Memorandum by David Banister (TYP 29)
Transport is in crisis as people engage in the
daily challenge of getting to work or to school, and as the public
transport and road systems strain under the demands being put
on them. In addition, there are the many other essential and non
essential activities that people wish to engage in. The system
is becoming totally unreliable with relatively "small events"
(eg an accident or signal failure) causing huge disruption and
delay. People are becoming increasingly resistant to paying more
to travel, whether it is through higher fares or through higher
fuel prices. In this thought piece, it is argued that the notion
of a paradigm shift in transport is misplaced, and that the reality
is much more simple, namely that in the recent past (since the
1970s), there has never been sufficient investment in the transport
infrastructure, either to maintain and replace the existing networks,
or to invest in new links (Banister, 2002). Throughout this period,
the Transport Ministry has been a weak player in seeking government
resources, and it is the Treasury that has kept control over public
expenditure, with transport receiving a relatively small share
of available funding. But even the Treasury, perhaps the main
culprit in the recent history of under investment in transport
has conceded (HM Treasury, 1999) that we have "an overcrowded
under planned and under maintained transport system".
The amount spent on the transport infrastructure
as a proportion of GDP has always been less than 1 per cent, with
one or two exceptions when it reached 1.21 per cent of GDP (1993-94).
Typically though, the levels are around 0.5-0.7 of GDP, which
in turn is far less than the EU average
(EC, 2001). The short term future looks bleak, as most measures
of congestion suggest that things will get worse rather than better,
even if the optimistic perspective of the Transport 2010 document
(DETR, 2000a) are accepted (Table 1).
EXPECTED INCREASES IN CONGESTION IN GREAT
|Cars per km of road||58
|Vehicle kilometres per km of road||1,136
Source: Based on DETR (2000a)
2. WHERE ARE
The resilience of transport planning to fundamental change
has been apparent. Many authors (eg Owens, 1995, Vigar, 2001)
focus on the "predict and provide" paradigm as being
the dominant force over the last 30 years, but this is an oversimplification.
There have never been enough resources to provide for the expected
levels of demand, and difficult decisions have always had to be
made. It is fair to say that road investment has received the
major proportion of available resources, so that public transport
has been disproportionately disadvantaged. Perhaps a more appropriate
characterisation of this period of transport policy has been the
"under investment" paradigm, which has affected all
public services in the UK. It is not really a transport paradigm,
but a policy paradigm, where the Treasury has ruled supreme for
the whole of this period, from the early 1970s when external agencies
(the International Monetary Fund) imposed restrictions to more
recent self imposed restrictions to reduce public expenditure
borrowing requirements. Many of the transport plans submitted
to government were "bidding" documents for funds. There
was no great expectation that all the "bids" would be
successful, but local authorities were placed in a competitive
position and had to be seen to get their fair share of the limited
funds that were available.
If this "under investment" view is accepted, then
many of the subsequent events seem to fall into place. The forecasts
developed seemed to be optimistic and the costs also tended to
under estimated. Both factors would suggest that a stronger case
was being put forward for investment that was really the case.
As a consequence, some investments took place and outturn measures
made a poor match with expectations (Skramis and Flyvbjerg, 1997).
This in turn might lead to refinements in methodology, but a stronger
case for rejection of subsequent bids for further investment.
Similarly, influential reports (eg the Standing Advisory
Committee on Trunk Road Assessment) draw attention to the weakness
of evaluation methodologies (1978), the concept of induced travel
(1994), and the questioning of the economic impacts of roads (1999).
In each case, greater uncertainty is introduced into the analysis
process, and it becomes harder to prepare a clear and unambiguous
case for investment. This in turn leads to delay in decisions
being made and strengthens the argument for less investment in
transport. Other committees (eg the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution, 1994 and 1997) have attacked the whole process from
the environmental perspective, suggesting that there are strong
environmental reasons for not building more roads, and for encouraging
even greater levels of mobility.
