Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
80. In this report, in the 10 Year Plan that
we have got before us; there was, but it is not now, because it
is not your responsibility?
(Mr Rickett) No, no; the 10 Year Plan talked about
increasing the proportion of water-borne freight, it talked about
the potential for increased traffic on the larger navigable rivers
and canals and on the tidal stretches of major rivers, it talked
about enhancing the Freight Facilities Grant, covering inland
waterways, and to extend it to short-sea shipping. And we remain
responsible for administering the Freight Facilities Grant, as
well as for ports and shipping policy generally; we have just
to work with DEFRA on the inland waterways, that is all.
81. I think we may have to come back to you
about that too. Perhaps you would like to give us a note on how
you see the way that you are working and who is doing it and what
the responsibilities are and the division of responsibility?
(Mr Rickett) Yes; sure.
82. Can I just ask, how far does the responsibility
for inland ports stretch in your Department then?
(Mr Rickett) We are responsible for coastal ports.
83. Yes; how far inland do they go?
(Mr Rickett) I do not know whether we define our responsibilities.
84. Could we have that also included in the
(Mr Rickett) Yes.
85. Can we have that in the note?
(Mr Rickett) Yes.
86. Will the Select Committee be consulted on
the review of the Plan?
(Mr Rickett) I rather welcomed this inquiry because
I thought you would be giving us the benefit of your views before
we completed the review, and then no doubt we will have another
discussion when we have completed the review and published the
87. It does seem a rather fast-moving feast,
and we are being consulted on the Plan but you are reviewing the
Plan as we speak.
(Mr Rickett) Well, we are not going to reach conclusions
on the review until June, July, or whenever the Spending Review
is . . .
Andrew Bennett: I would not rush.
88. Or we are some two years in?
(Mr Rickett) No; we are just over ten months into
the spending of the Plan.
89. What is the status of the Multi-Modal Studies,
and what regard have you had to the fact that now you have got
more elderly people driving, living longer, driving more, and
more women drivers on the road, and the fact that, I do not want
to pre-empt your answer but the road studies will probably be
completed before the rail studies, is that correct, with the Multi-Modal
(Mr Rickett) No. The Multi-Modal Studies are multi-modal,
they cover all modes.
90. You did actually say, at one point, Multi-Modal
Studies determined road projects?
(Mr Rickett) Only that any decisions on roads are
now largely determined by Multi-Modal Studies, because we have
taken the view that you should look at other modal solutions before
you reach a decision that a road is needed. But that does not
mean that Multi-Modal Studies are only about roads, they are multi-modal.
Miss McIntosh: Can I just turn to the evidence
that you submitted in writing, whereby you say that the Department,
or the Government, is not prepared to fund the poor performance
of individual rail companies and the interests of their shareholders.
Are you aware that, on an analysis that was given by BBC News
Online, on 14 January, 2001, I believe, looking at the accounts,
18 out of the 25 Operating Companies, ten of them are facing losses
to a total of £120 million?
Chris Grayling: It is 2002.
91. I thought it was 2002, I stand corrected.
If that is the case and if the fact that your whole Transport
Plan, as the Secretary of State told the House this week, depends
on over 50 per cent being financed by the private sector, what
hope is there of getting these Train Companies to invest, in particular,
in the new trains and the new services that we would all like
(Mr Rickett) Yes, some Train Operating Companies have
obviously had a difficult year, as, indeed, has the rail industry.
I think it is too early to say that the difficulties those TOCs
have experienced this year are going to have a long-term impact
on their subsidy requirements, there may be no impact at all,
that is something that the SRA obviously will need to discuss
with the companies.
92. So that means you think this year is a one-off,
is that what you are saying to us?
(Mr Rickett) I rather hope that we are able to improve
performance on the rail network and that, indeed, this year does
prove to be a one-off. It is also the case that, in some cases,
these Train Operating Companies are parts of larger groups, and
it does not follow that the difficulties they have had on the
rail side will necessarily, as I say, impact on their overall
subsidy requirement; but I am aware of the position.
