Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2002
ELPHICK OBE, COUNCILLOR
40. Did you make many changes to your plans
during the course of the consultations?
(Mr Elphick) Not really. I do not think so. We had
three consultations. We had a lot of discussion with the main
parties involved which are clearly the dean and chapter, the university
and the other main occupants on the Peninsula. Relatively few
compared to the problems in London. But we got a general agreement
that what we were doing was the right idea. We then had a full
consultation exerciseyou have the leaflets for thatand
then as part of the road charging requirements we had to do a
three month consultation on the order. So there have been various
consultation periods that we have gone through and I would say
as that has gone on you develop more and more public support for
the idea if people think it is a good one. That is basically what
has happened. By the time the scheme came in we had pretty well
full public support for it.
41. If the figure stays down as low as 90 per
cent reduction you are not going to be able to raise very much
revenue, are you? So to support what are you going to put in its
place is not going to be able to be sustained for very long.
(Mr Elphick) Yes it can, in fact. The capital cost
of the buses was born out of the local transport plan so that
is not part of the revenue requirement and probably the running
costs are about £120,000 a year maximum. At the sort of level
we are talking about we are going to get an income from charging
of probably £55,000 or so. There are also the fares we get
on the buses. The fare is very low but it will bring in over the
year a reasonable amount, annual income over the year from charges
and fares may get up to £90,000 or thereabouts. The difference,
if there is one, will be met from the on-street parking charges.
It all comes in terms of the integrated package of parking and
traffic management measures in the town centre; they all work
together. I anticipate that bus use will go up, although, in fact,
the success of this scheme is perhaps that the charging does not.
The less we make in charges, the more successful it has been.
42. Who benefits most? With all these kind people
doing public opinion surveys for you free, what has been thrown
up? Is it the businesses that are benefiting most or is it the
people who want to go shopping in the area, or is it those who
want to go to the cathedral? Who is actually benefiting most?
(Mr Elphick) Incidentally, it is free on Sunday for
obvious reasons. It is only Monday to Saturday, ten to four. The
two things which perhaps spring to mind are the people who object
to paying a charge for using the highway. It is the first time
it has been done and it did come as a bit of a surprise to some
people, particularly on the first day. Really, even within the
first three weeks, my feeling is that we have a public acceptance
of that. I think we have had on average about one person per day
who has refused to pay the charge. If they refuse to pay they
can pay by six o'clock or they are subject to a penalty charge
of £30. The other group probably are the businesses, mostly
the smaller shops on Saddler Street itself, who have had to re-arrange
some of their servicing arrangements. They cannot come in, particularly
during the peak periods from eight to ten and three to five, when
previously they could. But those were the times they were causing
the most congestion in what is a very narrow street. You can imagine
people coming to work, to the university, going to the cathedral
et cetera mixing in with loading and unloading between eight and
ten in the morning. We have changed that. They can come in early;
they can come in late. They can actually come in during the day,
but if they do they have to pay the access charge. I think that
is the general drift of it.
43. I want to come on to Bristol. Did the council
take part in trials of electronic road charging with the intention
of introducing a similar system into Bristol? Mr Rawlinson?
(Mr Rawlinson) The council has indeed taken part in
a couple of demonstration trials. The ELGAR trial and the INTERCEPT
trial using electronic road charging. The reason we did this is
because we are familiar with the schemes in Trondheim and in Rome
where electronic road user charging is used. Very successful technology
has been in existence for something like ten years. It is a very
flexible system and worked very well in the trials in Bristol.
We think it is the way forward.
44. Was it the smartcard?
(Mr Rawlinson) It was a smartcard and an on-board
vehicle unit and beacons on the roadside. We are also experimenting
with variable positioning satellite technology as well.
45. What are the advantages and disadvantages
of introducing a more technologically advanced system?
(Mr Rawlinson) What I can say are the advantages.
I do not know much about disadvantages because the Trondheim scheme
and the Rome scheme are very successful. So as far as I can see
there is not a tremendous amount of disadvantage but the advantages
are that they are tremendously flexible. You can use them for
different areas, different times of the day, different journey
purposes, and so on. As far as the disadvantages go I have yet
to see too many.
46. You referred to two trials, Mr Rawlinson.
According to our information the ELGAR trial suggested a 15 per
cent modal switch to public transport if there was a charge of
about £5; the INERCEPT experiment suggested a £3 charge
would provide a reduction of 10 per cent in private cars. I understand
you are proposing a £1 to £2 charge which is significantly
lower than either of those. Will this really have the effect that
you are looking for?
