Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
SPELLAR, MP, MR
540. I did not quite ask whether it was
at a satisfactory level, Minister, I put a specific point. Are
you satisfied that the protection that was available under the
Directive will be achieved under the agreement?
(Mr Roberts) Could I just come in. There is not, in
fact, a Directive at present. What we did have was a draft agreement,
which had been negotiated by the Commission, and there was the
possibility of drawing up a Directive instead of that draft agreement.
What the Minister is saying is that by moving ahead immediately
with the negotiated agreement we could achieve as good a result
over that period as if we waited for a Directive, which was still
uncertain. The possibility of a Directive still remains, and the
Commission has made this clear, if the manufacturers do not deliver.
541. But if the Chairman will allow me,
I am simply trying to get a handle on whether under the agreement
process rather than the Directive process the same result in terms
of pedestrian protection will, in fact, emerge. I wonder whether
the Minister could give us some assurance that that will be the
(Mr Spellar) The belief of the Commission and ourselves
is that we will achieve that.
542. You are aiming for a target in ten
years' time to actually reduce the deaths per day from ten to
six. Is that not a pretty feeble ambition in terms of road deaths?
(Mr Spellar) I think it will be very desirable, not
just in itself but in conjunction with a number of other measures
that we are taking, for example to reduce deaths because of speeding
on certain stretches of road and also evaluating stretches of
road that have higher levels of accident, not necessarily just
through that cause, and designing in more safety.
543. Taking all of those measures you are
talking about a 40 per cent reduction, that is from ten to six.
Would it not be reasonable to expect over that period of nine
years now that we should do much better than that?
(Mr Spellar) I would have thought that was still a
pretty challenging target and one that we will be pleased to achieve.
It does not mean we will then be complacent having achieved that
or if managed to achieve it earlier that we would not look at
what further measures we could undertake. I think it is much better,
quite frankly, to have potentially realistic targets and then
move on from there. Sometimes what are described as targets are
aspirations and I do not think that necessarily builds in the
right pattern of incentive.
544. Can I ask about specific areas of what
is otherwise admittedly an awesome task. Cycling first. Between
1999-2000 the number of people cycling went down by 2 per cent,
although during that period a lot of encouragement was given to
cycling. I understand much of the expenditure that was committed
to encourage cycling was done by local authorities, which I feel
they ought to do. Is the Government going to give a more positive
steer to this process to make it more effective or to encourage
the sharing of good practice, because within that 2 per cent there
may be areas where there have been appreciable successes and other
areas where no effect has been achieved at all?
(Mr Spellar) The actual figures I have are the average
number of trips made by bike per person for the year in 1996 was
16 and 16 again in 2000, which would indicate a levelling out
of the decline, which is precisely why we are launching a committee
to drive on the process, particularly to spread good practice
not just with local authorities but other transport authorities
are a further target, for example with the rail companies. There
is a lot of work being undertaken, and with success, to encourage
a greater number of facilities for parking of bikes in safe and
secure areas because the most effective way of encouraging someone
to cycle is that their bike is there when they get back. Indeed,
when I was out in Ipswich for some reason or another just recently,
there were very considerable cycling and motorcycling secure parking
facilities. We will be working with those transport authorities
in order to increase that. We are also working on increasing the
number of cycle paths. There is a whole number of those in the
Local transport plans. Also building on the success of the Safe
Journey to School Initiative, where we have had quite considerable
success in some schools, we need to be rolling that out with best
practice and we will be doing that from the regional government
offices in working with local authorities to focus them on the
potential for increasing cycling both amongst youngsters and also
for leisure and for travel to work.
545. On the trip to school, clearly subsidising
travel of pensioners encouraged a lot of pensioners to use buses,
but for the working mum, putting her kids on to the bus for school
is a very, very expensive trip indeed very often and, therefore,
she takes the car. Although she had laudable reasons for not taking
the car to school, again for financial reasons she uses the car,
as Helen Jackson said before. In those circumstances, is the Government
keeping under review the possibility of subsidising, as it were,
school travel as well as pensioner travel?
(Mr Spellar) We are also looking at and trying to
ensure restoring levels of walking to school. We are setting up
schemes, working with the schools and looking at opening up safer
routes from where the locations of children are through to the
school, as with cycling. At Kesway School in Ipswich around 80
per cent of pupils travel to school by bike as a result of initiatives
to encourage cycling.
546. In certain circumstances it will be
too far to go under your own steam by bike, so there is a choice
between car and bus but often the choice of the bus if you have
two or three children is not an economic choice as opposed to
the car. Has the Government identified that problem or is it seeking
to find ways to address that?
(Mr Spellar) We can certainly look at that. Also in
a number of areas, as you are aware, starting off in Yorkshire,
we will be having school bus schemes which will be more specifically
related rather than using the existing bus system.
