Examination of Witnesses (Questions 392
WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2002
392. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming.
Can I ask you to introduce yourselves?
(Mr Nutt) I am Don Nutt, Chairman of the Institute
of Logistics and Transport's Special Interest Group on Transport
(Mr Harris) I am Jon Harris, Director of Policies
at the Institute of Logistics and Transport.
(Mr Coates) I am Jim Coates. I am a member of the
Policies Committee of the Institute and I currently chair its
Road Capacity and Charging Working Party.
393. Can I apologise to all three of you in
advance because of the vagaries of parliamentary life. Perhaps
we can begin and see how we go on. Did any of you want to say
anything to open your batting?
(Mr Harris) Thank you. Very briefly, as you will see
from our submission, it was quite broad and overarching. However,
some of the key issues which have come out are that we are pleased,
for example, that the Strategic Rail Authority's Plan has addressed
some of the rail issues that we brought to your attention. More
importantly, we feel that there is some stress to be put first
on the congestion charging issue, and perhaps even more so on
the skills evidence that we have recently collected and the solutions
to the skills shortages. Thank you very much.
394. Thank you. 72 per cent of the respondents
to your survey do not believe that the balance of policies in
the 10 Year Plan is right, but the Transport White Paper received
widespread support from the profession. Therefore, what are the
(Mr Nutt) The main differences are in relation to
the policy emphases that people see as being necessary. You will
see that in our report people were responding very much that they
felt that land-use and supply-side change, and behaviour change
were needed in considerable degree from the local authorities,
but there were some inconsistencies in whether or not they thought
the local authorities were going to introduce those.
395. Those were the main differences, you think?
(Mr Nutt) Those were the key differences certainly
in the survey.
396. Do you believe that the Government's message
of promoting choice rather than change of behaviour is too weak?
(Mr Nutt) I think that behaviour change as an opportunity
perhaps is a policy area that has not been exploited enough in
the 10 Year Plan.
397. From the sense that they have not thought
about it enough, or that they have not given sufficient leadership?
(Mr Nutt) I think it remains a policy area that almost
dare not speak its name. It is an area that has begun to be explored.
It covers a range of policy interventions that certainly have
not been explored to a great degree in research terms. There is
certainly evidence that it could play a greater part and certainly
it does not figure very strongly in the 10 Year Plan at the present
(Mr Coates) Perhaps I could come in here. The Institute
and its predecessor institute, the Chartered Institute of Transport,
have produced a series of reports in which we have reviewed the
evidence on changes in behaviour. We have always been driven to
the conclusion that simply offering people a choice is not necessarily
going to get them out of their car and onto the bus, and that
the quality of the alternative choice has to be much better than
it is now. You need a two-pronged attack in which to make public
transport very, very much better so that car-owning families will
want to use it, but we are all so impatient, we do what is convenient
for us. If, for wider social reasons, we want to persuade people
to make shorter journeys or use their cars less, then it is perfectly
sensible to try to use pricing to bring that about, which is not
used at the moment. One figure that perhaps I can mention quickly
is that the Department commissioned recently a report by the Institute
for Transport Studies in Leeds on the social and economic costs
of road use. The striking thing that emerges from that is the
huge variations. The cost to society of using a car on a busy
motorway in a city is 25 times higher than using it on a relatively
uncongested rural road, and yet we charge people the same for
both. It is an economically crazy arrangement that we start from.
Moving from that to something different is politically very difficult
and runs up against the sorts of difficulties Mr Dawson has been
mentioning. So probably one has to tackle this gradually. Our
land-use patterns have adjusted themselves to the system we have.
We cannot suddenly change and force people to make inconvenient
journeys and change where they live and work, but one ought to
make a start. If we could start using pricing in the sort of way
the Government are suggesting for lorries, then gradually extend
it, we might begin to get used to it and we might end up with
a more rational system which could give us an extra tool to deal
with congestion, because we do not really believe that the other
measures in the Plan are going to reduce congestion by the amount
the Plan thinks they will.
398. So if you wanted to get where the 10 Year
Plan finishes up, you would not begin from here?
(Mr Coates) We have to begin from here, because that
is where we are.
Chairman: Anyway I think we have got the idea.
399. How serious are the shortages of skills
in local authorities to deliver the Plan?
(Mr Harris) Perhaps I can start. Taking the survey
that we carried out, the beauty of it, if you like, was that we
actually went straight to the professionals. Because we were not
asking them on behalf of their organisation, we were getting 100
per cent pure views from people at the cutting edge. When you
talk about local authorities, of course, we also have to consider
those people who are working for consultancies, but within a local
authority setting, so in effect they are working for political
masters but contractually they are slightly different. The skills
set that we are most concerned about are project management because
of the ability to link together different stages of the chain
to get an effective scheme on the ground, effective public consultation
and public participation. Going back to the points raised earlier
about behaviour change, there is a certain specialist skill involved
in actually trying to sell these concepts and work with people
at a grass-roots level. Alongside that, there is the technical
training need. Many people have had a grounding within a civil
engineering, transport planning or land-use planning discipline,
but the skills sets needed specifically to deliver the 10 Year
Plan are somewhat different. I do not know if you want to add
to that, Don.
(Mr Nutt) I would simply add that I think we have
heard earlier on about perhaps a delay in the delivery of some
of the larger schemes. As I was saying earlier on, there is evidence
around that some of the policy interventions capable of delivering
some of the behaviour change can work at a rather faster pace,
so it may well be that the broader nature of some of the activity
that is wanted in the early years in the 10 Year Plan ought to