(Mr Rawlinson) I can answer from a technical point
of view and then perhaps someone else can answer from a political
point of view. You are quite right, of course, that the correlation
between the level of charging and traffic reduction is absolutely
there. I think everybody recognises that it is a £5 or £6
charge that you need in terms of driver behaviour to try and get
that sort of magnitude of reduction. In Bristol it was decided
to go for a £1 to £2 charge in early years leading to
a £4 or £5 charge in later years simply because of political
acceptability. I think there is some concern that to come in immediately
with at £5 chargealthough it would meet the traffic
reduction targets and remove the through trafficwould give
some concern. What I would say is that we have only been able
to model this hypothetically on computer modelling so far. What
it has demonstrated is that even with a £1 chargeone
of the primary objectives is to remove through traffic from the
central areathat this charge will remove traffic from the
Mr Stevenson: Very quickly, in the context of
the last part of that answer, is this really designed to reduce
congestion or is it a revenue raising exercise?
47. I think that is over to you, Councillor
(Councillor Holland) Yes, shall I take that one because
I think that one of the contexts of this is that we have worked
very closely through consultation, we have the support of the
Chamber of Commerce within Bristol for this strategy, and I think
that that is partly because they recognise that there are actually
two functions of the policy. One function is to raise the revenue
to be able to accelerate the delivery of improved public transport.
The other is obviously to restrain the demand on the city streets,
particularly in peak times. That is because they acknowledge the
cost of congestion.
48. What sort of assessment has been done in
terms of modal switch from car to public transport and/or reduction
in congestion on a £1 and/or £2 charge?
(Mr Rawlinson) Again, it has only been modelled by
computer because the real trials have not yet come in, but what
we demonstrated was that with the £1 we are getting something
like a 45 per cent reduction in peak period traffic into the central
area, which was something in the order of 12,000 vehicles that
have been removed from the 30,000 that were currently coming in.
With a £5 charge we are getting 17,000 vehicles removed out
of the 30,000 that were coming in. So there is quite a substantial
increase in the reduction of traffic. The public transport will
be getting something in the order of between a five and ten per
cent increase. What I would say is that the results are very similar
to what they experienced in Trondheim and what they got in Rome.
There is something like a seven per cent increase in public transport
and a ten per cent reduction in traffic in Trondheim with a very
similar charge. And again in Rome reduction was 20 per cent decrease
in traffic and a six per cent increase in public transport.
49. Did you say Trondheim in Norway?
(Councillor Holland) Trondheim.
50. Well this Committee looked at those schemes
and they were really rather more than that in the long run because
although they had a very flexible system of charging which altered
during the day and altered according to various functions, nevertheless
I thought it was rather more than £1 a time.
(Councillor Holland) It was introduced at 10 krona
which, at the time, was about £1 (that is ten years ago).
The interesting thing about the Trondheim scheme is that actually
public support after the scheme had been in place grew; people
could see a very clear correlation between what they were paying
for and what they had been offered, what that was going to buy
for them, which in their case was an improved road scheme. Indeed,
after ten yearswhich they committed to have it in forit
went to public consultation again and retaining it was supported.
51. I have a question for Mr Rawlinson. To what
extent, if any, have your plans about introducing an electronic
scheme been affected by the fact that there is not any government
guidance on road congestion charging or, for that matter, workplace
charging. That is a question which could also equally be addressed
to the other councillors.
(Mr Rawlinson) You mean in terms of the technology.
One of the things that Bristol is very fortunate in is that we
are leading a number of European consortia which are investigating
technology and looking at compliance and standards and interoperability,
and so it goes on. We have a fairly good steer on the type of
approval the government may eventually come up with. But what
we are doing in Bristol iswe are a couple of years away
if it comes inwe are sitting on the fence and watching
what develops so clearly we will take the best practice that is
available at that time.
52. Is there a risk that if guidance is introduced
you might then have to modify whatever scheme you choose to introduce?
(Mr Rawlinson) We are working with the government
through the Charging Development Partnership, and one of the things
that the Charging Development Partnership is looking at is system
architecture and the type of approvals they will be giving. Therefore
I think we are working in conjunction with the government, so
it is very unlikely that we would actually be putting in a system
that the government would not approve.
53. Can I ask Councillor Holland about the impact
on business. She mentioned the Chamber of Commerce. The Broadmead
Centre has been under some pressure over the years by Cribbs Causeway.