547. My third point is with regard to local
transport plans and road links. The process of detrunking roads
and progressing road schemes by local transport plans is admirable
compared to what preceded it but it does create problems where
you have road schemes that overlap a number of different areas
which have different local transport plans. What is the role of
the Government in progressing schemes of that nature which otherwise
will never get done because they will not quite have the same
priority for all the authorities at the same time?
(Mr Spellar) True, but the Government can facilitate
that through the funding programme.
548. Do you cycle yourself, Minister?
(Mr Spellar) I think that would be adding to the road
549. So you do not. It is a pity that you
do not because some of the aspects of what has been programmed
by the Government just do not make sense if you are a cyclist.
Who do you rely on to give you your information?
(Mr Spellar) A number of the cycling organisations.
We can send the Committee a list of those we have at the regular
consultative meetings. I have met with them and we will be arranging
a further meeting with them in the New Year. Also they are in
regular exchange with the officials as well. We are pulling those
together, together with the local authorities, in the committee
whose role will be to drive on the cycling strategy, partly encouraging
and opening up the prospects to the groups that they come from
and also to give much wider publicity to the advantages of cycling
but also to look at where there are gaps in the system and to
put to us where additional funding would enable us to complete
much of the system to facilitate cycling. That is both with regard
to leisure cycling but also very much travel to work or travel
to another transport system in order to get to work, which is
why I focused on railway stations.
550. Would you have information to monitor
the number of bikes that were bought last year against the previous
year or five years ago? Would you have any information like that
in your Department?
(Mr Spellar) Yes, we get that from the traders' association.
551. What is the trend as far as the buying
of bikes is concerned?
(Mr Spellar) My recollection is that it is rising.
I can certainly send you the figures on that.
552. One of the indicators in Transport
Statistics Great Britain shows cycle traffic fell by 2 per cent,
so they are buying more bikes but they are not riding them, is
that what you are telling us?
(Mr Spellar) That is quite possible.
553. You do not find that interesting?
(Mr Spellar) Not necessarily. In some areas that could
be a reduction in numbers using them on a daily basis but a greater
554. Oh, stationary bicycles!
(Mr Spellar) No, a greater use of them in a leisure
capacity. This is one of the reasons why we are encouraging other
transport facilities to provide safe, secure parking facilities
for bikes, precisely so that people can ride to their nearest
bus station or rail station and then take one of those forms of
transport to work. One of the other factors that may be having
an impact is we are seeing there is a trend for people to be working
further away from where they live than they used to which may
mean either going by car or bus or rail may be more attractive
than if they were cycling one or two miles to work.
555. We have the worst record in Europe
as far as that is concerned in terms of commuting to work. You
are talking about something like 46 minutes in this country, which
is the highest in Europe, and it is an indication that we are
not looking at the overall position in trying to drive it in a
different direction. You have got the craziness of half the population
of Glasgow travelling to Ayrshire every morning and half the population
of Ayrshire travelling to Glasgow every morning. Nothing seems
to be being done by anybody to address that trend, which is just
a nonsense. There is no direction coming from your Department,
(Mr Spellar) But that is based on people's individual
choices as to which employer they seek to work with.
556. But it is your job, Minister,
(Mr Spellar) Not to direct people.
557. Not to tell them how to travel but
to make it more attractive for them to work closer to home than
it is to work 30 miles away, as is the case in my town. That is
seen by everybody as being nonsensical. If you made it attractive,
if you dangled a carrot at itAfter all, you approved the
idea of congestion charging, that is the Government taking a decision
to move people in a different direction, but you are not doing
it with something that makes absolute commonsense to me.
(Mr Spellar) How people went to a job at a distance
might be a different issue as to whether they chose to take a
job in another town. You are absolutely right that there is an
increasing trend of people travelling further to work or taking
jobs further away. Some of that has been as a result of deliberate
planning decisions, in other words to separate out resident, industrial
and commercial premises in the way that in many industrial towns
they did not use to be separated out. A considerable number of
people in my constituency used to just walk to work to the factory
at the end of the street. A lot of those factories are gone now
but, quite apart from that, there has been a trend towards industrial
estates and residential areas and that has certain advantages
but also has a downside, as you are indicating.
558. What is your Department doing in terms
of the new technology that is all around us, with the Internet,
for instance, where people do not need to move out of their house
to buy goods any longer? What are you doing to promote that in
your Department or have you done anything that means car journeys
will be reduced, bus journeys will be reduced and train journeys
will be reduced?
(Mr Spellar) Internet purchasing does not necessarily
reduce the volume of traffic on the road.
559. It must do. Five per cent of shoppers
are now using the Internet to buy all their shopping, that must
cut out a tremendous amount of travel.
(Mr Spellar) It also puts a lot of extra vans on the
road and one of the real growth sectors in travel is actually
delivering services. You are precisely indicating with regard
to groceries and so on a very substantial increase and a projected
further increase. There are balancing items in that as well. I
do have to say what you are talking about here are much broader
economic issues than ones that are strictly the province of the
Department of Transport.