Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
SPELLAR, MP, MR
560. When we have joined up Government inevitably
your Department will be expected to give a political lead in how
transport connects with all of these fields of work, leisure,
(Mr Spellar) And we do.
561. That is exactly your function, is it
(Mr Spellar) And we do. We also have to take account
of the choices that the public exercise in a number of areas.
While we can be having an input into policy we also have to deal
with the results of individual choice as well.
562. One of my great concerns is that transport
policy, from the point of view of somebody who represents a South
East constituency, feels not to be tackling the issues of congestion
in the South East outside London. I will give you a practical
example. Five years ago the budget for major road schemes in Surrey
was £17 million a year and last year it was zero. I do not
know if that is replicated in other countries around London. I
do have a genuine concern that in what is probably today the most
significant economic area of the United Kingdom, certainly the
most congested given the amount of economic activity that now
crosses the Channel, Government policy simply is not addressing
the need to ease some of the congestion. I would be grateful for
(Mr Spellar) I think that there has been considerable
investment in the South East in a variety of modes of travel.
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link is not just for Eurostar, it will
also have a significant impact on travel into London from the
Kent, Thames Gateway area. A considerable number of the developments
that are taking place in Central London are, in fact, designed
to deal with those who commute in from outside of London, a point
that the Mayor makes regularly when he is indicating that he would
like to have greater influence or control over the rail system
in London and the surrounding area. The work that we are doing
on Cross Rail, while again it is focused on the City and Heathrow,
part of the work on that is work going out in the Home Counties
both east and west of London. There is a considerable amount of
widening that has been undertaken on the M25 and on a number of
other local roads work being undertaken on them as well.
563. With the exception of the Channel Tunnel
Rail Link most of those are aspirational for the future. We are
now in the fifth year of your Government and I am looking at projects
that are likely to open in the near future and make a difference
but I do not see any. I was really quite astonished when I looked
at the figures and saw that five years ago there was a budget
of £17 million and today it is zero.
(Mr Spellar) It might move up with the Hindhead Tunnel
Project, which has recently been approved and added to the TPI.
564. I just wished to flag that concern
to you. Can I move on to the budget issue for rail and non-rail
projects over the next few years. There has been quite a lot of
public comment in the last few days and weeks that the cost of
the required investments in the railway network are likely to
take funding away in the Ten Year Plan from roads and other investments.
I want to ask you a couple of questions on that front. Firstly,
in the short-term I understand from a written question I had the
answer to a couple of days ago that the Railtrack administrator
has now had £1.2 billion worth of funding from the Government.
Is that money coming from your existing budget lines or is that
coming from other sources?
(Mr Spellar) That was the question on access to loan
money, was it not?
(Mr Spellar) So that is not grant.
566. The cash has got to come from somewhere.
Is it coming from separate sources or is it to be taken away from
other programmes within the Department to provide the finance
(Mr Spellar) As I have said, at the moment that is
not a grant, that is a loan facility which will be on the balance
sheet of the company.
567. But the cash has to come from somewhere.
(Mr Linnard) It has been provided for in the Winter
Supplementaries. It is a loan facility, as the Minister said,
of up to £1.6 billion, which will then be repayable, so it
will not be a net call on public spending. It is not taking money
away from the provision that is allocated to the Ten Year Plan.
568. So it comes straight from the Treasury
as loaned finance rather than being taken in any way out of the
Department's budget line?
(Mr Linnard) And then it is replaced by a commercial
569. When we move beyond this initial
period, what is the situation in your view about the balance between
rail and non-rail investment in the Ten Year Plan? Is that going
to be affected in any way by the current situation in the rail
(Mr Spellar) No, we believe we will be maintaining
the balance of the Ten Year Plan which, again, I remind you, we
are only a few months into. We will be maintaining that over the
period of the ten years between the various modes of transport.
