Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
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
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 momentI talked about a delivery plan for the road
safety target; we are also developing a delivery plan for the
road congestion workin 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.
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
(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
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
(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
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
(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.
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
(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