However (almost ironically), although the Treasury has not
been generous in investment decisions on transport, it is dependent
on transport for a variety of important revenue flows that are
continuous and increasing. This means that it should be encouraging
more car based travel with large vehicles as this would enhance
these revenue flows. In 1998-99, the Treasury received £26,430
million in revenues from fuel tax (split 60 per cent on petrol
and 40 per cent on diesel) and vehicle excise duty. This was equivalent
to about £1,000 per vehicle per annum, and it amounts to
over 10 per cent of total exchequer revenues.
It is no wonder that the transport planner feels frustrated
and defensive, as they are in a no win situation. Starved of resources
for investment and unpopular with the motoring and travelling
public, they have increasingly relied upon other means to reduce
levels of congestion. The development of traffic management schemes
was instrumental in squeezing a greater capacity out of a given
transport system at a minimal cost. Such schemes also had benefits
in terms of the local environment and they were later adapted
to give priority to public transport. However, there must be limits
to management in terms of additional capacity, even though a new
lease of life has been derived from the creative use of ICT systems
to obtain even greater capacity out of the system.
The next stage was to develop demand management schemes to
allocate priority or to substantially raise the costs of travel
within a given system. Again, there has been substantial success
here in introducing parking charges, in discussing the possibility
of road pricing, in creating traffic calmed areas and home zones,
and in giving priority in transport networks to public transport
and cyclists. Again, these schemes are low cost, and have the
added advantage of creating new revenue streams to central and
The most recent set of measures have been to look at the
means to reduce the need to travel through a combination of transport
and planning strategies. It is here that reductions in trip lengths,
the greater use of local facilities, and less use of motorised
forms of transport have been discussed. Location policies, densities,
settlement size and patterns, and mixed use developments have
all become important, as does the involvement of all stakeholders
in contributing towards traffic reduction targets through company
transport plans, transport blending, and awareness programmes
targeted at particular users.
This approach has important implications as it may even reduce
the revenue streams to the Treasury, as there will be less car
based travel. However, the Treasury can recoup any losses through
raising existing taxes, through the expected growth in travel,
and through imposing more taxes on transport (eg on air travel).
But even here there are "rumblings" of discontent and
government cannot afford to be seen as anti-motorist. Apart from
the political implications, the importance of transport to government
revenues cannot be undervalued. It seems that the transport agenda
has been overtaken by the greater Treasury agenda, and that the
"under investment" paradigm needs to be replaced by
an "investment" paradigm.
The Transport 2010 document has attempted to do this through
giving a commitment to transport that takes it out of the annual
cycle of resource allocation (DETR, 2000a). But if this commitment
is unpacked, several important questions still remain unanswered:
Is the Transport 2010 commitment sufficient to
bring the existing network up to appropriate standards for the
How much money then remains for new investment?
The role of the private sector in contributing to this commitment
is substantial. What happens if the private sector contributions
are not forthcoming?
If the intention is to give a choice to travellers, is there
the capacity available in the public transport system to accommodate
the potential increase in demand from car drivers? The dominance
of the car mode is clear, particularly outside London, and any
substantial switch in transport mode will have enormous implications
for public transport (Table 2).
MODE OF TRAVEL IN GREAT BRITAIN
|Percentage of Trips||Public Transport (of which rail)
||Car Driver||Car Passenger
|Metropolitan Built up||13
|Other Urban >250,000||10
|Source: National Travel Survey 1997-99.
Underlying the current thinking on transport planning are
two fundamental premises. If it is agreed that the main problem
facing transport in the UK is a lack of investment in transport
infrastructure, alternative sources of investment capital are
important and may provide part of the solution, but it is increasingly
apparent that this money is not a replacement for public expenditure.
It is likely to be forthcoming only where there are clear and
sizeable returns, or where the levels of investment are relatively
small, or where a substantial amount of the risk is underwritten
by Government. The expectation in the 1990s that the private sector
has a major role to play is unrealistic, and has contributed to
a further deterioration of the transport infrastructure through
further delays in decision making. The second fundamental premise
is that people and firms want to travel at ever increasing speeds
between places. The main objective of the transport planner is
to reduce travel times. This thinking has resulted in longer faster
journeys being made as people increasingly switch to the car to
make journeys to destinations that are further away. This is consistent
with the arguments for widening choice for those with access to
a car, but not consistent with environmental and social objectives.