93. Chairman, assuming that the problem was
more than just this year, and it has gone on, I would imagine,
for 18 months, because we have had the flooding, we have had two
rail disasters, we have now had also fewer people travelling on
the rail, and we have now got a strike on top; assuming that it
was not just to last for one year, but the question remains, Mr
Rickett, what are the implications for the over 50 per cent of
the private investment on which the Department's Transport Plan
depends, if the rail Operating Companies are not in a position
to make the investments?
(Mr Rickett) That is a sort of hypothetical question,
that says, if they need more money, they need more money. Our
assessment is that it is too early to say that it will have a
long-term impact on their subsidy requirement; this is something
the SRA will need to continue to discuss with the Train Operating
94. I have three questions; one general, two
quite specific. You have been questioned repeatedly by members
of this Committee on the realism of some of the assumptions underpinning
the Plan, and, as I have listened to you, the common response
has been, "We must keep this under review, we must reconsider,
it is the process of review." Is there not something odd
about that situation; ought you not, at this stage, be able to
robustly defend the assumptions made in the Plan itself, and,
if not that, be able to set quite specific interim targets, particularly
for things like bus use, so you can actually identify whether
or not these assumptions, at an early stage, turn out to be correct?
(Mr Rickett) I do not think I have said that, because
we are going to review the Plan, or review assumptions in it,
or review targets in it, that implies that we are going to change
any of them.
95. Can I move on to a specific question then.
The Plan suggests that there will be a 17 per cent increase in
traffic, but a 6 per cent increase in congestion. Given those
figures in the Plan, what do you suppose is going to happen to
the traffic; are people going to make fewer journeys, are they
going to be more spread out, or what? The national traffic is
increasing by 17 per cent.
(Mr Rickett) Yes; as I said at the beginning, we are
forecasting a 17 per cent increase in traffic. The Plan involves
additions to road capacity, which clearly has an impact on congestion;
it involves improvements in public transport, which will take
passengers off the road; it involves some traffic restraint measures
of the kind we were discussing, the local congestion charges and
the workplace parking measures, and so on; and these have the
effect of improving congestion, despite increases in traffic.
96. So you are assuming people will spend less
time travelling, they will get to their destination more quickly?
(Mr Rickett) The reduction in congestion on the national
road network implies some small saving in time.
97. A final question; do you think congestion
can be measured with precision?
(Mr Rickett) Phil Goodwin, who is sitting over there,
has written a very interesting critique of our measure of congestion;
the measure we have used is measurable, it is forecastable, it
bears some relationship to what road users say they think congestion
is, which has something to do with time lost. Road users also
tend to go on about the variability and unpredictability of road
journeys as being an important feature of congestion. We are going
to go on using our measure, but we are perfectly open to suggestions
that we should use other indicators to ensure that we properly
capture the objective.
Chairman: (You can ?) always review those along
with the other reviews.
98. You told us that 1.5 per cent of national
congestion reduction was going to come from the local charging
schemes; where is the rest of it coming from?
(Mr Rickett) There is a table in the Background Analysis
which will give the answer, or at least the only answer I can
give, to that, on page 32, in Figure 16, which shows the contributions
of the various parts of the Spending Plan to reducing congestion.
Because you just cannot simply add them all up and get to the
number, because these are not additive measures, if you add two
together you do not get twice the effect, as it were, you may
get multiples of the effect. What this table does is it shows
you what happens if you do not do certain parts of the Plan, so
it shows you how much of the reduction in congestion you lose
if you do not do that part of the Plan. And that, I think, is
probably the only analysis I can give you at this stage.
99. So if the Government's plans for urban regeneration
do not work, how does that affect congestion?
(Mr Rickett) I am not at all sure. Sorry; if you mean
the Government's policy of trying to contain the spread of development
and redevelop brownfield land in inner cities,