Examination of Witnesses (Questions 831-839)
MR GRAHAM MILLER, OBE, MR JAMES HOOKHAM AND MR CHRISTOPHER WELSH
WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH 2002
831. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thank you for joining us. Would you be kind enough to identify yourselves?
(Mr Hookham) Good afternoon, madam Chairman. My name is James Hookham. I am Policy Director for the Freight Transport Association. May I introduce to my right Chris Welsh who is our Head of Parliamentary Affairs at FTA, and introduce to the Committee on my left Mr Graham Miller, who is Projects Director for Logistics Development with Scottish Courage
832. Sounds very impressive.
(Mr Hookham)and a past President of our Association.
833. Mr Hookham, do you have an introduction for us?
(Mr Hookham) Only to remind the Committee, Chairman, that FTA speaks for the totality of British industry's freight interests. Our members move freight by road, rail, sea and air, so we do have a very big stake in the success of the 10 Year Plan.
834. Given that caveat, is the Government's measure of congestion of any practical use to your members?
(Mr Hookham) It is a very reassuring statement and quite surprising when we heard it because the prospect of things actually improving rather than just not getting worse was very welcome and a relief to us. There are some doubts about what the definition of "congestion" is and we need further clarification on that. We prefer to use a measure of journey reliability, consistency of journey times, as being the measure that we will apply to the Plan. We recently published some research to try to quantify that.
835. Tell us a little bit about it. You say reliability, capacity and resilience. How do you define that? Lots of politicians are resilient. It does not necessarily mean to say that you can judge their energy quotient from that.
(Mr Hookham) It might be similar, Chairman, because it is the capacity to recover from a setback.
836. Ah yes, they are good at that.
(Mr Hookham) This is the capacity for incidents and accidents to be cleared and recovered from and for normal traffic flow to be restored. This obviously requires greater effort on the part of the co-ordination of the emergency services and the Highway Authority to try and reinstate capacity following such incidents.
837. How would that work particularly as opposed to what the Government is suggesting?
(Mr Hookham) The techniques that the Highways Agency have been developing recently with local police forces and their own contractors have helped to establish far quicker procedures for the immediate aftermath of accidents. Clearly there are important issues to be addressed there but the priority does seem to be to restore traffic flow conditions as quickly as possible. That is of course an important practical management matter which is vital to keeping the arteries open.
838. Can I start with Multi-Modal Studies? Do you believe that Multi-Modal Studies are an excuse for the Government to kick important freight projects into the wide blue yonder before 2010?
(Mr Hookham) We thought so at the time. They were created in 1998 but the FTA have worked very closely with the Multi-Modal Studies and have had an active involvement in nearly all of them. We have made a dedicated effort to inform their consultants of the realities of freight movement in this country and, as they are about to report, we believe that they have conducted a very thorough review of the conditions pertaining in their respective areas and that their findings are to be taken seriously and delivered.
839. Are your members concerned, particularly with a view to the railways, that the funding may not be there in the next few years to implement the recommendations that the Studies have made?
(Mr Miller) One of the problems we have with a lot of the Multi-Modal Studies is that they are quite geographically constrained and therefore for the freight industry the opportunity for us to try and spread traffic from our existing mainly road based operations on to any kind of rail solution is very limited. However, we recognise that the opportunities that are put forward in these Multi-Modal Studies for general improvements, for instance, to take some of the car traffic off the road, will assist our industry and similarly the public investment in rail will assist our industry to free up capacity to carry out our vital business, so we are not only in favour of the rail investment being put into the capacity side; we see that as a direct spin-off into our ability to go on delivering to businesses, particularly in these urban areas, although our opportunity to put freight into these Multi-Modal Studies is fairly constrained.