The logical conclusion to all this line of thinking is towards
total gridlock, not just on the roads, but in terms of analysis
approaches, and institutional and organisational structures. We
are rapidly reaching the limits of transport planning as capacity
is increasing only slowly, and as there is an increasing resentment
to the use of economic means to substantially raise the costs
of travel. Even the measures to reduce the need to travel may
only delay the inevitable, as the underlying desire for mobility
increases. There seems to be little evidence that underlying attitudes
to the high mobility car dominated culture are changing.
3. WHERE WE
The picture portrayed is pretty dismal, yet there are glimmers
of hope. In the past the main emphasis has been in addressing
the problem of congestion, through increasing network capacity,
through traffic management, and through shifting the modal split
towards public transport and green modes. The focus here has been
on the symptoms of the problem (ie traffic) rather than the causes
of the problem (ie the distributions of the origins and destinations).
Reducing the need to travel begins to address the causes of the
problems through developing an understanding of how decisions
on locations for housing, jobs, shops and other facilities influences
the travel patterns. Such approaches use methods from demand management
and the development process to explore the transport implications.
There are also benefits in terms of social justice (accessibility
for all) and in terms of the ecological implications (less car
Such thinking relates to new notions of travel time, not
just the reduction of travel time, but also the reduction of travel
time variability. Acceptable travel times should be related to
all activities and transport planning should explore the means
by which the robustness of the system can be enhanced. For example,
bus travel time could be made shorter and more reliable through
giving the bus exclusive rights of way in urban areas over their
entire route length, or at least in the sections where they are
subject to delay. However, the boundaries of time have been relaxed
with the new instantaneous society as meetings (social and business)
can be set up at will, and many individuals now think in terms
of how far they can travel within a given time. Such thinking
is central to the private perception of opportunity, freedom and
choice. The private perception needs to be modified by a public
awareness of the implications of unlimited opportunity, freedom
and choice, particularly in terms of the environment and for those
without such a choice.
Two points are relevant here. One is that many of the choices
being made by individuals can and should be local ones, so that
the total amount of travel can be reduced. This means providing
a range of options for local participation and a willingness to
use them.The second related point is that quality of opportunity
is an essential precondition to use. It is here that the investment
issue returns, as much of the investment in public transport has
not been in quality, as can be seen at the interchanges and the
lack of flexibility in many of the ticketing and information systems.
Choice is more than having an alternative. It relates to the quality
of the alternatives, not just in terms of the travel experience,
but in the quality of the interchanges and the ease of travel
There seems to be a lack of trust in government institutions,
as there is an engagement in discussion rather than action. For
example, when money for roads is reduced the resources for public
transport are not increased (Vigar, 2001). Attitudes tend to be
defensive with a retreat into the comfort of well established
priorities rather than exploring new ones, so that alternatives
are either ignored or marginalised. Even though there is agreement
concerning the limitations of existing thinking, there does not
seem to be the political or professional will to change priorities.
Perhaps all interests are caught in the dilemma that results in
no action being preferable to some action (which may influence
them adversely). But no action only gives a short term respite,
and we are now living with the longer term consequences of inaction
and under investment.
Some would argue that this impasse has resulted from a lack
of communicative rationality in transport planning (Willson, 2001),
and that language and discourse should be at the centre of any
new approach. Others suggest that the dilemma presented above
produces an insoluble situation which is not addressed by communicative
planning (Voogd, 2001), as social interests (welfare) are in conflict
with individual interests (personal utility). Here it is argued
that we must go beyond the social and self interests, and the
indulgence in communicative rationality. These important issues
divert attention away from the main issue, which is how can we
progress the total gridlock in thinking, towards actions that
have vision, financial support and accountability.