Cribbs Causeway now has Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and a number
of other people. Are you not concerned that with this added charge
it really is going to displace a lot of business out to the outskirts
where there is a lot of opportunity to shop?
(Councillor Holland) Not at all. And just to correct
you, Marks and Spencer did not move out of the city centre, they
also operate in Cribbs Causeway but they have stayed very much
in the city centre and are, indeed, looking for larger premises
in the city centre. I think that that almost answers the question.
But in any case, the Broadmead expansion plans which we are working
with Land Securities and Hammersons Bristol Alliance is a half
a billion pounds expansion to Broadmead and those plans are well
known with the Broadmead board and with the Alliance. In fact,
we were only talking to some of the top people in the organisation
earlier in the week and were fully open about this scheme. Of
course, one of the benefits of the Broadmead expansion is that
where you currently have the Tollgate car park at the bottom of
the M32 as you come into Broadmead, that car park will actually
be extended. It will be outside the ring and flagship stores within
the Broadmead expansion will be right against that car park. I
think we can show that it is a balanced approach where we want
to keep part of the city open for tourism, leisure, retail all
of those things, but we want to attack that particular problem
of congestion in the peak hours.
54. I want to ask you about bus services because,
after all, one of the easiest ways of improving general transport
is to improve the bus use. But you do not have any control over
private bus firms, so how are you going to do that?
(Councillor Holland) We have a quality partnership
with First who are the majority supplier in Bristol, with about
95 per cent of the services being run by them. We are continuing
to work very closely with them on show case routes, on improving
bus priority measures; we have opened a new park and ride this
year and there are more park and rides planned for the five years
of the LTP. As I say, it is a balanced approached where we are
trying to bring in those improvements at the same time.
55. So how would you gauge your success in due
(Councillor Holland) We have obviously got our local
targets as well as the targets that are set for us by the Government
in terms of reduction in congestion, in improvements in air quality
(which is a big issue in the city now, we have 150,000 of the
city's 400,000 residents living in our air quality management
area). Those sorts of things are the things, I think, that keep
the level of support quite high for radical measures because people
know that we cannot carry on as we are. So those are the measures,
I think, and watching very closely. If it does not workit
is similar to what the Mayor has said in the London situationthen
we take it out. We are not going to continue to work with it if
it does not work, but if the investment carries on, congestion
and pollution are reducing, then I think we would say that those
are the things that Bristol people have said they want to see
out of this scheme.
56. Yes, but to abandon a major scheme because
it is not working would entail a certain amount of extra expense,
would it not? Would there not be a view from your rate payers
that this might not necessarily be the way to proceed? Mr Rawlinson?
(Mr Rawlinson) What we would hope is that central
government would fund the road scheme in the first place.
57. So you do not mind abandoning the tax payers'
money, but the rate payers' money you want to hang on to. I am
not disagreeing with this political view, Mr Rawlinson, it is
just that it is unusual to hear local authorities being quite
so open about it.
(Mr Rawlinson) Certainly it is quite common practice
for traffic management schemes, for example, to be tried and modified.
I think the first stage would be to try to modify what was there
before we actually decided to abandon things. I would certainly
think that to meet the statutory obligations on the local authority
in terms of the Road Traffic Reduction Act, we would have no option
but to look at some form of progressive restraint, like road pricing.
Indeed, what we are saying in terms of government targets, to
get down to their seven per cent reduction in growth, you have
to go for something as solid as that. Hopefully, if the public
agree with usas they have in Trondheimthey can see
the benefits and hopefully there will be no need to take it out.
58. Councillor Edwards, you wanted to comment?
(Councillor Edwards) On the point of public ownership
of bus companies, it is something that people can overlook.
59. Not very often, Councillor Edwards.
(Councillor Edwards) You get a real sense of partnership
in actually bringing about change for better public transport
when you have one of your major providers publically owned. Nottingham
City Transport have just re-organised, re-branded, cut ten per
cent in service mileage (I have to say) so that they can get an
investment programme in place by 2010 whereby all their buses
will be ready for low floor access and Disability Act standard.
In the year that it has been in, we have increased the patronage
of our city transport services by one and a half per cent. Buses
are very important. It is overlooked sometimes with the more glamourous
tram company solutions which again in Nottingham we are very pleased
about. Public ownership does mean real effective partnership in
terms of delivering better public transport solutions.
Chairman: That seems to be a very satisfactory
note on which to end. Thank you very much.