Examination of Witness (Questions 583
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
583. Good afternoon to you. Would you be kind
enough to tell us who you are.
(Mr Joseph) I am Stephen Joseph,, the
Director of Transport 2000, which is an environmental campaign
and research group.
584. Do you have something you would like to
say to us, Mr Joseph?
(Mr Joseph) Paragraph 2 of the written evidence we
have submitted summarises our views reasonably accurately on the
Ten Year Plan.
585. Can I ask you a core question. You were
set up to campaign to change government focus away from road building
and towards public transport. Why have you failed?
(Mr Joseph) Not for want of trying I think is the
answer to that.
586. I think we could assume that.
(Mr Joseph) I think that we have succeeded in certain
areas and not in others. A long-term institutional bias against
public transport in favour of road building does take time to
587. Are we talking about particular government
departments or governments in general?
(Mr Joseph) I think we are talking about the institutions
in government, about attitudes within the Treasury and within
the Department of Transport and in all its various guises over
a number of years which has tended to see spending on roads as
investment and spending on public transport as subsidy. That has
taken time to reverse. What we have now seen, however, in the
last few months is a strong appreciation across all parties and
at the highest levels of government of the consequences of past
policies and the failure to invest in public transport properly.
588. Would you say that what the Ten Year Plan
does is concentrate much more on quite small savings in time instead
of improvements in safety?
(Mr Joseph) I think one of the problems with the Ten
Year Plan is that it does focus on big schemes, on long distance
transport rather than local transport and local journeys, which
is the majority of transport, and on very small time savings for
very large numbers of motorists. That is carried forward into
the Multi-Modal Studies and some of the other delivery measures
within the Ten Year Plan. Our concern is that if the Ten Year
Plan carries on as is the case at the moment then we will see
a further twist to schemes that promote even more reliance on
the car and away from public transport, and less parity for public
transport and indeed other measures.
589. What is that going to be governed by? Is
it because there is an imbalance between the way road schemes
are already determined, the money is ring fenced, we know what
is happening and that the other transport schemes are coming along
behind? Is that the determining factor?
(Mr Joseph) There is a clear delivery mechanism for
trunk road schemes and if the Multi-Modal Studies decide that
road schemes are going to go ahead then they slip easily into
Mr Matthews' delivery programme and they happen. The procedures
and processes for implementing public transport schemes at all
levels, whether it is rail schemes or whether it is end to end
bus priority measures, are much more complicated and messy and
have rather less (in some cases) of a political profile and political
will behind them and therefore are much less likely to happen.
590. Given the preponderance of car usage in
this country, to what degree can we build our way out of congestion?
Even if there were a very vast programme of building on public
transport, given the projections for growth in transport generally,
is it possible to build our way out of the congestion we have
(Mr Joseph) It is not possible to build our way out
of road congestion just with public transport or just with roads.
In fact, our concern is that governments find it politically convenient
to pretend that they can do that, particularly with roads. Our
evidence makes it clear that we think a much more complex mix
of measures is needed to deal with traffic and a lot of that is
about managing demand for roads and also making much more efficient
use of the roads and vehicles that we have. We list in the evidence
a long list of measures beyond public transporttravel plans
for employers for instance. We know that these and school travel
plans and some of the individual travel marketing have enormous
potential in the places where they have been applied in reducing
car use and congestion. The problem, as we see it, is that these
small schemes are not aggregated together, are not treated as
packages and are not treated together. You might get travel plans
or safe routes to school applying in a particular area but it
is not generally applied across a whole area and applied together.
591. On the subject of Multi-Modal Studies,
it seems to be there is a degree of the cart being put before
the horse here. The Ten Year Plan has been announced, the SRA
Strategic Rail Plan has been announced and yet the Multi-Modal
Study process is only just getting underway. It seems to me there
will be very little likelihood that most of the conclusions of
the Multi-Modal Studies can happen within the Ten Year Plan period.
Can you give us your impression of Multi-Modal Studies?
(Mr Joseph) We are very concerned about
the mismatch between the Multi-Modal Studies and the Ten Year
Plan, both in terms of objectives and in terms of delivery. Transport
2000 has been bringing together the environmental representatives
on the steering groups of the Multi-Modal Studies and Road Space
Studies so we do have a view of what is happening. Our concern
is that studies do not look at what is value for money in terms
of delivering the objectives of the Ten Year Plan. They do not
say what is the most cost-effective way of reducing child road
deaths by 2010 or quadrupling the cycling or any of the other
targets within the Ten Year Plan. Very few of the studies, for
instance, seem to have taken explicit account of the objective
of increasing rail freight by 80 per cent. That means if the Government
is looking at the recommendations of any of the specific studies
and saying how will this help our achievement of the targets from
the Ten Year Plan, they cannot tell that from the studies. There
is a real mismatch there. I think there is also a big delivery
question and the way in which the Strategic Rail Authority Strategic
Plan is worded about thiswhich essentially says that all
schemes in the Multi-Modal studies, at least all the big ones,
are going to happen beyond 2010means that we are very concerned
that the road building schemes which are identified in the studies
will happen and the rail schemes and some of the other public
transport schemes will disappear into the wide blue yonder and
the packages in the studies will get unpicked.
592. Will we end up with a bigger roads programme
than we would have had otherwise?