The way ahead must be to resolve these three determining
factors. In the transport sector, it is the financial issue that
is most important, so that the backlog of under investment can
be redressed. The proposal put forward here has three main elements
1. The need for investmentit is clear that massive
new investment is required in the UK to replace and enhance the
available transport infrastructure, but the processes for scheme
evaluation seem to delay that investment. Future large scale projects
should be seen as part of the vision for transport, a new document
produced every 10 years looking forward to a planning period (10
years) and further (25 years). This document can be a broad statement
of policy, as the recent White Paper demonstrated (DETR, 1998),
but it should also contain details of the major investments to
be undertaken, principally at the national level. Again, the Transport
2010 document (DETR, 2000a) went part of the way, but it did not
make specific commitments in terms of itemised projects relating
to roads, rail and air. The UK needs a national transport strategy
within which the relevant agencies can then operate.
Examples here include the role of high speed rail in the
UK, the need for additional airport capacity in the South East,
charging for cars on motorways, freight route networks, additional
road capacity, building roads in tunnels, and fuel pricing. Once
the policy has been debated as part of the Government's strategy,
then analysis is undertaken to support the best means by which
these objectives can be achieved. Targets related to the quality
of life can be established as can other targets for the use of
particular modes, accessibility and the environment. Such an approach
can cascade through the regions to the cities and communities.
At each level accountable politicians set the agenda through their
vision statement for transport and development, not just in terms
of the general strategies, but in terms of specific proposals,
and a structured programme of work over the next five-10 years.
Success would be judged on what had been achieved as outcomes
and as achievements of the targets set.
Some progress is being made here with the publication of
the Government's Green Paper on Planning (DTLR, 2001a) and the
daughter document on New Parliamentary Procedures for Processing
Major Infrastructure Projects (DTLR, 2001b). However, it is important
that the new procedures on major infrastructure (including transport)
projects should be open and accountable. The current review of
the 10 Year Plan (DETR, 2000a) by the Transport Sub-committee
needs to consider these wider questions, and it does not augur
well that a review is already taking place when the 10 Year Plan
has only been in operation for a year.
2. The means to finance the investmentpart of
the problem of non-achievement has been the reluctance to finance
projects through the public sector. It is here that a fundamental
reassessment of the options is required. It is clear that the
present mechanisms do not work and that there is an impasse between
the different agencies. The experiments with the private sector
through the Public Finance Initiative (PFI) have not worked, but
there is a much greater potential through creative use of public
private partnerships, where success can be evaluated in actual
outcomes (IPPR, 2001).
Here it is argued that the private sector has a key role
to ensure greater efficiency in project management, but also in
project evaluation and selection. It is really trying to bring
in private sector skills to facilitate project construction, management
and operation. The big question still remains over whether the
private sector should also pay for the investment, bearing in
mind that the cost of capital is likely to be high for them (as
opposed to Government). And even if they do finance part or all
of the investment, there is still a public liability to pay back
the investment with profit over time.
There seems to be several options available for financing
Through loans from the European Investment Bank
and grants from the European Coal and Steel Community (which provided
funds for the Channel Tunnel), and the European Community Regional
Development Funds and the Transport Infrastructure Fund;
Through transport bonds and other long-term investments
(using pension funds)these are extensively used in Japan
and are being discussed with respect to the financing of the reconstruction
of the London Underground;
Through tax incentives to the private sector by
making their capital contributions tax deductible;
Through tolls and road pricing, as is the case
in Singapore, in several Norwegian cities, in Central London (being
proposed), and in the Birmingham Northern Relief Road;
Through shadow tolls on existing inter urban motorways;
Through employment taxes (as in Paris and other
French cities) or a tax on petrol (as in Germany and the USA).
In addition to these examples, there are other possibilities
which do not seem to have been extensively used in the UK:
(a) Auctioning projectsthe public sector carries
all the early risk by taking the project through the decision
process, including public inquiry, land acquisition, environmental
evaluation and compensation, so that the project is ready for
construction. It is then auctioned to the private sector for construction,
financing and operation.
(b) Value capturewhere part of the financial benefit
gained by the land developer or the community at large is recouped
to pay for the investment. Such an approach has been used in Japan
where the low profit infrastructure projects are combined with
higher profit commercial projects to facilitate the investment.
Alternatively, developers could be given "development rights"
at accessible points on the new infrastructure which they have
(c) Public enterprises and local authorities could opt
out of the Treasury financial controls provided that they could
fund investment through revenue streams. This has been achieved
in Manchester with the funding of airport developments, and it
allows local authorities (and other public sector organisations)
direct access to the capital markets (IPPR, 2001).
