-year plan does is to allocate funds and it is roughly one third, one third, one third, for roads, local transport schemes and the railways. In the case of the railways it is true that a good deal of that money is already committed. In the case of road development and of local transport schemes, the money is earmarked but needs to be allocated against specific schemes as they materialise. On revenue support, it is true that some of the recommendations are coming forward with the view that some revenue support will be needed for schemes going forward and we need to look at whether that can be funded in the normal way through the local transport plan process or whether there is some other mechanism which we need to put into place and we are studying that.

  46. What estimates have you made of the gap, if indeed there is a gap, between the capital aspirations of the multi-modal studies and the uncommitted finance within the ten-year plan?
  (Mr McMillan) Although we do not yet have all the studies reported and ministers have not yet taken a view on whether they support all the recommendations which are within them, it is pretty clear that there will need to be a process of prioritisation on the schemes which are coming forward. Some of them may not be delivered until after the ten-year plan process.

  47. So there is a big gap at the moment.
  (Mr McMillan) I did not say that. I said that it would be necessary for there to be some prioritisation in the recommended schemes.

Mrs Ellman

  48. Does the department have a view on the impact of soft measures to reduce the need to travel?
  (Mr McMillan) The department has done some work about soft measures. What we can say is that the available evidence on the effectiveness of these measures is still pretty limited at the moment. The department has commissioned some work on what effect they would have and that work led to an assumption that it would be safe, if that is the right word, to assume that soft measures could get you into a position where you had reduced traffic overall by some five per cent at the end of the period. Others take a view that that is a rather conservative view on soft measures and what they can implement and what they can deliver. One of the benefits of the soft measures is that a good number of them are things which you can put in place relatively quickly. If you can put them in place relatively quickly, you can also relatively quickly form a view on how much benefit they are delivering. We would need to keep an eye on that, but certainly the department is very interested in these soft measures and wants to see many of them put into place.

  49. What will the impact of the studies be on the UK's biodiversity plans?
  (Mr McMillan) One of the key things which the assessment of plans and schemes does is to look very carefully at the environmental impacts of major schemes and other developments. That looks at biodiversity, it looks at air quality, it looks at a whole range of things. At the end of the process Ministers will have the ability to make informed decisions about what impact these proposed schemes will have on biodiversity and other factors.

  50. How important do you think that is?
  (Mr McMillan) It is clearly a major factor in ministers' thinking when they take decisions.

  51. English Nature are not very happy with the way this is being dealt with.
  (Mr McMillan) One of the things we have been stressing to the study teams going on is that it is very important for them to take account of environmental considerations. Take the case of English Nature, a statutory environmental body, they and other statutory environmental bodies have been consulted at each key stage of the study's activity in order to offer a view. Before we put final recommendations from each study to ministers we go back to the statutory environmental bodies and ask them for a final view so that ministers can reflect that in their thinking. Once the schemes which emerge from this process go down to the detailed implementation stage, then environmental bodies have yet another opportunity to say whether or not they are content with the detailed plans which are going forward. English Nature may have views about how things have gone in particular cases, but we have been very keen to try to involve them and give them every opportunity to express a view about how the plans are developing.

  52. When you are deciding which projects to fund, would issues like contribution to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions be a criterion you would use in selecting what you fund and what you do not fund?
  (Mr McMillan) As I understand the way in which the environmental assessment is done, there is a very detailed matrix which will look at issues across the board on the environmental side, including the one you just mentioned. So yes, we shall factor that into the decision making.


  53. Are you going to bear that in mind? You would not approve a strategy which did not support the commitment to reducing carbon dioxide.
  (Mr McMillan) What ministers will do is look at everything on a balanced basis. That is a government commitment to which they remain committed.

  54. Yes, but building roads in environmentally sensitive places which would in fact expand traffic might be of considerable importance, might it not, in terms of an environmentally sensitive policy?
  (Mr McMillan) Indeed.

  55. Who then would take precedence? Would it be the plans which have been provided which encourage road expansion?
  (Mr McMillan) I would not presume to take decisions on behalf of ministers in front of this Committee.

  Chairman: No, of course not; not openly. We quite understand that.

Clive Efford

  56. Could you say something about the phasing of how you implement some of these packages? There is concern that if you are to build a lot of roads because resources are available for roads and not implement public transport alternatives, then you may just create a whole load more congestion in our town centres. Is that sort of thinking part of your training process and implementation process?
  (Mr McMillan) A key part of the implementation thinking is that once a view has been taken by ministers on strategies in a particular area and a view has been taken on the balance of measures which ministers are willing to support and indeed should be supported, they then go off to the delivery agencies for detailed work and detailed implementation. In the case of roads that is the Highways Agency and you well understand the processes they go through to bring forward a detailed scheme. In the case of public transport provision, that will very often be provided through local transport plans and funding. Funding is allocated in the ten-year plan both for work on road development and for funding local transport schemes. In order to make sure that those things go forward in concert, there will be these implementation groups in each area and they will be looking to ensure that the balance of the package is maintained as it is implemented.

  57. Do those groups have the power to ensure that things are done in a way which will not create other problems?
  (Mr McMillan) What we have is the responsibility to ensure that the department and ministers are aware about the implementation and if problems emerge in the implementation which they believe would threaten the cohesion of the package, they would bring that to the attention of the department and of ministers and appropriate action would be taken.


  58. So when West Midlands say that they need a 297 per cent increase in local transport funding between 2002-03 and 2007-08 just to fund the outcome then the implementation team might have something rather firm to say. Is that what you are saying?
  (Mr McMillan) What ministers will want to do is look at the detail which underpins that opinion and see whether it is something they agree with.

  59. Would you be prepared to shift expenditure out of capital into revenue or vice-versa?
  (Mr McMillan) There are issues about revenue support which are starting to emerge from the studies. We shall have to see whether the resources which are available within the local transport plan system are sufficient to meet those resource requirements. If they are not, we shall have to look at other ways of doing so.

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