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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180 - 199)




  180. It seems to me very important that the Committee should be quite clear. Do you accept that quite a lot of congestion on motorways might be from commuter traffic?
  (Mr Matthews) Certainly the evidence from a number of the studies is that there is a significant amount of short distance traffic on parts of the motorway network. Whether that is commuter or not in a sense—

  181. Do you accept that a lot of it is short-distance traffic, however you describe it?
  (Mr Matthews) Yes, there is evidence for that.

  182. Do you have within the agency any estimate or any study which shows up the impacts of the national charging service on the use of motorways and the control of congestion?
  (Mr Matthews) No.

  183. Do you intend at any point to look at the impact of road user charging or are you simply wiping it out as a means of managing already crowded roads?
  (Mr Matthews) We would do so if we were asked to do so by ministers in terms of taking forward either the thinking or the implementation of charging.

  184. When you are asked to assess particular multi-modal studies which suggest charging for individual roads, you totally ignore that element of the scheme because you have decided that is a road you do not want to follow.
  (Mr Matthews) We would look in the round at all the possible impacts on traffic.

  185. You "would look in the round". That means you would estimate the effect of road user charges on particular multi-modal schemes.
  (Mr Matthews) No. At this stage it would not influence the decision on whether to proceed with a scheme.

  186. Supposing the scheme was a widening scheme, not a new road scheme but a widening scheme. Are you telling us that the impact of one possible management tool, which is charging, will not be considered when you are looking at the impact of that particular scheme?
  (Mr Matthews) What I am saying is that we have no remit as an agency for that to be a factor.

  187. Surely you decide the future of our road network and you must be giving advice to ministers. Even if ministers have decided to rule out one particular aspect, should it not be in the interests of the taxpayer as a whole that you give alternative schemes? You simply ignore all the aspects of road charging that might come into play.
  (Mr Matthews) It is not a question of ignoring it. I do not make decisions on major investment.

  188. You give advice, do you not?
  (Mr Matthews) I give advice.

  189. You give detailed and professional advice based on the best management of your revenue and capital and the country's needs. Is that not right?
  (Mr Matthews) And I give it within a framework of policy which is set by ministers. At the moment that does not include considering road user charging.

  190. So I ask you again. Even when a multi-modal study produces several ways of handling a particular problem in relation to roads, you will only look at one sort of scheme because you believe that is what ministers want you to do.
  (Mr Matthews) What we are being asked to do is advise on how schemes might and should be delivered without road user charging.

  191. It is as specific as that.
  (Mr Matthews) I have no remit to do otherwise.

  192. You have not looked at a national scheme and you do not intend to do so.
  (Mr Matthews) I shall do so if I am asked to do so by ministers and I have not been asked to do so.

Clive Efford

  193. In relation to the M1 study, the only option you would consider, in spite of the fact that it recommends charging be used as a method of reducing congestion and that widening the road would not be necessary if charging were introduced, is going ahead and widening that road.
  (Mr Matthews) Ministers would make a judgement about whether they wished to proceed in the short to medium term to widen to meet the level of demand and capacity. That is the basis on which we would advise them.

  194. In your discussions about charging has hypothecation ever entered into it, as the Mayor hopes to do with his congestion charge, that the money is turned round and used for public transport rather than put back into roads? (Mr Matthews) I am not sure I can have a sub-set of a policy analysis when I do not have the general policy analysis to undertake.

Mr Stringer

  195. Do you have any evidence about whether more damage is done to the economy by inter-urban congestion rather than urban congestion?
  (Mr Matthews) I do not personally, but I can certainly try to help the Committee find any evidence on that. I do not have it at my fingertips now. We do have some evidence of the impact of congestion on parts of our network. How that compares to urban congestion costs I do not know. It may well be available. I am certainly happy to help the Committee find that information.


  196. On inter-urban charging, the department's guidance states that it would therefore be appropriate for the studies to examine the contribution charging on selected corridors and sections of the trunkroad network might make to the delivery of the government's transport objectives.
  (Mr Matthews) Yes.

  197. But you rule out any question of even looking at the effect.
  (Mr Matthews) What I tried to make clear to the Committee was that I have not been given a remit by ministers to bring forward schemes.

  198. With respect, this is the guidance provided to the studies on new ways of charging for transport and they specifically relate this to inter-urban charging.
  (Mr Matthews) And Ministers will doubtless want to take a view as part of their gathering of evidence and thinking about charging.

  199. But they have never discussed this with you. You are working on a completely different policy and you are quite clear that charging is not to be considered, therefore you have not looked at an overall charging scheme, you have not looked at alternatives for managing the road space, forgive me, all the things we have been trying to get out this afternoon. You are quite clear that even though the ministry say this in the terms and conditions laid down for the studies, you are not bearing it in mind.
  (Mr Matthews) That is not a statement of policy; ministers have been clear what their policy is on road user charging. That was a request through the guidance that the studies look at the issue of charging.

  Chairman: Would you give us some extra notes and the Committee will read them with great attention. We may have other things we wish to discuss with you. Thank you for coming.

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