(Mr Joseph) We estimate, based on eight of the Multi-Modal
studies either having reported or having recommended, (and nearly
all the Road Based Studies having reported) that something like
£4 billion worth of roads plans are in these studies and
that is only about a third of the Multi-Modal Studies, so there
is quite a lot more to come. What is also clear is that there
are some good public transport recommendations coming out of these
studies but that the Strategic Rail Authority has been making
it clear that these are not within its programme. They are focused
on keeping the existing network going and on some big enhancement
projects, particularly into the South East. What we see is instead
of having a rail budget and a roads budget and also a local transport
budget within the Ten Year Plan, we need the roads budget to become
a Multi-Modal Studies delivery budget so that if rail schemes
are decided, for reasons beyond the Strategic Rail Authority's
remit, to be good in terms of relief of congestion or solving
local traffic problems, that the Government pays for them as an
extra beyond the Strategic Rail Authority's plan or indeed beyond
local transport plans. So we think that kind of implementation
budget might actually help.
593. In your evidence you point to the problem
of concentrating on national targets and not looking sufficiently
at regional and local ones. Could you expand on what you said
about the importance of linking with the regional chambers/regional
(Mr Joseph) Yes, I think there are some real cases
where particularly on some of the rail schemes, the approach the
Strategic Rail Authority has tended to be at odds with what the
regional assemblies and regional chambers want. There has been
quite a lot of criticism that regions outside the South East in
particular have been ignored in the Strategic Plan and several
of the objectives that they have identified will not be met. I
think there is a broader problem which is that the Multi-Modal
Studies set up a process which for local politicians at a regional
level is really rather tempting. It says, "Here is a very
large slab of money which is not going to come out of anybody's
budget at a regional or local level and would you like it or not?"
The answer is usually yes. There is a real questionand
we have made this point particularly in the case of the Hastings
Bypassthat if you had £150 million to spend in Hastings,
which is a very depressed and deprived area, then spending it
on a very large bypass and creating even more car dependence and
out-of-town development which could not be reached by unemployed
people in Hastings was probably not the best way of reviving Hastings.
Our concern is that transport plans and priorities are not sufficiently
bottom-up and are not sufficiently taking account of the regions
that I mentioned.
594. Would you say that the policies and the
Ten Year Plan are linked sufficiently with tackling social exclusion?
(Mr Joseph) Social exclusion is barely mentioned in
the Ten Year Plan and we hope that will change with the review.
The Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Unit is conducting a study
on transport at the moment, but there are very few local transport
authorities who have taken social exclusion seriously. I think
the transport profession and particularly the Department of Transport,
Local Government and the Regions is rather struggling to work
out what this means in practice. We know from some authorities
who have taken this seriously such as Merseyside or Nottingham
what this could look like. Merseytravel, for instance, has identified
pathway schemes which link areas of high unemployment to areas
of education, training and employment opportunities and endeavour
to provide high-quality bus services or community transport links
and that is precisely the kind of spending project that hardly
appears in the Ten Year Plan and seems to be deprioritised within
595. How would plans like the Merseyside one
be linked to the targets in the plan?
(Mr Joseph) By making sure that a full range of options
in terms of dealing with social exclusion were included, including
revenue funding as well as capital funding. That could involve
extra revenue funding for extra bus services, for instance. It
might involve demand responsive transport services and taxi buses
in more rural areas. The problem is that the Ten Year Plan is
a capital programme. It does not include revenue funding nor does
it include mainstream local authority revenue funding which has
been increasingly under pressure, as I think this Committee has
found. Local authorities thus have a lot of capital funding and
that skews their priorities. It means that the revenue funding
for bus services or for traffic calming or other things is not
expanding at the same rate and yet, from the consultations that
the local authorities themselves have done on the local transport
plans, they are things that people want.
596. What are the implications of the lack of
revenue for funding for buses, for example, particularly on non-profitable
(Mr Joseph) As I think the Association of Transport
Co-ordinating Officers has said in evidence to the Committee (it
certainly has made this figure known) local authority transport
officers have had a 21 per cent increase in the cost of bus tenders
over the last year and there has also been a significant level
of withdrawals of bus services, with a focus on core routes. That
is fine as far as it goes but it means that increasingly deprived
communities are facing worse bus services. We think that there
is a case for matching five-year local transport plan capital
funding with guaranteed five-year revenue funding for local transport,
whether through revived revenue support grants or whatever mechanism
is used. There are probably about three people in the country
who understand local government finance who would know exactly
how to do this but there are clearly mechanisms for doing this.
We think it is very important that it is done.
597. You see that as a key addition?
(Mr Joseph) Yes it is because it would redress the
balance. We quoted in the evidence the fact that in Mr Stevenson's
constituency in Stoke on Trent there is a huge waiting list for
traffic calming schemes which the local authority simply cannot
satisfy because of lack of revenue funding and lack of funding
for council officer time to devote to those schemes.
598. The plan assumes a reduction in the real
cost of motoring of 20 per cent over ten years. What implications
does that have for public transport?
(Mr Joseph) In the background analysis to the plan
it is spelt out exactly what having constant motoring costs would
do compared with having the 20 per cent reduction. It is reasonably
significant in terms of congestion. It also is significant in
terms of traffic. We have said in our evidence that we think the
Government's down-playing of traffic levels is wrong. The measure
of traffic itself is important from a community perspective. That
extra 17 per cent of traffic along residential roads is something
that people will notice in ten years and will have an impact on
community life, and we think that a real reduction of 20 per cent
(in the cost of motoring) will have a big impact on people's quality
of life for communities as well as on congestion and pollution.
599. Do you think the impact of that is ignored
in the Ten Year Plan?
(Mr Joseph) As far as we can see, it is ignored because
the Government's belief is that traffic per se is not issue;
congestion and pollution are the issues. We think that is wrong.
There are community impacts of traffic. There is also another
problem with this which is since the Government says they are
not going to set limits on traffic growth, in effect, the transport
planners and the models then assume that past trends will continue
up to Los Angeles levels of traffic and car use. We are back,
in effect, to predict and provide and we are seeing that impact
in Multi-Modal Studies.