(d) Transport bonds could be used to raise capital from
institutions and individuals to pay for investment, with returns
being paid over a long time period. This type of investment has
been used to finance the reconstruction of the New York Subway,
and is one option for the London Underground.
(e) Profit sharing between the public and private sectorsis
a partnership where risks and returns can be established and agreed
in advance, so that there is a convergence between the two sectors.
There seem to be many possibilities for financing investment
outside the conventional public sector or private sector models.
The difficulty seems to be to establish the most suitable package
of financial instruments for each project, and the necessary skills
to negotiate it so that the risks and returns are shared. An early
agreement is required on each project as to the roles that the
public and private sectors should play individually and in combination.
The boundaries between the public and private sectors are already
becoming blurred and it is now time for a fundamental reassessment.
3. Accountability in investmenttransport is an
intensely political subject and one that many politicians would
prefer not to draw attention to. But the time for a defensive
strategy has passed and it is essential that politicians at all
levels promote transport investment as part of the much needed
improvements in public services. However, such a top down approach
needs to be made more accountable. The vision statement would
be part of the manifesto (Stage 1) and the details elaborated
in the proposed "new" form of the 10 Year Plan. It is
at the detailed analysis stage (Stage 2) where decisions are made
on priorities, alignments, finance, management and ownership that
suitable mechanisms need to be put into place. There must be a
process of involving affected communities and citizens so that
decisions can (where possible) be based on consent.
The decision process also needs to be transparent so that
community and individual rights are not compromised. The consultation
processes need to involve all parties, and to allocate clear responsibilities
and roles. This means a full disclosure of information (even if
the private sector is involved), representation of affected parties
in the decision process, and their involvement throughout the
implementation of the scheme. Openness, together with much more
generous compensation packages, is a key component of a consensus
based approach to decision makinga discussion paper on
compensation is being prepared by the DTLR. In the past, delay
(and non investment) has been seen as a legitimate outcome of
the participation process, but this is no longer a reasonable
option as the investment is urgently needed.
Partnerships are required both on the financing of investment
and on the involvement of people in shaping the future transport
system. Some of the right signs are emerging (eg in the Urban
White Paper, DETR, 2000b), where local strategic partnerships
will involve the local authority, all service providers, local
businesses, community groups, and the voluntary sector to develop
a community strategy with priorities, monitoring, targets and
a coordinated approach.
4. GETTING THINGS
Action is required at all three levels identified. The top
down vision is the responsibility of politicians at the national
and regional levels with support from visionary thinkers. The
detailed implementation and involvement brings all relevant parties
together in a forum where they are prepared to discuss all the
issues openly. The intermediate funding elements provide the crucial
link between the policy and the implementation, and again this
is where decision makers and the movers (and shakers) in the public
and private sectors must establish the means and mechanisms to
translate visions into real projects.
The debate is over, and it is now time for action. It is
inevitable that there will be experimentation, and the role of
good implementation has strong demonstration effects. This is
clear, whether the scheme involves a new high speed rail link
or a road pricing scheme in London. But it must also be realised
that not all decisions are market based. Even if it does result
in transport operating more efficiently, it might not be democratic.
But it does seem that many transport services can be provided
by the market, but accountability is important, hence the role
that institutional approaches to public policy might have in encouraging
community and corporate involvement and local empowerment. Decision
making and implementation can operate as one, through both formal
and informal processes (as in the Netherlands), by creating interest,
awareness and debate with all the involved parties. Such a debate
also needs to be urgently generated in the UK.
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In 1999, the EU invested Euro 80 billion on transport infrastructure
investment or 1 per cent of GDP. Over the 1985-96 period, Italy
(population 57.7 million) spent Euro 9,914 million per annum,
France (population 59.1 million spent Euro 11,886 million per
annum, and the UK (population 59.5 million) spent Euro 7,058 million
per annum (1994 prices). The figures for Italy and France are
40 per cent and 68 per cent higher than those for the UK. Back