570. On the Ten Year Plan, there have been
some indications certainly in recent weeksI can give you
specific examples of South Central and South West Trains' networksof
potential delays to the investment programmes they were planning
through Special Purpose Vehicles. Do you believe that there are
risks now to the timetabling of improvements that would have happened
under the Ten Year Plan and, as a consequence of that, any risks
to the ability to deliver the targets within the time frame of
the Ten Year Plan, given the fact it takes a long time to build
(Mr Spellar) Quite apart from that I think our feeling
was, amongst other results of the deficiencies of Railtrack, delays
in these programmes were one of our concerns. If you are asking
if we are actually looking to an improvement in that then we are
certainly looking to an improvement in performance in pushing
these programmes through.
571. I am not trying to ask a question about
the rights and wrongs of the Railtrack issue, I am trying to ask
about the Ten Year Plan, in order to deliver its objectives, has
to meet a very clear programme of investment happening within
time frames that are quite long, but is there a danger, certainly
where you have got delays taking place with South Central, that
there will be a knock-on effect on the flow of the Ten Year Plan
and the ultimate ability to deliver the 50 per cent growth target?
(Mr Spellar) No, for two reasons. One, because we
believe we can get those programmes back but, equally, we believe
that there is considerable scope in running the network that we
have with investment in that network and actually managing that
better. That is one of the key objectives that the Chairman of
the SRA, Richard Bowker, is addressing and will be focussing the
industry on and will be looking towards that in the statement
coming out on 14 January focussing the industry on actually managing
the network in the way we were describing with the road network
as well. We need to look at new build, we also need to look at
how we manage the network that we already have and whether there
is the ability to put through more capacity on that network. In
both cases, road and rail, we believe that there is.
572. Looking at the freight targets for
both rail and getting freight off roads, the Central Railway Proposal,
which the SRA did a study of during the summer, which is on ministerial
desks, can you tell us anything about the Government's attitude
to that proposal?
(Mr Spellar) Not yet because it has still to be evaluated
by the SRA before they put a
573. I thought the SRA delivered their final
report in October.
(Mr Spellar) The SRA have done an evaluation of it
but they are doing a further evaluation of that in order to look
at a number of issues, particularly with regard to the utilisation
of existing track and questions that conflict with passenger use
and how that impacts on our targets on passenger use as well.
574. Do you know when that process might
be completed and you will be in a position to make a statement
(Mr Spellar) Some time next year. I would hope sooner
rather than later.
575. You assume that over the next ten years
the cost of motoring will fall but what has happened to the fuel
(Mr Spellar) I am almost tempted to say that is a
matter to direct to the Chancellor.
576. What would you like the Chancellor
(Mr Spellar) I think matters of taxation are a matter
for the Treasury.
577. What mechanisms do you look for then
to encourage people perhaps to live more joined up lives, live
closer to where they work, their leisure facilities, to make a
reality of urban regeneration?
(Mr Spellar) One of the main areas that we are looking
at, and I hope I have described a number of means towards that,
is actually to create the opportunity and facility for using public
transport systems ensuringto use the well hackneyed phrasethey
are interoperable, as indeed we are investing considerable sums
in ensuring that we have train and bus facilities, or light rail
578. That is encouraging people to live
further away, is it not? Surely what you should be looking at
if you want urban renewal is to encourage people not to need to
make journeys but to live much closer to the other facilities
that they need?
(Mr Spellar) If they are living in an urban area,
to access other facilities which may be shopping, may be health
service facilities, maybe leisure, maybe work, we are looking
at the pattern Brian Donohoe was describing, that we do need to
be recognising that they will be making journeys, we need to have
the facilities. I hope I have described a number of mechanismsnot
all of them because light rail is an area we have not really touched
on todaywhere we are creating those opportunities and we
are seeing where we are providing facilities that people are taking.
If you take the Croydon Tram Link there has been a huge increase
in the number of people using that, some 15 million already, and,
interestingly enough, a big increase on the take in the main stores
in central Croydon but a reduction in the receipts from car parking
to the local authority, which indicates a significant shift through
the creation of that capability, and again from Croydon to Wimbledon.
Those are real examples where we are creating a facility where
people are taking that opportunity. I do not think we have to
have a one-size-fits-all on this.
579. Have you found a reliable measure for
measuring congestion now?
(Mr Spellar) There is a measure of congestion, whether