Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Centre for Voluntary Organisation (IT 87)

  We would like to take the opportunity to respond to the proposals in the Integrated Transport White Paper. The Transport Resource Unit works with voluntary groups and organisations from across Greater Manchester who have an interest in transport and land use policies and in work to improve local services. There have now been many local discussions about the White Paper, confirming our belief that this is an issue of increasing public importance and concern.

  The assertion that a consensus for change now exists is one that would appear to be correct. The transport related issues of congestion, pollution, and safety are affecting everyone in Greater Manchester, as in other parts of the country, and there is a public mood which recognises that early action is needed. We believe that a lead has to be taken by the Government and that some steps could be taken soon and without a great amount of parliamentary time. However, a major area of concern which has arisen from the discussions we have had is that action will simply not be taken quickly enough to implement the proposals.

  The specific issues which we would wish to mention include:

    Bus regulation: The bus has to remain the core focus for public transport improvements which will be of benefit to most people. We doubt that Quality Partnerships will be effective and sustainable, especially in serving areas which are not part of core commercial routes. The public money available for partnerships is following where private operators are willing to invest. There are frequent complaints by users in Greater Manchester that commercial deregistrations cause real hardships to those not on the core commercial routes. The large national operators set annual profit targets for local managers which may well be incompatible with local partnerships. The Quality Contracts referred to in the White Paper should be legislated for to enable route networks and integrated ticketing to become a condition of subsidy payments.

    Concessionary fares: There would be both political and public benefit from early legislation to introduce a national concessionary fares scheme. It is not clear from the White Paper how the minimum national scheme will work but we would hope that it will allow older people and other concessionaires to travel anywhere in the country (and not just their own local transport area) for a maximum of half price. With increasingly dispersed patterns of family life, the social benefits of encouraging mobility in this way would be considerable.

    Home Zones: A Private Member's Bill to quieten residential streets in this way failed through lack of time in the last session but this could be achieved with Government support for a new Private Member's Bill in the coming session. Action at the level of the residential area is likely to be the best way of transforming national attitudes to transport and travel, particularly for those short journeys where alternatives to the car can be promoted. There seems to be no real resistance to active measures to quieten the streets which people live in. Neighbours should be able to easily talk to each other, children should be able to play without fear of serious injury, and the environment should encourage provision which does not focus on the needs of those transient drivers who wish simply to pass through an area at 30 mph or more. However, our experience in Greater Manchester suggests that, even with the encouragement of the Government, none of the Highway Authorities have been prepared to include pilot Home Zone initiatives in the Transport Policies and Programmes Bids which have recently been submitted. They do not appear to believe that these can be achieved without some legislative change.

    Local Transport Plans: This core element of the White Paper is one which we particularly welcome as we have been involved in commenting on Package Bids in recent years and playing a part in the extensive consultation arrangements which are in place in Greater Manchester. However it is not clear how the work on consultation which will need to be done by local authorities is to be funded as the detailed reference in the White Paper is to a block allocation of credit approvals to spend on transport capital.

    Local Transport Plans evidently fit well within the Government's agenda for reforming local democracy. However, there does not seem to be the scope at present to support the development work which may need to be done to ensure that the objectives of wide ranging participation and local involvement can be achieved. As the development of Local Transport Plans will be a significant departure from what has gone before, provision should be made in the forthcoming guidelines to clarify the levels of resources (staff time and funding) which may be necessary to properly conduct this exercise.

    Strategic Rail Authority: This needs to be set up and running as quickly as possible. The Government recognises that there is no strategic lead being given to the industry and the impact in Greater Manchester is felt in the poor performance of the local network.

    Out of Town Parking: This seems to be the largest omission in the White Paper and should be revisited at an early opportunity. The Trafford Centre has just opened in Greater Manchester, with 10,000 free car parking spaces. There is pressure in all the surrounding towns to deal with the very real threat that this new facility poses to the existing vitality of shopping centres. At best, a failure to include parking charges for out of town centres in the discussion will dampen the enthusiasm of local authorities to prepare for the policy shift which hypothecation could allow for.

  We hope that the deliberations of the Committee will help to bring forward and focus the areas where Government action on transport policy is keenly awaited by many people in the country. We believe that the public accept that changes in transport policy are needed and that they will be accepted as long as they are equitable. The other pressing need to tackle social exclusions turns, at least in part, on dealing with the problems caused by poor transport provision and the consequences of land use policies which effectively discriminate against the many people without access to cars.

Stuart Murray

Development Worker

Transport Resource Unit

24 September 1998

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